Culture Representation: Taking place in the Chicago area in the present day and in 1988, the comedy film “8-Bit Christmas” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A man in his mid-40s tells his 11-year-old daughter the story of his misadventures in 1988, when he was an 11-year-old boy who desperately wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, even though his parents forbade him from playing video games at the time.
Culture Audience: “8-Bit Christmas” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching lightweight Christmas holiday comedies that are steeped heavily in 1980s nostalgia.
The formulaic family comedy “8-Bit Christmas” is elevated by a watchable and occasionally amusing performance by Winslow Fegley as an 11-year-old boy in 1988 who goes to great lengths to get a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Directed by Michael Dowse, “8 Bit Christmas” is really just a series of slapstick scenarios that culminate in a sentimental “life lesson” that’s expected in a movie with a Christmas theme. Kevin Jakubowski adapted the “8-Bit Christmas” screenplay from his 2013 novel of the same name. The movie is best appreciated by viewers who have some fondness for 1980s nostalgia or who know how big of a deal a Nintendo Entertainment System was to many kids during this decade. (The movie’s title refers to the primitive 8-bit data resolution of 1980s video games.)
“8-Bit Christmas” begins with a man in his mid-40s named Jake Doyle (played by Neil Patrick Harris), who is traveling with his 11-year-old daughter Annie Doyle (played by Sophia Reid-Gantzert) to the home of Jake’s widowed mother for a Christmas holiday visit. Jake grew up in Batavia, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), where his mother still lives. Annie has been pestering Jake to get her a smartphone for Christmas.
Jake adamantly refuses because he thinks Annie is too young to have this type of phone. Annie has to use Jake’s phone, only when he’s with her. It’s embarrassing to Annie that she doesn’t have her own phone, but Jake won’t change his mind.
Instead, Jake tells Annie about the time in 1988, when he was Annie’s age and was obsessed with getting a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Jake says to Annie, “When I was a kid, I wanted a Nintendo worse than you wanted a phone.” Annie replies, “That’s not possible.”
Jake is prompted into telling this story when he and Annie arrive at his mother’s house and they find his old Nintendo Entertainment System in the room that Jake had as a child. Annie knows that there was a time when Jake’s parents didn’t allow him to play video games, so she wants to know how he ended up with a Nintendo Entertainment Sysem . Most of the movie then switches to flashback mode when Jake tells his story in voiceover narration, with occasional scenes that go back to the present-day Jake and Annie.
In 1988, 11-year-old Jake (played by Winslow Fegley) considered himself to be an average boy in an average middle-class American family. His parents John Doyle (played by Steve Zahn) and Kathy Doyle (played by June Diane Raphael) are happily married. Jake has a precocious younger sister named Lizzy (played by Bellaluna Resnick), who is about 6 or 7 years old in 1988. Lizzy is a “goody-two-shoes” child who likes to snitch on Jake to their parents whenever Jake does something wrong.
The kids at Jake’s school are envious of a spoiled rich boy named Timmy Keane (played by Chandler Dean), who’s apparently the only kid for miles who has his own Nintendo Entertainment System. Therefore, small crowds of children gather in front of Timmy’s house on a regular basis because they want to get invited inside Timmy’s home to play Nintendo games with him. However, Timmy will only allow certain kids inside, based on whatever gifts or favors they can offer to him.
Needless to say, Timmy is an obnoxious brat who takes advantage of his social status to make some kids feel bad about themselves if they don’t get invited into his house. Timmy has an elaborate play area in his home that would rival any recreational arcade for children. The first time that Jake plays Nintendo, it’s at Timmy’s house. Jake instantly gets hooked and wants his own Nintendo Entertainment System.
It’s the same wish for many of Jake’s friends too. Jake hangs out with a small group of kids, who eventually make it their mission to get their own Nintendo system. The close-knit pals in Jake’s clique are:
Mikey Trotter (played by Che Tafari), whom Jake describes as being allowed to watch R-rated movies, and Mikey has an adult cursing vocabulary and mischievous nature to prove it.
Evan Olsen (played by Santino Barnard), who is nervous and neurotic.
Tammy Hodges (played by Brielle Rankins), who is smart and confident.
Teddy Hodges (played by Braelyn Rankins), who is Tammy’s fun-loving twin brother.
Other kids who are not part of this clique but who factor into the story are:
Josh Jagorski (played by Clay Arnold), the school’s large and violent bully, who looks like he’s a teenager, not a pre-teen like all the other students.
Jeff Farmer (played by Max Malas), whom Jake describes as a “pathological liar.”
Conor Stump (played by Jacob Laval), who is the school’s nerdy social outcast.
Katie Sorrentino (played by Sofie Michal Maiuri), a classmate who casually observes some of the shenanigans of Jake and his friends.
Jake knows that his parents are not inclined to want to give him a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas. Therefore, he comes up with a scheme to trick them into saying yes to his request. With his mother, Jake waits until she’s distracted and asks her for this gift when she’s not really listening to him. She says yes.
