© 2019 by The New Current. 

This year Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) will be supporting 14 films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival including Knock Down The House which features Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

TFI’s 2019 supported films:

Always In Season, Aquarela, The Edge of Democracy, Feathers, The Infiltrators, Knock Down The House, Midnight Traveler, One Cambodian Family Please For My PLeasure, Phokee, Selah and the Spades, Stay Close, Suicide By Sunlight, Travelling While Black, How Does It Start.

Hi Amy thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the festival?    

I am all set.  I have new pyjamas for condo-sharing and a deck of cards for late night industry meetings.   

You're no stranger to Sundance do you still get nerves during the festival?   

I don’t really get nerves when attending without a film.  I’m mostly happy to see friends and colleagues and have flash meetings up and down Main Street.  

What was your first Sundance experience like, do you remember any of the films you saw that year?   

My first Sundance was in 1995 when the very first film I produced (Nadja) premiered in competition.  I was young and extremely excited to be here.  October Films bought the film and we were all smitten with Bingham Ray and have some fun stories from that year.  To add to the madness, the director and I decided to shoot a small film during Sundance called appropriately “At Sundance” where we interviewed directors asking them, “are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of cinema?”  It’s a nice archive of a moment in film history that includes Atom Egoyan, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes, Danny Boyle, Haskel Wexler and Robert Redford among others.  We shot on a Pixlevision camera (a toy camera that records on audio cassette) just to make sure we were being as independent as possible.

For up and coming filmmakers, as well as established filmmakers, how important is a film festival like Sundance?  

The exposure and prestige are absolutely helpful, particularly for emerging filmmakers.  But there are a lot of “ifs” attached to that in the long run.  If your film wins an award, if your film sells, if it does well at the box office, if you have other projects ready to go, and if the measure of success involves a career in Hollywood.    All of these things make Sundance more important as a launching pad.    If the longer story starts here at Sundance, then Sundance is especially helpful.  

""Listen to, respect, and internalize the criticism and feedback you receive..."

The Tribeca Film Institute is at the festival with 14 films this year, what does it mean for the TFI to be able to support such a wide range of films?  

For TFI, that’s 14 more storytellers who are women and people of colour screening their films to attentive audiences and the industry.   And these storytellers are now in the TFI family and we can look to partner with them with again and again.  

Can you tell me a little bit about the selection of films that are being screened at Sundance?  

TFI focuses on the storyteller, with less regard for the means of telling a story.  As a result, we have films in Documentary Competition, New Frontier Exhibitions, US Narrative Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Next, World Cinema Documentary Competition, and New Frontier Films and Performances.   It’s very representative of our philosophy to see our filmmakers and makers across all sections like this. 

How did TFI get involved in these films, was it early on in production or later?   

Four of the films were through our signature program Tribeca All Access which accepts films at earlier stages.  Two films were awarded grants through our Gucci Tribeca Fund which is more often later stage support.  Three of the short films were fully or mostly funded by Tribeca from start to finish which accelerated completion of the projects.   In general, I’d have to say that we love to get involved early and take a chance on new voices. 

What was it about these films that really stood out to you?   

We focus on the storyteller- their vision and “take” on the material.  That’s the key for TFI.   Suicide by Sunlight is a vampire film.  Not again, you might say!  But director Nikyatu Jusu’s take on it is really fresh.

How important is it for filmmakers to have this type of support like this from organizations like TFI?  

TFI hears very often from our alumni how crucial our involvement has been.   However, being a film director has historically been a career for the privileged few and since we want to change who gets to tell stories in our culture, then it’s going to take the muscle of a number of organizations with this exact focus to push things further in the right direction.  I’m thinking of forming a supergroup. 

For underrepresented filmmakers how can they go about accessing this type of support?   

Hopefully, you will meet one of the program team members here at Sundance this week!  Get their card and email them.  Or call us up in New York.  We are surprisingly boutique and responsive.  

Women filmmakers are still hugely underrepresented in the industry do you see things improving over the next year?   

Every year people claim it’s getting better but the statistics stay the same, particularly in scripted and interactive.   That’s why we need to keep talking about it and why TFI and other organizations have to continue the support and partnership with female identifying storytellers.  

How much has the film industry changed since you started?    

It changes and yet it doesn’t.   At my first Sundance in 1995, people were talking about how nobody was going to go to see films in theatres anymore.  Twenty-five years later….   

How has your approach to your work changed since you started out?   

My focus now is a bigger picture.   I hope I can contribute to a shift in access and sustainability for many, many storytellers.   Before I was working one film at a time, which I loved but I want to do more.  

What are your top 5 tips for any aspiring filmmaker?    

1) Expand your thinking of how to tell a story
2)  Be fearless 
3) Always read every contract yourself
4) Collaborate  
5) Persist

And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from TFI supported films this year?   

I hope audiences will enjoy all the films. Really.