The Tribeca Film Festival kicked off, unofficially, with the programmer breakfast at 92YTribeca on Wednesday morning. (The festival begins in earnest with the debut of "The Five-Year Engagement" on Wednesday night.) The event was billed as a way for the media to ask the festival programmers about all things Tribeca. Though, like almost every other movie-related press conference in the history of movie-related press conferences, it became something far more surreal -- at times turning into a setting to air personal grievances or an attempt to try and finalize that elusive book deal. But, hey, Robert De Niro was there. Kind of.
Here are five lessons learned from the Tribeca programmer breakfast.
1. Robert De Niro does not mince words.
OK, sure, we already knew that, didn't we? But it was fascinating to see it on display in person. There was a noticeable buzz as De Niro took to the microphone for his introductory speech -- a speech that lasted a grand total of 27 seconds. Basically, "Thanks for coming. Thanks for supporting the festival. I'm outta here."
2. You can be too honest.
Responding to a question about the number of world premieres, the festival's artistic director, Frederic Boyer (formerly of Cannes) responded by admitting that the Tribeca Film Festival wasn't an "A festival" -- so there wasn't any pressure to host a large slate world premieres. Chief Creative Officer Geoffrey Gilmore was noticeably (and understandably) squirming at this, but he chimed in that the ratings were more important on the international stage and not as important domestically. Crises averted.
3. There might be Prosecco in your orange juice.
Even at 9 a.m., it's 5 o'clock somewhere, right? (I actually looked it up: it was 5p.m. in Moscow). The festival was kind enough to offer an assortment of alcoholic beverages that I didn't realize were alcoholic until I was two-thirds finished with what I thought was just a fancy orange juice. Yes, there's nothing quite like that mid-Wednesday-afternoon, "I'm sleepy," feeling that can only come from a morning cocktail. Only ten mores days of this festival left!
4. A press conference is never a good place to try and get your book published.
A few questions into the press conference, a seemingly kind gentleman waxed poetically about the beauty of the Tribeca Film Festival. Well, that's nice. (And if I went into a costume store looking for "1970s-era stand-up comedian agent," I would expect to find what this man was wearing.) Unfortunately, this feeling of glasnost (sorry, I'm still on Moscow time) ended abruptly once the seemingly kind gentleman asked the four programmers if they could publish his book -- which he wrote about the Tribeca Film Festival. To which the answer was, "Sorry, we are not publishers." (Obviously, this was not the place to try to broker a book deal, but I kind of feel bad for this guy. All morning, he was probably thinking, oh, man, this is my big shot. Alas.)
5. A press conference is never a good place to get your American Express bill sorted out.
This seemed like a better question, perhaps, for a friendly customer service representative. Maybe? Regardless, a woman in the audience was having trouble purchasing some video-on-demand films using her American Express and she wanted answers. Believe it or not, this became quite cantankerous. It was obvious that the programmers (understandably) just wanted to move on to the next question -- but I'll give our scorned VOD customer this: she was very persistent. If it helps, I know a guy with a book to sell who may take American Express? (Again: only ten more days of the festival left!)
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter
PHOTOS: 13 Anticipated Films At Tribeca
The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival kicks off with Jason Segel's latest romcom. Sure, it takes place in San Francisco and Michigan, but "The Five-Year Engagement" owes more to New York-based classics "Annie Hall" and "When Harry Met Sally" than anything else. Emily Blunt, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt co-star in the film, which arrives for mass consumption on April 27. [PHOTO: Glen Wilson]
Speaking of Emily Blunt, she co-stars with Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt in Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister." The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, focuses on a man mourning the loss of his brother, who winds up having a one night stand with his brother's ex-girlfriend's sister. Confusing! Blunt and DeWitt play siblings, which is almost as good as Blunt and Brie playing siblings in "Five-Year Engagement." [PHOTO: Benjamin Kasulke]
Seventeen-year-old Ben Wilson was a star high school basketball player in Chicago before his life was tragically cut short in 1984. "Benji" comes from co-directors Coodie and Chike, best known for their work on music videos for Kanye West and Mos Def. [PHOTO: AP]
Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg ("Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work") return to the Tribeca Film Festival with "Knuckleball!" which tells the story of the famed baseball pitch, currently used to great success by New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey. [PHOTO: Charles Miller]
Everyone loves Felicity Jones ("Like Crazy"), including the character played by Luke Treadway in this adaptation of Julia Strachey's 1932 novel. The only problem? Jones' character isn't engaged to Treadway's devil-may-care gentleman caller. [PHOTO: Mark Tillie]
Jenna Fischer ("The Office") stars in this romcom as a down-on-her-luck woman who falls for the title character -- a street performer played by indie darling Chris Messina. "Mechanical Man" is a Tribeca release and will also be available on VOD. [PHOTO: Tribeca]
James Franco's meta documentary about his time on "General Hospital" is one of the Tribeca Film Festival's biggest curios. "It's called 'Francophrenia,' but it's not me trying to get my story across in a clear way or even look good," Franco told THR. "I f---ing hate that hair I have in it, I cringe every time I see it -- but it's a way for me to kind of, I think, call some people out, but also just make my own comments on it." Sounds confounding! [PHOTO: Doug Chamberlain]
A chronicle of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino man who became the lead singer of Journey. Don't stop believin', y'all [PHOTO: Ninfa Z. Bito]
A documentary that spans over 40 years. In 1965 Frank DeFelitta made a short film about racism in the American South; forty years later, his son, filmmaker Ray DeFelitta ("City Island") looks at the tragedy that surrounded his father's film. [PHOTO: Danielle Anderson]
Indie It-Girl Greta Gerwig stars as Lola, a put-together almost-30-year-old woman who gets dumped by her fiance ("The Killing's" Joel Kinnaman) right before her wedding. Director by Daryl Wein and co-written by Wein and Zoe-Lister Jones ("Breaking Upward"), "Lola Versus" could be the "(500) Days of Summer" of 2012. Fox Searchlight will release the indie comedy in June. [PHOTO: Myles Aronowitz]
Rob Lowe returns to his "West Wing" roots as a political strategist in "Knife Fight," a drama about how politics doesn't have to be down and dirty. [PHOTO: Angeline Herron]
Genre fun! Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde and Charlie Hunnam star in this heist thriller gone way wrong. Think: "A Simple Plan" by way of John Frankenheimer. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky directs. [PHOTO: Jonathan Wenk]
Nothing says "indie film festival" like "The Avengers"? "Showing at Tribeca is both an honor and a double homecoming for me, who grew up in Manhattan, and for the movie, which wrapped production there," said director Joss Whedon when the screening was announced. "I'm thoroughly psyched to be closing the festival with our intimate little think-piece." Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner, "The Avengers" hits theaters on May 4. [PHOTO: Zade Rosenthal]