With his father, whom an adult Jake describes in a voiceover as a “dyslexic Bob Vila” when it comes to carpentry hobbies, Jake waits until they have some father/son time doing some woodshopping in the garage. Jake compliments his father John on John’s hand strength. Jake says he would like a gift for Christmas that would let him build up his hand strength, so Jake suggests a Nintendo Entertainment System. John says yes to this request too.
But there would be no “8-Bit Christmas” movie if Jake got his wish so easily. Eventually, Jake’s parents (and some of his friends’ parents) become paranoid that video games are bad for children, so the parents are determined to not have anything related to video games in their homes. Undeterred, Jake and his male friends, who are members of the Ranger Scouts, find out about a Ranger Scouts contest where the person who sells the most Christmas wreaths will win the grand prize of a brand-new Nintendo Entertainment System.
A large part of “8-Bit Christmas” is about this race against time to sell the most Christmas wreaths, as friends turn into rivals to win this contest. There’s also some gross-out comedy, such as a scene of a child vomiting profusely and repeatedly, and a joke that goes on for too long about Jake having to clean up defecation from the family dog Ellwood. Not surprisingly, Jake wants avoid cleaning up after the dog as much as possible, so it leads to some minor conflicts with between Jake and his father John.
David Cross has a small role in “8-Bit Christmas” as an unnamed opportunist, who sells toys (probably stolen) out of the trunk of his car. His stash includes a Nintendo Entertainment System and Cabbage Patch dolls. Jake’s sister Lizzy wants a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas, so Jake feels some sibling jealousy when John is more eager to get Lizzy’s most-wanted Christmas gift but is unwilling to get Jake’s most-wanted Christmas gift.
There’s a lot of mediocre slapstick scenarios in “8-Bit Christmas” that clog up the story. For example, a recurring “joke” in the movies is that Jake’s mother Kathy accidentally bought a pair of girls’ Esprit snow boots (purple with flower-print trimming) during a frenzied shopping sale. Kathy never bothered to get Jake any other boots, because apparently she didn’t want to go back to the store to exchange the Esprit boots for boots that Jake actually wants to wear.
Jake is embarrassed because his mother makes him wear these boots to school and other places when there’s snow outside. (Animotion’s 1984 hit “Obsession” plays on the movie’s soundtrack every time Jake puts on these boots.) And predictably, Jake gets harassed by bully Josh when Josh sees Jake wearing these feminine-looking shoes. It’s a not-very-well-written part of the story because this problem would’ve easily been solved by a merchandise exchange at the store.
Jake’s humiliation for wearing these boots (which is an over-used gag in “8-Bit Christmas”) plays into tired movie/TV stereotypes that anything “feminine” associated with a boy is supposed to automatically be a reason for the boy to be ridiculed and bullied. The movie makes a half-hearted attempt at explaining this sexist trope, by having the adult Jake explain to his daughter Annie that in the 1980s, people were less open-minded about gender equality and many other things. But if the filmmakers wanted a recurring joke about Jake being embarrassed about something that his mother makes him do, they could’ve picked a funnier scenario than Jake having to wear feminine-looking boots.
The good news is that “8-Bit Christmas” at least presents the girls in the movie as just as intelligent if not smarter than the boys. It certainly makes up for how this movie gives most of the screen time and the most adventurous parts of the story to the male characters. It’s pretty obvious that the movie’s main target audience is supposed to be anyone who has nostalgic memories of 1980s Nintendo video games, even though there isn’t one particular Nintendo game that gets spotlighted in the movie.
In terms of the “8-Bit Christmas” cast members, Fegley as the young Jake absolutely carries this movie to any level of charm that it might have to audiences. And that helps a lot, because the young Jake gets the vast majority of the screen time in this movie. Fegley has good comedic timing, and his character is relatable to most people who’ve been an 11-year-old child, regardless of gender. The rest of the cast members are serviceable in their roles, with some of the actors continuing to be typecast as characters they’ve played in many other movies. (Zahn as a goofball; Cross as a sarcastic wiseass.)
“8-Bit Christmas,” which clocks in at a breezy 97 minutes, isn’t the type of movie that’s going to be considered a Christmas holiday classic, but it’s an agreeable way for viewers to pass some time if they want to see an entertaining Christmas holiday film for people in various age groups. The last 20 minutes of “8-Bit Christmas,” which are the best parts of the film, make up for much of the silliness that lowers the quality of the rest of the movie. “8-Bit Christmas” is ultimately a film that’s enjoyable without demanding too much intelligence or emotional investment from viewers.
HBO Max premiered “8-Bit Christmas” on November 24, 2021.
The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:
The 2021 Tribeca Festival, presented by AT&T, will debut a robust lineup of exciting new and returning TV series, new indie episodic storytelling, and an industry-facing Creators Market. The 20th anniversary celebration will take place city-wide June 9-20 and will be the first major film festival to host in person events.
