Seeing stars through the student lens: SHU student witnesses the passion, chats with stars at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

Erika Szumel

Erika Szumel

New York City is home to thousands of people, buildings, festivals, and events. The city has the ability to bring people together at any hour of the day, any day of the year. It is home to performers, musicians, stock brokers, celebrities, and pizza shop owners. This city has raised artists, musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. Tribeca displays many of these artists through the Tribeca Film Festival every April.

As a broadcasting major with a journalism minor, attending this festival was exciting and extremely beneficial. This year, I was fortunate enough to attend the 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival from April 13 through the 24th. It’s good to note that the festival begins before the actual start date and so in the beginning of April, I was traveling back and forth from the city to attend pre-festival screenings. The festival schedules these screenings so that press and industry personnel can attend as many screenings as possible throughout the entire festival. Within about a week, I had screened 15 films which would be a part of the festival.

The Tribeca Film Festival has several different aspects which most people are unaware of. Once tickets go on sale, the public purchases tickets for various screenings of the multiple topics and categories presented. These categories can include narratives, shorts and documentaries and features more than 15 genres which are made in more than 20 countries. The Festival chooses from more than 6,000 submissions each year which come from around the globe.

However, aside from watching films, there are many other events to attend. Tribeca Talks involve certain film stars, producers, directors, and writers who discuss different topics in the world of film. Some of this year’s speakers included Idina Menzel, Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, and Mark Ruffalo. There are master classes, interactive events at the Festival Hub, red carpet opportunities, and a street fair.

Within the next few days, I attended a red carpet event where I was able to snap a few photos and interview some of the people responsible for a film called “Custody.” Viola Davis, who also starred on ABC’s show, “How to Get Away with Murder,” plays the role of a family-court judge in a custody case set against New York. When I spoke with her on the red carpet, she said, “I didn’t think of Annaliese when I was doing this. I see the character as more than just a judge. She’s also a woman, she’s a wife. She’s doing the best she can.”

As we continued to talk about the character of the judge, Davis described her as “flawed, amazingly flawed.” Davis went above and beyond for her character. “I felt it was more important to get into that woman than just being a judge with a gavel,” she added.

I was able to attend more than 20 screenings of films, but I learned more about film, production, public relations, and journalism than I ever expected to.

First, I became aware of the amount of filmmakers, journalists, and photographers who live and work in New York City. I was able to speak with some of them about their coverage of the event, some of which have attended this festival for many years.

I had the opportunity to interview Bill and Michele Purple, who directed and produced “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” and I quickly realized the amount of passion that I was surrounded by. I felt the passion in each film, interview and special event.

When I asked Bill Purple to describe what it was that made him want to make this film, he said, “If I were to define what the word passion means, being compelled to do something despite all logic, is passion. That was it. I have to do this. It’s never going to get made, but I have to do this.”

Through having these experiences, meeting these people, watching these films, I was fully immersed in this festival and experienced the true meaning of passion for film. It is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.

Erika Szumel can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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