Festival programmers: Tribeca Film Fest

Tribeca film fest's David Kwok talks about what he's looking for at the fest, what to avoid, and his audience.
August 27, 2008

Tribeca Film Festival

Dates: April 22 to May 3
Deadline for Entry: December 15
Director of Programming: David Kwok

How many films do you screen?
It’s tough to gauge. It’s in the hundreds, between going to film festivals and watching submissions.

What are you looking for?
First and foremost, what is the content of the film? Is this something that’s interesting and relevant? The second part would be how it is executed and the access they would have.

What do you not want to see?
Something that I wouldn’t want to see is something that’s very biased or hateful – there’s an agenda attached to the film that isn’t balanced. Not to say that documentaries are all balanced, obviously they may have one perspective more than the other side but there are certainly ones that have an agenda that isn’t being used in the right way.

What advice can you give filmmakers to make their submission stand out?
Just doing everything properly. Turning everything in on time fully filled out. Have a clean screener copy. There are always people that are like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know the deadline’ and then there are people that badger you. There are also people that just send in half of what we ask for, or they don’t check their DVDs and so we have problems watching it.

What has been the standout film for you at Tribeca?
This year one of our surprise documentaries was the one that won, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. That kind of came under the radar and it won the top award and garnered a lot of attention.

What surprises you about the submission process?
When you find that one stand-out, that’s what makes the job. That’s the surprise, you connect with something and get to present it to the public and see how people react to it. That’s from all those late nights and piles of work you’re watching and you hold it out into the world.

What audience member do you have in mind?
We’re aware of who comes to the festival but its also in New York City so we might watch something and say it won’t get a broad audience but there’s definitely an audience for it, whether it’s a community or some other niche that we know is representative of [the city].

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.