After a year of couchsurfing, the Tribeca Festival will be an opportunity for people to toss their comfy sweatpants to the side and experience television programming on the big screen with their friends. The Tribeca TV lineup will include nine shows made up of six series premieres, one season premiere, two docuseries, and panel appearances including Christian Slater, Joshua Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Helen Hunt.
The Tribeca Festival will feature, for the first time ever, a historic performance by rock icons, KISS. The event will open the Tribeca TV section with a special larger-than-life concert following the screening of A&E Biography: KISStory.
“When we launched Tribeca TV five years ago, we created space within the film festival to recognize the incredible, boundary-pushing work being done by filmmakers in the episodic format as official festival selections,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and VP of Programming. “In a year defined by at-home entertainment, we are proud to continue that tradition with an exciting Tribeca TV lineup of new series from today’s top storytellers and unique new voices.”
“We are thrilled to be back in person and presenting a specially curated selection of indie series at this year’s Festival,” said Liza Domnitz, Senior Programmer. “Eclectic, funny and wistful, these never-before-seen stories offer a peek at life throughout the decades of adulthood—from the flush of newfound independence in your 20s, all the way to the well-earned confidence that comes with living in your 80s. We can’t wait to introduce these one of a kind characters to the world.”
The Tribeca TV lineup includes an exciting array of world premieres including the highly anticipated Annie Murphy-led AMC series, Kevin Can F**K Himself, Peacock’s Dr. Death, and STARZ’s Blindspotting. Tina Fey leads a conversation with longtime partners, Robert Carlock, Meredith Scardino and Jeff Richmond, digging into the intricacies of consistently creating hilarious, poignant and whip-smart storytelling. In addition, Tribeca, which was founded in the aftermath of September 11th, is proud to announce the world premiere screening of National Geographic TV’s documentary series, 9/11, executive produced by Academy Award®-winning filmmakers, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, and in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Tribeca NOW discovers and celebrates independent episodic work, including short and long form pilots and series. The NOW section will showcase four indie pilots from creators telling original, smart, and contemporary stories. Since 2014, Tribeca has led the way in the festival world in recognizing the most exciting, emerging creators working in the episodic space, premiering ground-breaking projects such as High Maintenance (Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair), Hello Cupid (Lena Waithe, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Numa Perrier, Dennis Dortch), The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo (Brian Jordan Alvarez), Dinette (Shaina Feinberg) and Kiss of the Rabbit God (Andrew Thomas Huang), among many others.
The Tribeca Creators Market is a one-of-a-kind, private industry pitch market for select emerging creators within the feature, episodic, immersive, games and podcast space to discuss their newest projects with a diverse array of companies and influential industry leaders. The Creators Market exists as another pillar of Tribeca’s commitment to supporting filmmakers in all stages of their careers, providing a curated group of intriguing talent and projects for industry to discover. The Creators Market will take place virtually, June 15th and 16th, 2021.
The 2020 Tribeca Pilot Season Program and NOW selections will be screened at the 2021 Festival and include 5 pilots and 10 NOW projects.
2021 Tribeca TV Selections:
9/11: One Day in America (National Geographic) – World Premiere Executive Producer: David Glover Emmy®-winning 72 Films (Inside North Korea’s Dynasty) and Academy Award®-winning executive producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin (Undefeated and LA 92) came together to produce a documentary series marking 20 years since the attacks of 9/11. Made in official collaboration with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum..
Blindspotting (Starz) – World Premiere Executive Producers: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Ken Lee, Emily Gerson Saines, Tim Palen, Seith Mann Cast: Jasmine Cephas Jones, Benjamin Turner, Candace Nicholas-Lippman, Atticus Woodward, Jaylen Barron, Helen Hunt, Rafael Casal As Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) is ready to ring in the new year with Miles (Rafael Casal), she finds him being dragged out of their apartment and into the back of a squad car.
After the Screening: A conversation with cast members Rafael Casal, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Helen Hunt.
Biography: KISStory (A&E Network) – World Premiere Executive Producers: Leslie Greif, Jenny Daly, Elaine Frontain Bryant, Brad Abramson Cast: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Dave Grohl, Tom Morello, Doc McGhee, Eddie Kramer, Bob Ezrin, Matt Pinfield, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer After 50 years, the No. 1 Gold Record-selling band of all time, KISS, is sharing their story of success in this definitive documentary. Founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons tell the wild story of the band’s iconic rise to superstardom before smashing their last guitar and extinguishing the fire-breathing demon
After the Screening: A special performance by KISS.
David Makes Man (Oprah Winfrey Network) – Season 2 World Premiere Executive Producers: Dee Harris-Lawrence, Tarell McCraney, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, John Strauss Cast: Kwame Patterson, Arlen Escarpeta, Akili McDowell, Cayden Williams, Alana Arenas, Travis Coles David (Kwame Patterson and Akili McDowell) is in his 30s, a rising businessman facing an opportunity that will change him and his community forever.
After the Screening: A conversation with series creator and executive producer, Tarell McCraney, and showrunner, Dee Harris-Lawrence.
