A Teen Filmmaker’s Diary from the Tribeca Film Festival

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In 2011, Matthew Seife was one of Project VoiceScape‘s grant-winning teen filmmakers. This year, Matthew was accepted to the Tribeca Film Fellows program. He checked in with POV’s blog to share what it was like to be a Fellow and run amok with his peers in New York City at the recently concluded Tribeca Film Festival.

Besides the sheer fun of being able to explore a film festival with unprecedented access as a teen filmmaker, my experience as a Tribeca Film Fellow has been invaluable.

Before the festival, the 18 Fellows met a few times a week to hear industry professionals talk about every aspect of filmmaking, from fundraising to reaching new audiences with transmedia to hearing from directors who’d recently had success with their films. I learned a lot about networking, pitching my films and developing my script ideas to meet their potential.

Once the festival began, the number of events skyrocketed. On one of the first days we had a brunch with our mentors, who are helping us improve our film pitches, and we worked on film treatments that we pitched to industry professionals. My mentor, Dara Bratt, is currently working on a short documentary that will premiere at Cannes and I got to observe as the final touches were put on that project.

We pitched our films to a panel of judges for funding — a college scholarship. It was nerve-wracking at first, but at the end I tried to put my nervous energy into my presentation. Here’s the elevator pitch for my film:

A feature-length narrative that follows a teenager as he develops his own sense of identity and how that affects his interactions with his community and family.

One of my films played at the “Our City, My Story” screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, which was amazing. There were 12 films selected out of 170 that were submitted. The 12 films were really diverse but mine was the only animated short. Here is my film, Zombie Dog:

The screening was held at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, with hundreds of people in attendance. The screen was really large so it was thrilling to see my film in that professional setting.

I got to walk the red carpet and was interviewed by reporters along the way — you just have to pay attention because a lot of people want to talk to you. But it was fun — I felt like a celebrity! Throughout the festival there were actual celebrity sightings at the screenings. One of my favorites was seeing Kristen Wiig at the screening of Revenge For Jolly!

After my screening there was a Q&A on stage and it was fun to see the audience’s enthusiasm for my film and all the others.

The biggest thing I learned from the Film Fellows experience was the importance of social media and cross-platforming to reach a larger audience. A lot of the speakers I heard from talked about how their projects were successful because of the web components of their films. One of the speakers, from Mozilla, talked about how we can use media already on the web to create new projects. I also heard a variety of discussions about the rising importance of multimedia at TFI Interactive Day, another cool event from the festival. One of my favorites from that day was the discussion about “Game of Thrones” and how they tried to entice as many senses as possible with their marketing campaign.

The whole experience was extremely rewarding and I learned so much about the film industry, networking, the art of pitching a film or idea, and the importance of film festivals — on top of getting to see a ton of great films.

And, yes, I did win a scholarship from my pitch!

Now I will collapse from exhaustion and fulfillment.

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POV Guest Blogger
POV Guest Blogger
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.