New York City’s quaint downtown neighborhood of TriBeCa is about to be overrun by celebrities and beautiful people — if that isn’t redundant.
TriBeCa Film Festival, which runs from April 25 through May 7, got its start in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. With the city in a somber state and the neighborhood in ruins, actor Robert De Niro and a handful of people did what anybody (anybody with his connections, brains and follow-through) would do. They called up their Hollywood buddies and started a festival, building theaters in any open space in lower Manhattan that allowed it.
Though it bears the title of film fest, there is a lot more going on than movie screenings. This year, that includes after-parties inundated with stars like John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Salma Hayek and Tom Cruise, private screenings with directors such as Stephen Soderbergh, and dinners with the who’s who of Hollywood. Concerts, panel talks, family gatherings and special presentations for working and aspiring filmmakers make for one huge event for Very Important People who want to see and be seen.
But it isn’t just film stars who can experience red carpet treatment; at Tribeca, just about anyone can be a VIP. According to Trina Albus and Anne Goldman, owners of Ripe, a Manhattan-based entertainment concierge service and event planning company that helps clients get the royal treatment at big productions such as TriBeCa Film Festival, it takes a bit of money or knowing the right people. “We’ve gotten a lot of people in through the backdoor at events like this,” Goldman says.
Every high-profile event has its key players; in this case, it is the filmmakers. According to Jon Patricof, chief operating officer of Tribeca Enterprises, the firm backing the festival, there will be about a thousand filmmakers from around the globe, each one of them looking for the opportunity to introduce their voices and stories through independent films.
“The festival is made to make the filmmakers feel like VIPs,” he says. “We’re helping them with accommodations, taking them to private parties, giving them opportunities for one-on-one communication with people in the film industry. They are here to do business and get their films sold.”
Sponsors also offer their services — and their names — to festival VIPs. After all, when a celebrity is connected with a brand, it can mean major media coverage. Each year, American Express, the founding sponsor of the TriBeCa Film Festival, offers cardholders access to special screenings and exclusive parties. General Motors plans to cart celebrities around in their Cadillac and Saturn cars, while the Apple Computer Store in SoHo will host several events, including a filmmakers welcome party on April 27th.
If you’re not a filmmaker, the easiest way to be a VIP at TriBeCa is to lay down some cash. The festival is offering various packages to the public at prices ranging from $25,000 down to $1000. While there are only a limited number available, holders of the tickets get access to red carpet events, special dinners and private parties with celebrities.
Keep in mind that many of the filmmakers and producers are looking for corporate sponsors and investors; expressing interest in financing a film is a good way to get yourself fêted. “Festivals like this are chock full of producers hunting for funding and distribution deals,” says Nathan Ellis, founder and creative director of Syndicate PR in Manhattan, a company that coordinates special screenings and parties for TriBeCa Film Festival.
But occasionally, even the best-connected people have trouble swinging admission.
“Last year, the cast and crew of the movie Just for Kicks had issues getting into their own after-party at the club Kos,” says Goldman, referring to a now-closed club. “The venue had such VIP attitude that one of the producers had to stand outside to ensure everyone would get in.”