Dr. Death (Peacock) – World Premiere Executive Producer: Patrick Macmanus Cast: Joshua Jackson, Grace Gummer, AnnaSophia Robb, Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin Dr. Death is based on Wondery’s hit podcast detailing the terrifying true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), a rising star in the Dallas medical community. Young, charismatic and ostensibly brilliant, Dr. Duntsch was building a flourishing neurosurgery practice when everything suddenly changed. As victims piled up, two fellow physicians, neurosurgeon Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and vascular surgeon Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), as well as Dallas prosecutor Michelle Shughart (AnnaSophia Robb), set out to stop him.
After the Screening: A conversation with cast members Joshua Jackson, Christian Slater and Grace Gummer, executive producer/writer/showrunner Patrick Macmanus and director Maggie Kiley.
Kevin Can F**K Himself (AMC) – World Premiere Executive Producers: Valerie Armstrong, Craig DiGregorio, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack Cast: Annie Murphy, Mary Hollis Inboden, Eric Petersen, Alex Bonifer, Brian Howe, Raymond Lee Kevin Can F**K Himself probes the secret life of the sitcom wife (Annie Murphy). Alternating between single-camera realism and multi-camera comedy, the formats inform one another as the audience imagines what happens when she escapes her confines and takes the lead in her own life.
Monsters At Work & The Mysterious Benedict Society (Disney +) // Family Double Feature Screening
Monsters At Work – World Premiere Executive Producer: Roberts “Bobs” Gannaway Cast: Ben Feldman, Mindy Kaling, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Henry Winkler, Lucas Neff, Alanna Ubach Monsters At Work tells the story of Tylor Tuskmon (Ben Feldman) and his dream to become a Jokester, as well as his misadventures with MIFT, the crew that keeps Monsters, Inc. running.
The Mysterious Benedict Society – World Premiere Executive Producers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, Jaime Tarses, Karen Kehela Sherwood, Deepak Nayar, James Bobin Cast: Tony Hale, Kristen Schaal, MaameYaa Boafo, Ryan Hurst , Gia Sandhu, Mystic Inscho, Seth B. Carr, Emmy DeOliveira, Marta Kessler
Placed undercover at a boarding school, a group of orphans must foil a nefarious plot with global ramifications while creating a new sort of family along the way.
Reservation Dogs (FX) – World Premiere Executive Producer: Sterlin Harjo, Taika Waititi, Garrett Basch Cast: D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, Lane Factor One year after the death of their friend, four Native teens commit crimes to fund their efforts to leave their home in rural Oklahoma.
After the Screening: A conversation with Executive Producer Sterlin Harjo and select cast members
A Conversation with Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Meredith Scardino and Jeff Richmond Woven within the framework of such massively popular series like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Mr. Mayor and the soon to debut, Girls5eva, exists a writing, composing, producing and directing collaboration that has proven itself to be consistently brilliant. Join us for a conversation with longtime collaborators Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Meredith Scardino and Jeff Richmond as they dig into the intricacies of creating year after year of hilarious, poignant and whip-smart storytelling replete with some of the most memorable TV characters of the past 2 decades.
2021 NOW Showcase
An Uncandid Portrait, created by Rick Gomez, Steve Zahn (United States) – Episodes 1 & 2 (World Premiere) An Uncandid Portrait is a series of fabricated documentaries that follow the lives of fictional artists. Just because it’s made up doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to it. With Steve Zahn and Rosemarie Dewitt.
Rick Gomez is an actor, writer, and director. He portrayed George Luz in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He co-wrote, produced, and starred in The Week, and is currently in production on his feature directorial debut, Hot Fruit, starring Steve Zahn and Judy Greer.
Steve Zahn has spent over thirty years working as an actor in Theatre, Film and Television. He was nominated twice for an Independent Spirit Award and won for best supporting actor in Happy Texas.
In the Cards, created by Colin Kane Healey (United States) – Episode 1 (World Premiere) A dark comedy series that follows a notorious psychic scammer on the dirty road she takes to riches—and a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. With Eleanore Pienta, Sherilyn Fenn, Michael Drayer and Catherine Curtin.
Colin Kane Healey is a writer, director, and copywriter. The New York Times called his award-winning feature film Homemakers “a raggedy ode to the DIY ethos.”
if i’m alive next week…, created by Jennifer Morris, Robbie Sublett (United States) – Episodes 1, 2, & 3 (World Premiere) When a foul-mouthed, 80-year-old grandma gets dumped and booted from her boyfriend’s brownstone, she’s forced to return to the rent-stabilized apartment housing of her broke, ungrateful kids. WIth Joyce Van Patten, Peter Friedman, Jennifer Morris and Robbie Sublett.
Jennifer R. Morris and Robbie Collier Sublett are a writing and directing team based in New York. Their play You Better Sit Down premiered at The Flea Theater. As actors, they’ve appeared both on and off Broadway and in numerous films and TV shows. if i’m alive next week… is their directorial debut.
