The Festival Experience: A Guide to the Tribeca Film Festival

by Shala · March 12, 2013 · Articles, Featured, Features · 8 Comments

Hello there. It’s Shala from Life Between Films. As we move into spring (hello, warm weather!), I’m back again, this time discussing the best ways to navigate the biggest film festival of the season in North America (sorry SxSW) – the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF). I have alot of love for Tribeca since it was my very first festival I attended back in 2010. As many festivals have recognizable directors connected with them, Tribeca has people like writer/director/actor (and proud New Yorker) Edward Burns who has long been associated with this festival, premiering a film there every year for the last three years. Burns and Tribeca in general have recently adopted a strategy for film distribution more for the digital age. With the newly developed Tribeca Film distribution company, many of the best Tribeca films are released and accessed through VOD, Amazon, iTunes, and other digital formats in addition to those being picked up for theatrical release. This was a huge year for Tribeca Film as the 2012 festival selection War Witch (which won Best Narrative Feature there) became the first film of this distribution company to be nominated for an Oscar.  Plans for the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival are in full swing with both the feature film and short film lineups already announced.  As with Sundance, if you ever wanted to attend Tribeca, are attending Tribeca this year, and/or have the possibility of attending in the future, here is a guide with information on Tribeca’s beginnings and advice on how to best experience all Tribeca has to offer.

The Basics

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by film producer Jane Rosenthal and actor/director/producer Robert DeNiro in response to both the need to promote independent film in NYC and the tragic events of 9/11. As a way to rebuild unity and foster vitality in lower New York, specially the TriBeCa neighborhood (Triangle Below Canal Street), the first annual Tribeca festival was launched there in 2002. To this day, much of the proceeds of the festival goes into the stimulating the economy of Tribeca. 

Tribeca is a 12-day festival that is always held sometime between late April to early May with the 2013 dates being April 17th-28th. Though Tribeca was founded to celebrate the achievements of New York filmmakers, since its inception, it has become a very important festival in the international film community. Tribeca 2013 will spotlight films from 30 different countries. The biggest names in independent film will head to New York for two weeks of screenings, panels, discussions, and parties in celebration of film. 

Festival Entry
Tribeca is one of the many film festivals that is open to the public. Of all the big festivals around the country I have attended, Tribeca has the smoothest, easiest, and overall best ticket process. Since American Express is the founding sponsor for Tribeca, cardholders (like me!) have the opportunity to get both ticket packages and advanced individual tickets a few days ahead of the normal ticket purchase windows. 

As with all festivals, ticket packages offer purchasers advance access to their choice of screenings before advanced individual tickets, and they are also the best bet if you are attending to see a big number of films. Ticket package purchase windows usually are early to mid-March (passes currently on sale now for everyone). There are a number of options available depending on how many screenings you are looking to see, how many people are seeing them with you, and when you will be at the festival:

    Passes and Packages (first film selection period)

    Hudson Pass – open pass to all events ($1080-$1200)
    Harrison Pass – 10 tickets, up to 4 tickets for one screening, excludes
        specality events ($250)
    Franklin Pass – same as Harrison but 20 tickets ($450)
    Programmers Pass – 12 tickets (2 tickets to 6 screenings), programmers
        choice ($300)

    Discount Packages (second film selection period)

    Matinee Films – 6 tickets (2 tickets to 3 matinees) ($39)
    Chelsea – 6 tickets (2 tickets to 3 evening/weekend screenings in Chelsea)
    Documentary Films – 6 tickets (2 tickets to 3 evening/weekend docs) ($75)
    Award Winners – 4 tickets (2 tickets to 2 award winners playing on last day)
    Opening Weekend – 8 tickets (2 tickets to one screening Friday, 2 tickets to 2
        on Saturday, 2 tickets to one on Sunday)  ($100)
    Evening/Weekend – 6 tickets, 1 ticket to each ($75)
    Matinee/Late Night – 6 tickets, 1 ticket to each ($39)

If you want to buy individual tickets, you can do that, too. What’s great about Tribeca is that every screening is the same price no matter if it’s the opening weekend, premiere or repeat screening ($16). Plus, they have matinee prices so any screening before 6 pm (and late night after 11pm) is cheaper ($8). You can even print them at home and not have to make a special trip to will call to pick up tickets. Advanced individual tickets go on sale early April. Please refer to the Tribeca festival website for more information on ticketing

As always, if you choose, you can avoid service and delivery fees by picking up your tickets at the Tribeca Cinemas Ticket Outlet. For Tribeca, downtown NYC residents, students and seniors can get $2 off general screenings ($3 off other tickets) when purchased at the ticket outlet. Proof of status or residency will be required. 

Travel & Lodging
Though Tribeca was founded in the Tribeca neighborhood, it has seen expanded and grown to include other areas of lower Manhattan like Chelsea. It’s New York City so there are a variety of hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals in the area. The majority of the theaters are in walking distance from each other. If you prefer, it’s NYC so it’s easy (and relatively cheap at about $2.25 per ride) to hop on the extensive subway system. Nothing quite beats New York. It’s a city that has anything that you want to see, do, or even eat. 

Other Festival Tips & Information

  • Can’t make it to Tribeca but want to take part in the festival? This year will mark the 4th year for the Tribeca Online Film Festival, which enables audiences from all over the U.S. to view select features, short films, live streamed events (open to all audiences) all for free. Last year, I logged on and participated in one of the online festival for the first time, which was a great experience. 
  • You can get the most up-to-date information by following the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca distrubution company on twitter (@tribecafilmfest, @tribecafilm) where you can join in the conversation using the hashtag #TFF. In addition, get up-to-date with Tribeca and independent film through their blog –
  • With the Tribeca Film Festival, there is a big emphasis on family. You can take part in the   free Family Festival Street Fair held on a day towards the end of the festival usually around Greenwich Street from Hubert to Chambers Street. Spend the day with games and activities, live Broadway performances, arts and crafts, storytelling, free screenings, local restaurants and merchants, and more. 
  • Are you an aspiring filmmaker? Tribeca Film Festival has a special panel series called Tribeca Talks (free to $25) focused on the art of screenwriting—both narrative and documentary. Sponsored by Barnes & Nobles, these events take place in surrounding bookstores with panelists that include filmmakers from current and past Tribeca festival selections. Also, check out the Tribeca Film Institute, a non-profit organization for the advancement and empowerment of filmmakers. Check out the website for information on how your film can be financially supported.  
  • There is always a whole host of free events associated with the festival including several screenings and the Tribeca Drive-In. Keep this on your radar as events are announced -> Tribeca Film Festival’s Free Events.

For more details on the festival straight from the source, visit the official Tribeca Film Festival website. If you have any specific questions, I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability; just shoot me an email (lifebetweenfilms (at) gmail), contact me on twitter (@shalathomas), or leave a comment. I am attending Tribeca again this year so be sure to follow my twitter feed for festival commentary while I’m there!

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