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
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