VIRAL, created by Miles Blim, Camille Casmie, Chloe Howard (United States) –Episodes 1 & 2 (World Premiere) VIRAL is a nonlinear comedy about memory, identity, and the insidious effects of the algorithm. With Miles Blim and Chloe Howard.
Miles Blim is a Chicago-born, New York-based artist. He recently graduated from Northwestern where he studied theatre. He’s performed in several professional productions and is eager to explore the full range of his artistic interests beginning with VIRAL, his first foray into writing, directing, and screen acting.
Camille Casmier is a director who lives in Brooklyn, NY. Since graduating from Northwestern University’s directing program, she has directed theatre, music videos, promo videos, and shorts. She also works in development at Tiny Reparations.
Chloe Howard is a New York-based actor and artist originally from the California Bay Area. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she studied theatre, musical theatre, and acting for screen.
2021 NOW Special Screening
Incarceration Nations: A Global Docuseries, created by Dr. Baz Dreisinger (World Premiere) Mass incarceration is a global calamity. From England to El Salvador, Argentina to the USA, Brazil and Lebanon to South Africa and Sierra Leone, its harms and horrors look strikingly similar. INN-TV is the first docuseries to tell this border-crossing story. Narrated entirely by those who have lived incarceration around the world, the ten episodes expose an international crisis while also spotlighting solutions, showcasing the work of the justice partners in the Incarceration Nations Network, from one continent to another.
Dr. Baz Dreisinger is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Executive Director of Incarceration Nations Network (INN) and founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program. A Global Fulbright Scholar and Fulbright Specialist, she is the author of Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World and Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture.
Tribeca Creators Market
Kendra Arimoto & Justin Michael Jeffers(Feature Narrative)
Kendra Arimoto is a writer, performer, and mother on a mission to tell powerful stories thematically focused on Japanese American ancestral memory and intergenerational trauma, queer identity, and Otherness. Current projects include feature screenplays “Starshine and Clay” and “Before I Disappear”; and short “Pachuke”.
Justin Michael Jeffers is a multimedia visual artist from Seattle currently paving his own lane as a freelance Director/DP. Drawing inspiration from 90’s street art, hip hop, and social activism, Justin brings his visions to reality by growing, learning, and gaining new experiences.
Sabrina Barca(Narrative Series)
Finding the absurdity in everyday life, Sabrina Barca created a web series inspired by highly relatable situations that highlight the tragic comedy behind a typical day. She is an Argentinian, NY-based multidisciplinary content creator, and has worked in media for 10 years. She engages audiences through honest, innovative storytelling.
Tessa Bartholomew & Christina Kinsleigh Licud(Fiction Podcast)
Tessa Bartholomew is a Filipino-American Producer, Writer, Actor, and Horror Film Fanatic living in her hometown of LA. Currently appearing in commercials for Sony and Disney+, she’s ecstatic to be a part of projects that highlight Women and People of Color, from behind and in front of the camera.
Christina Kingsleigh Licud is a Filipino-American filmmaker. She earned her MFA in Screenwriting from American Film Institute and won its Writers’ Room Ready and William J. Fadiman Awards. An alum of the PGA Power of Diversity Master Workshop, she uses horror and dramedy to explore issues like cultural identity.
Heidi Burkey & Julie Hook (Documentary Feature)
Based in Los Angeles, Heidi Burkey is a documentary filmmaker committed to elevating stories that explore social, political and environmental issues through the lens of the human experience. Her work has been distributed on Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Fusion TV, and DirectTV.
Julie Hook began her career in Austin, TX working on notable feature films such as Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special and Oscar-nominated, Loving, as well as Terrence Malick’s IMAX documentary Voyage of Time. Julie recently produced My Love, a Netflix documentary series on love & companionship in six different countries.
Jordan Crafton(Fiction Podcast)
Jordan Crafton is a 33-year-old award winning filmmaker. His work has been featured in: Huffington Post, CNN, USA Today, and Billboard Magazine. He has also performed multiple production roles for movies and television shows such as Kevin Hart’s What Now?, MTV’s WildNOut, Nickelodeon’s TeenNick Top 10, and many more.
Anaïs Dupuis, Cécile C. Simon & Anaïs Carayon(Nonfiction Podcast)
Anaïs Dupuis loves telling stories on both a social and a professional level. She started her career in the movie industry in France and Germany where she had the opportunity to work on fictions and documentaries. She also has been selected at the Berlin Festival Talent Campus, and was a recipient of the Nipkow Programm grant.
Cécile C. Simon is a photographer and a director based in Paris. Her work has been exhibited and published in various books and magazines. She’s been running a creative studio with Céline Barrère for 10 years now. They commit to a large scope of commissioned work : portraits, music videos, editorials, fashion films and advertisement.
Anaïs Carayon started her career as a journalist in a Parisian hip hop magazine. A few years later, she founded her own magazine, Brain. She also wrote several books (La Chose revue pop-porn, Lolchats, Nos commerçants ont du talent), produced close to 10 podcasts and more than a hundred episodes, and organized many events in Paris.
