Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Let's Take This Outside: The Reeler Crashes Tropfest@Tribeca

In keeping with the robust sense of community that the Tribeca Film Festival has established this week in New York, I pretty much invited myself to Friday night’s Tropfest@Tribeca reception at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. And sure–I admit to being a little cynical about Tropfest when it was announced last fall. But the fact of the matter is that the short film program–adapted from the wildly popular Australian series of the same name–was easily one of the festival’s best events so far.

The lights go down on the Tribeca’s outdoor screening venue on the Hudson (Photos: STV)

More than 5,000 people attended Friday’s free outdoor screening at the World Financial Center, where the films were well-made and as long as you brought a blanket, the riverside atmosphere was hard to beat. The Daily Show’s Ed Helms hosted (prompting a quiet chorus of, “He’s so much funnier on TV” among the crowd), while celebrity judges including Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon, Darren Aronofsky and Famke Janssen (whom I am proud to have recognized this time around) handed out the first-place hardware to Matthew Bonifacio’s drama The Watering Hole.
The judges met up at the Tribeca Grand reception beforehand, joined by Watts’s boyfriend Liev Schreiber (below), Melvin Van Peebles and Tropfest founder John Polson, who started the festival in 1993 when he needed a means of exhibiting his own short film. He has since established himself in Hollywood (he directed Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro in Hide and Seek); moreover, he has parlayed the event’s success into an Australian cultural touchstone–in 2006, upwards of 150,000 people attended Tropfest screenings in six cities around the country.
“There’s a lot of talent out there that we don’t know about,” Polson told me. “Just a lot of people with a lot of ideas and a lot of raw talent. And the great thing about Tropfest in Australia–and I hope here–is that it’s a level playing field. You can spend $50 on your movie or $150,000. It really doesn’t matter to us. It’s not going to get in or not get in based on that. It’s really about, ‘How good is your idea?’ and, ‘How well did you execute it?’ We’ve got a lot of examples of films that cost $500 winning and people going on and getting careers out of it. It’s really a backlash, I suppose, in some ways, against film schools and institutions. It’s a way of saying: Look, sure those those places have a place, but sometimes breaking the rules is a good thing, too. And sometimes coming from a lot of backgrounds or taking a different route to being a filmmaker can be a great thing.”

I asked Watts and fellow Aussie actress Gia Carides about their own experiences with Tropfest. “Gia was at the very first one, weren’t you?’
“Yeah, I was,” Carides said. “I was a judge.”
“It was at a little café in Sydney called the Tropicana,” Watts continued, “where we would all frequently go for our coffees and focaccias. John Polson made a short film, and how many others were there?”
“Half a dozen, maybe?” Carides said.
“About half a dozen of his mates,” Watts said. “He had friends and locals; he said, ‘Let’s all make a short film.’ And so they had a coffee shop that was less than a third of the size of this room. He had the first one and everyone loved it. And it was in the spirit of, ‘Let’s share our work.’ A couple of hundred people attended at this tiny café in a groovy, sort of hip part of Sydney.” Watts paused, then slumped a bit. “I didn’t see that one; in fact, I’m embarrassed to say that this is my first Tropfest ever.
“Are you serious?” Carides asked, stunned.
Watts shrugged. “I’m serious!”
I would have told Watts to join the crowd, but 30 minutes later, she did. And hopefully there are more where this one came from.
For a little more… conventional Tropfest coverage, check out my other recap over on The Huffington Post.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon