Exclusive Interview: Sharon Badal, Head of Shorts Programming at the Tribeca Film Festival

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The Tribeca Film Festival has long-been a home for established artists and up-and-comers to highlight their material for an eclectic audience. I’ll be fortunate enough to cover Tribeca in person for the first time for JustPressPlay and perhaps the most exciting aspect of the festival is the shorts programming.

Sharon Badal, who has been with Tribeca since its inception, is the head of shorts programming. A current associate professor at the Tisch School at NYU, she was kind enough to take some time during her hectic schedule to chat with me about the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and the exciting shorts exhibited this year.

Sharon_Badal1While glancing at the programming, Delicacy and The Acrobat really stuck out to me as short films I needed to make time to catch. “The Acrobat is a returning filmmaker, as well,” Badal told me, while we both poured over the schedule. “It’s one of the things we really like to do is nurture the filmmakers that have already been in the festival. It’s always an honor when they submit their subsequent work to us, as well. In this case, The Acrobat is very different from the film we showed previously.”

The Acrobat has an interesting premise in that it’s remarkably simple: Every 40 seconds, a person commits suicide. The Acrobat is the story of one such person. “Watching a filmmaker mature and see how they progress in their journey is always a pleasure,” Badal said.

“It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, as all the films have their own identity. I’m particularly excited about our genre programming, which is something we haven’t really done in a couple of years. Basically, the programs are dictated by the kinds of films we love, so when we kind of narrow down the almost-2, 900 submissions, to the ones we love the most, we realized that a lot of the ones we liked fell into a particular genre category. It inspired us to create the category, which features robots, zombies, werewolves, vampires, all the genre staples everyone loves,” Badal explained, enthusiastically. “It’s a really nice ride, I’m looking to see how that programming plays for the audience.”

Badal mentioned that another programming block entitled “Worst Day Ever” was an incredibly exciting proposition to see how the audience responds. “How we create the ride for thecurfew_poster audience, in that the program starts off very seriously, with some very profound dramas and ends with one of the funniest shorts I’ve seen in my life entitled Fool’s Day. Getting the audience from A to Z is one of the things we enjoy.”

Tribeca welcomes submissions of all shapes and sizes, as long as they adhere to the under-40 minute rule. “I think, really, we don’t look for a specific thematic, for instance, one year we had an animation program when it just so happened we had an abundance of strong animation submissions.”

We talked a bit about how the shorts programming has grown since its inception, even though its always been a strong part of the festival. “That was one of the incentives for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make us the qualifying film festival. You have to prove that you are programming of the caliber of what they’re looking for. The film that wins your awards then qualifies to be nominated will potentially go the distance. We had both Curfew and Assad get nominated for Oscars, both performed well here at Tribeca and made that qualifier happen, and Curfew ended up winning.”

“It all depends on the year. We tend to have the same number of programming. Last year we had a fairly lengthy docs program, whereas this year, we don’t have that programming block. The amount of programs has pretty much remained finite. In general, we stay pretty stable with around eight or nine shorts programs a year,” Badal said, explaining how the programming blocks are determined.

Having seen literally thousands of short films, I was curious if Badal had an all-time favorite from previous years. It’s a tough question, of course, but I was dying to know. “Personally, one of my new_Tenants_posterfavorite shorts of all-time is the one that won the Oscar a couple years ago, New Tenants. It’s such a black comedy, it’s pretty much my perfect sense of humor. The acting is incredible, it’s so well-written that it’s always been one of my favorites.”

What’s really exciting about Tribeca this year is that the festival is affording those who are unable to attend the ability to watch the films online. As a New Yorker, I’m lucky in that I’ll be able to hit the fest in person, however; if I’m craving a short film at two in the morning while the festival is going on, it’s nice to know I can just log on and watch something. “Tribeca Online is directly connected to our programming. From our shorts, we selected four to go online. One of those four, people will vote and the highest-rated will receive five thousand dollars. These are shorts that have already been invited. We selected the shorts with the thinking that they have a broad online appeal and wanted to provide four very different shorts, as well.”

“The filmmakers enjoy seeing how the online voting works. One of the ones that won last year was called CatCam and you know how people love cats. Not a huge surprise that the film got an enormous number of views. It’s a different experience online than in the theatre and the filmmakers like seeing that,” Badal said.

The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival kicks off soon in New York. Keep your browsers on JustPressPlay to learn more about the films, catch interviews and see what’s hot.

Apr
09
2013
Robert Ottone • Staff Writer

A natural bon vivant in love with cigars, finery and luxurious booze, SelfieRob aims to make light of the world around him while living the party boy lifestyle. From the Hamptons to NYC and beyond, SelfieRob lives life to the fullest.

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