Alton Glass & Donovan de Boer(Immersive Project)
Alton Glass is a visionary entrepreneur who leads a team of new media gurus who are – tackling contemporary issues through immersive storytelling. Glass is the Co-Creator of TIME’s The March executive produced by Viola Davis. The March is an immersive installation on the 1963 March on Washington in virtual reality.
Donovan de Boer is an award-winning producer, visual artist, an accomplished writer/director, and responsible for the creative development and successful launch of a wide variety of multi-million dollar entertainment, hospitality, film and television marketing campaigns. He holds over 20 years of experience in project development, creative direction, film marketing, branding, and high performance visual communications.
Steye Hallema(Immersive Project)
As the son of a magician, Steye Hallema too tries to create magic and wonder. He loves to use immersive technologies for their ability to make the audience part of the magic. Like for example with The Smartphone Orchestra: A platform for group experiences using the smartphones of the audience members themselves.
Vanna James(Narrative Series)
Vanna James graduated from Clark Atlanta University where her talents took her to Los Angeles. In a pursuit to change the culture through storytelling, Vanna invested in her creativity and began producing original content. Vanna vows to create media that illuminates all facets of black culture.
Yuqi Kang, Dana Kalmey & Ina Fichman(Documentary Feature)
Yuqi Kang was born in Inner Mongolia, China. Growing up as an ethnic minority in China, art became the medium through which Yuqi began to confront and begin to articulate her lived experience. She is an alumnus of Tribeca institute, Hotdocs Crosscurrent, and TIFF Talents.
Dana Kalmey is a filmmaker, Impact Partners Producing Fellow, and former architect and college soccer coach. Her films include the award-winning Trapped (2016), Well Groomed (2019), (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies (2015), and E-Team (2014). She currently directs sports documentaries, while producing 7 Beats Per Minute.
Ina Fichman has been producing award-winning documentary and fiction films, and interactive projects. In 2018, Ina was the recipient of the Don Haig Award from Hotdocs. She is currently chair of the national board of the Documentary Association of Canada and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Sergio Karmy (MBA) is an executive producer of original content at Blackstar. Developing TV and films from Chile with a worldwide perspective, Sergio is focused on projects that have a strong social impact and can position Chile as a hub for amazing stories that can change the world.
Jaime Villarreal is a Chilean journalist and filmmaker. He is the CEO of Blackstar, a production company that specializes in producing entertainment content throughout Latin America. Blackstar is based in Santiago, Ciudad de Mexico and Los Angeles, producing a catalogue of more than 15 projects, in different stages of development for different platforms.
Jalena Keane-Lee is a filmmaker who explores intergenerational trauma and healing through an intersectional lens. Jalena is the director of Standing Above the Clouds which follows Native Hawaiian mother daughter activists and has been supported by Pacific Islanders in Communication, Nia Tero, CNN Films, and Points North Institute.
Amber Espinosa-Jones is an independent producer and racial equity strategist from Oakland, CA. She currently serves as Manager of the Outreach & Inclusion Department at Sundance Institute where she supports artists from underrepresented communities through intersectional fellowships, community programs and network building.
James Kim & Brooke Iskra(Fiction Podcast)
James Kim is a Los Angeles based podcast creator. Previously, he worked on Radiotopia’s Strangers, Marketplace, Deadly Manners, The Dinner Party Download, KPCC, and Gimlet Media. Most recently, he made the fiction show MOONFACE, which landed on the “Best of 2019” lists from Vulture, Spotify, Time Magazine, and The A.V. Club.
Brooke Iskra is a UCLA grad and Film Industry Professional. With a background in Film Sales, Distribution and Festivals, she has spent the past decade championing Independent Storytelling.
Mari Kussman & Mitchell Hart(Documentary Series)
Mari Kussman(真理) is Japanese/American, by way of Tokyo and the Pacific Northwest. As a designer she has worked in leadership roles for various tech startups, and designed collections shown at NY Fashion Week. Her passion lies in sustainability, and she is currently producing a docuseries, Cycles.
Mitchell Hart has been producing creative work across film, technology and design in a variety of mediums for 15 years. He holds a degree in journalism and when not at work he enjoys the outdoors and composing music.
Alessandra Lacorazza & Daniel Tantalean(Narrative Feature)
Alessandra Lacorazza is a queer Colombian-American writer-director and editor based in Brooklyn. Her work deals with personal and cultural memory, and incorporates themes of migration, alienation, community, and resilience. In 2020 she became a screenwriting fellow with WGA-east and FilmNation, with their support she wrote her next second feature SOLA.
Daniel Tantalean is a 2020 NALIP Latino Media Market Fellow and Award-Winning Latinx Producer based in Los Angeles. As a producer, he focuses on Latinx and Indigenous filmmakers in narrative and documentary. He has had films shown at Aspen ShortsFest, SFFilm, Hot Docs, and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
Olivia Luengas has worked as DOP in projects such as Maripepa and La Hora de la Siesta. Her debut feature Away from Meaning, which she directed and shot, won the TFI Latin American fund, the support of the Grodman Foundation UDG USA and the Star Prize in the Havana Film Festival in NY.
Odín Acosta Ascencio has collaborated on more than 100 projects as a sound designer, sound editor and mixer. He makes his debut as producer of the documentary film Away from Meaning by Olivia Luengas Magaña, is co-producer of The Blue Years by Sofía Gómez Córdova and co-producer of Tío Yim by Luna Maran.
Veena Rao & Dara Kell(Documentary Series)
Veena Rao is a New York-based filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals worldwide, been featured in The New York Times Op-Docs, The Atlantic, and Vimeo Staff Picks, and supported by Independent Television Service, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Dara Kell is an award-winning filmmaker and fiction writer. Her documentaries have been broadcast on PBS, TVFrance and Netflix, and screened at film festivals worldwide. She has made films in South Africa, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Egypt, and China, and is currently making a film about Reverend William Barber and poverty in America.
Tisha Robinson-Daly & Jonathan Mason (Narrative Feature)
Tisha Robinson-Daly is an African American filmmaker based in Philadelphia. She is a Sundance and Knight foundation fellow whose work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, Stowe Story Labs, SAGindie and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is also an advocate for telecommunication and broadcast tower climbers.
Jonathan Mason is a French/American filmmaker based in Philadelphia. His work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, IFP, Cinephilia, and Stowe Story Labs. He co-wrote the upcoming Untitled Heist Movie with Braulio Mantovani (City of God), and co-created the series The Order, currently in development at MGM/OrionTV.
Annie Saunders(Immersive Project)
Annie Saunders is a multidisciplinary creator and director of site-specific experiences, and has created award-winning multi-platform projects for major arts institutions including the Public Theater, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Broad Stage and Summerhall, as well as site-specific projects in disused spaces set for demolition and experiential campaigns for multinational brands.
Desiree Staples & Nate Trinrud(Narrative Series)
Desiree Staples is a producer, filmmaker, and actress. Circus Person, produced by Staples, was a Tribeca NOW 2020 showcase selection. Staples’ dramedy pilot It’s What She Would Have Wanted, and comedy pilot The Influencers, that she co-created and produced have together screened at over 25 festivals in the US and Internationally.
Nate Trinrud is a graduate of Northwestern University and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His work has been recognized at festivals internationally, including nominations for Berlinale’s Teddy Award and Crystal Bear. Nate most recently worked with Cate Shortland on Black Widow and is currently writing a graphic novel for HMHCo.
Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster & Yasmin Elayat(Immersive Project)
Michèle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney. She tells compelling, deeply personal stories that are recreated by, for and about communities of color and resonate beyond the margins. Her most recent film, American Promise, was nominated for three Emmys and won the Jury Prize at Sundance.
Joe Brewster is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who uses his psychological training as the foundation in approaching the social issues he tackles as an artist and filmmaker. Brewster has created stories using installation, narrative, documentary and print mediums that have garnered support from critics and audiences internationally. He is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow.
Yasmin Elayat is an Emmy-award winning immersive director and Co-Founder at Scatter, an immersive company pioneering Volumetric Filmmaking. Yasmin directed Scatter’s Zero Days VR (Sundance 2017) and is the co-creator of 18DaysInEgypt. Her work has been exhibited at various festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, SIGGRAPH, Festival de Cannes, and the World Economic Forum.
Larin Sullivan, Isabel Marden & Kim Bailey(Narrative Feature)
Larin Sullivan is an LGBT+ filmmaker and founder of Trinket Films. She has written and directed documentaries for Showtime, ABC Australia, campaigns for Samsung and Lexus, and several scripted festival shorts. She graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in Directing. The Young King is her first narrative feature.
Kim Bailey started her career at Paradigm Talent Agency, then as a Creative Executive at e2b Capital, working on films such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Butler. She worked at Fortitude International as Director of Acquisitions and at Tang Media Partners before leaving to form Corporate Witchcraft.
Isabel Marden began her career in Beijing, as a production executive at Bona Film Group. She worked in development at Sony/Columbia before leaving to found Corporate Witchcraft. Corporate Witchcraft’s first feature Clementine premiered at Tribeca and was picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope Laboratories. She is a graduate of USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.
Denzel Whitaker & John Trefry(Narrative Series)
Since age 10, Denzel Whitaker has widely been known for his on-screen talents, with titles including: The Great Debaters, Black Panther, Cut Throat City, Training Day and many more. In 2011, Denzel stepped behind the lens to direct films and music videos; he’s been developing both sides of the camera since.
John Trefry is a filmmaker with extensive narrative and documentary credits and his films have competed at festivals including SXSW, Tribeca, DOC NYC, and dozens more. John has a proven track record marketing and distributing his work, generating tens of millions of views to engage with audiences around the world.
Also participating in the Creators Market are 2021 NOW Showcase indie episodic creators Rick Gomez & Steve Zahn, Jennifer Morris & Robbie Sublett, Miles Blim, Camille Casmie & Chloe Howard, and Colin Kane Healey. Additional participants to be announced.
2020 NOW & Pilot Season Selections
NOW SHOWCASE A: Soul Connection A collection of sweet and surprising intimacies that culminate in an examination of faith, love, and human connection. (4 Narrative Short/Episodic Projects)
The Letter Room Created by Elvira Lind The Letter Room is a dark prison comedy about the secret life of a correctional officer who gets transferred to a job in the letter room, where a new world suddenly opens to him.
Home Created by Héctor Silva Núñez & Lu Urdaneta Home is a drama series spoken in Spanglish, following two young Latina immigrants (Lu Urdaneta,Camila Rodríguez) in a journey of self-discovery as they try to make a new home together in Miami.
Backsliders Created by Keylee Koop-Sudduth & Micah Sudduth (USA) – Episodes 1, 3 & 6 Blurring the lines between narrative and documentary, Texas filmmakers Keylee Koop-Sudduth (grew up in a megachurch) and Micah Sudduth (born into a Christian cult) deconstruct their evolving beliefs for everyone to see.
Circus Person Created by Britt Lower & Alex Knell Using live action, circus arts, and animated body paint, Circus Person brings whimsy to the drama of building a family when you feel you have none.
NOW SHOWCASE B: Lost & Found
An exploration highlighting human adaptation and nostalgia beside the changing aesthetics of technology. (6 Documentary Short/Episodic Projects)
Dying Business Created by Alden Nusser & Ben Fries Dying Business is a character-driven documentary series about people working in the death industry that sheds light on the working stiffs making a living among the dead.
Awkward Family Photos Created by Mike Bender & Doug Chernack The families behind some of the most viral photos from AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com tell their unique stories and recreate their original photos in a hilarious, odd, and heartfelt exploration of the imperfect family experience.
Museum of Fleeting Wonders Created by Tomas Gomez Bustillo The Museum of Fleeting Wonders is a curated collection of small moments of magic, from the perspective of the people who witnessed them.
Bobbie Blood Created by Ava Warbrick Bobbie Blood is a short documentary series shot on 16mm film chronicling the love life of a newlywed octogenarian couple and the story that brought them together.
Allumuah Created by Curtis Essel Allumuah explores the way the internet enables a lineage of aesthetics passed between African diaspora artists.
The Seeker Created by Lance Edmands The Seeker explores a crisis of faith within Maine’s Amish community, the pain and anguish of separating from loved ones, and ways to find solace and spirituality afterwards.
2020 Pilot Season
Unemployable Executive Producer: Mike Ott, Gregory Dylan Harris 31-year-old Cory lives with his mom. Despite a set of serious life choices facing him, Cory’s main priority is to get a new tattoo sleeve, which he can hardly afford, so he sets out to get a job with the support of his only friend, his tattoo artist Louie.
Magic Hour Executive Producer: Che Grayson Bella is a peculiar woman labeled a monster by the man who created her. Trapped in a hotel room, she braves the outside world where she meets Eiko. Will Bella successfully break free from her creator and find her humanity? Or will she fall prey to his deadly prophecy?
Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps: But What About The Children Executive Producer: Scott Turner Schofield While transgender men are rarely visible in the cultural imagination, amid tropes of transition and turmoil, the filmed interpretation of Scott Turner Schofield’s live work of the same name generated 127 pieces of short content (Steps) that deeply explore themes such as childhood, masculinity, love, sex, death, and survival.
Pretty People Executive Producer: Shelby Blake Bartelstein Best friends Rachel and Greg have undeniable chemistry, but it’s been simmering and unspoken for the last three years. When Rachel’s casual and unexpected hook-up sparks Greg’s feelings of jealousy, they’ll be forced to say what’s on their minds—the whole FAT truth of it.
Deceased Ones Executive Producer: Emily Kron, Kate Hopkins When two friends, Max and Fiona, get involved in the niche service of role playing the dead, they’re forced to help heal grieving strangers through a surreal game of make believe, while confronting deeply buried emotional traumas arising within themselves.
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Passes and Tickets for the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival Festival passes are on sale now. Tribeca At Home tickets go on sale Monday, May 3 @ 11:00am EST. Tickets to attend the outdoor in-person screenings / events are available starting Monday, May 10 @11:00am EST. Visit: https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets
About the Tribeca Festival The Tribeca Festival, presented by AT&T, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, gaming, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. Tribeca champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.
The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Tribeca will celebrate its 20th year June 9 – 20, 2021. www.tribecafilm.com/festival
In 2019, James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, a private investment company with locations in New York and Mumbai, bought a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises, bringing together Rosenthal, De Niro, and Murdoch to grow the enterprise.
About the 2021 Tribeca Festival Partners: The 2021 Tribeca Festival is presented by AT&T and with the support of our corporate partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Audible, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Diageo, DoorDash, FreshDirect, Hudson Yards, Indeed, Montefiore-Einstein, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, P&G, PwC, Roku, Spring Studios New York.