Photographed at Square Diner
Shola wears a coat by Reiss, shirt by Armani, and pants by Burberry.
Passionate filmmakers take to the streets of New York, inspired by the Tribeca Film Festival.
by Melissa Walker Photography by Eric Ogden

The magnetic energy of New York City has for ages been luring artists, musicians, playwrights, and other creative types with ambitions of catching their big break. Filmmakers? Not so much. For generations, they"ve headed west searching for a foothold in the movie industry under the Los Angeles sun. That is, until the Tribeca Film Festival brought Hollywood to one of Manhattan's hippest neighborhoods.

Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal, and her investor husband, Craig Hatkoff, originally founded the Tribeca Film Festival as a way to revitalize lower Manhattan in the wake of September 11. A decade after its inception, the annual festival—which is sponsored in part by Conrad Hotels & Resorts—is now the place for innovative directors and cutting-edge filmmakers to find their success with documentaries, dramas, comedies, and other independent films.

The trio also founded The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), which empowers filmmakers through grants and a support network. Among the talented directors welcomed into the TFI family are these five women, each of whom has a film supported by the institute. All are creating compelling work inspired by the energy of New York and their passion for telling stories to the world.

Photographed at Square Diner
photographed on Staple Street, TriBeCa
HER FILM: Angela & Free All Political Prisoners

Film as History: We have these great stories from the past that tell us something about ourselves as people. Film is a great way to make sure we know something about our collective selves, our legacy and history—we have to know who we are and where we come from. documentaries are not about just facts. it’s history as philosophy, and as experience. You experience the adventure, the problems, the questions, along with the players in the film.

The Immediacy of NYC: it’s like a beaker with lots of atoms in it that connect and bounce off of each other—there’s energy here. And when tribeca— the Film Festival or the All Access® program—says “pay attention to this,” people do. You get a second look, you get the opportunity to make your case—and that’s what filmmakers need.

On political activist Angela Davis: her story was one i thought i knew, but i actually didn’t know it at all. She saw a documentary that i made about Shirley chisholm, the first black congresswoman, and when we met, Ms. davis said, “i thought i knew that story.” But my film surprised her. And that’s why she gave me a shot with her story.

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GENNA TERRANOVA is the director of programming for the Tribeca Film Festival. With her eclectic tastes and a sharp eye for talent, she shapes the TFF program each year. We sat down with her to talk about her work, lower Manhattan, and what makes the Tribeca Film Festival unique.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: I oversee all of the programming at the Tribeca Film Festival, which means I have a lot of fun doing what I love! I travel to film festivals around the world scouting projects and filmmakers, looking for films in addition to the submissions that we get for TFF. Last fall I was in Rio and then Spain. After we watch movies, we have long discussions about which films are impressive and why.

Q: What makes TFF so special?

A: TFF is a people's festival for New York. Audiences come from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, New Jersey—it feels very inclusive. We try to program for everyone, from cinephiles who look for certain types of fare to people who see films a few times a year and want a special event—we even have family activities to bring thousands of kids downtown to romp in the streets, have their faces painted, hit a film at the drive-in we create in Battery Park. Filmmakers are at every screening to engage with viewers, and the whole community comes together for conversation. I studied theater in college so I"m intrigued by the real-life experience of theater and how it engages in a live setting; there's something very refreshing about bringing filmmakers and audiences together in real life.

Q: How does the vibrant downtown Manhattan location add to TFF?

A: Lower Manhattan has been a huge inspiration. TFF started in the wake of 9/11—it became about rebuilding the neighborhood. It's a different place now, vibrant and beautiful with the essence and spirit of NYC. It also has a cinematic feel to it—I walk by the Ghostbusters firehouse every day!

Q: What does the Conrad sponsorship mean for the Festival?

A: Working with Conrad is a pleasure. I know from the filmmakers and actors and talent that they really enjoyed having a hotel where they could gather to meet each other—Conrad gives the festival a real sense of togetherness.

photographed at Square Diner, TriBeCa
HER FILM: I Believe in Unicorns

Wired for Film: I became a filmmaker because it satisfied the creative side of my brain and the social activist side. Narrative film has the potential to reach a wide audience and affect social change in a way other art mediums do not.

The Tribeca Effect: The Tribeca All Access® program is designed to inspire and aid underrepresented voices in film. It's a way of connecting indie filmmakers with the business side. And once you're in the Tribeca family, you get career support for years to come.

I Believe in Unicorns: My film is a coming-of-age story. The media has strong potential to shape the way girls grow up. The more realistic representations of girls and women there are on the big screen, the healthier it is for teens looking to these portrayals. I'll consider my films successful if girls in the middle of nowhere see them and feel there's a kindred spirit out there.

New York City: There is a wonderful network of indie filmmakers here. Not to mention the city is inspiring—there are different people and stories everywhere you look.

Poignant Moments: The lead in I Believe in Unicorns was 16 when we filmed. She wore a unicorn necklace every day while shooting. At the end she gave it to me and said, "This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life." She said I should keep wearing it until the premiere. I haven"t taken it off yet!

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Photographed at Square Diner
Leah wears a blazer by Stella McCartney, knit by Stella McCartney, and pants by Ralph Lauren.
—Leah Meyerhoff
These five films celebrate
downtown Manhattan in very
different ways

1954: REAR WINDOW Though it's all set inside one small studio apartment in Greenwich Village, this Hitchcock thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly captures the sights, sounds, and eccentricity of downtown living.

1985: DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN The meet-up spot in this mistaken-identity caper—in which Madonna got into her cinematic groove—is Battery Park, complete with classic Statue of Liberty view. And that iconic jacket? Purchased at an East Village thrift store.

1987: WALL STREET Gordon Gekko told us all that "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good," as he and his moneyed colleagues posed in front of staggering office views and classic drinking establishments in Manhattan's financial district.

1989: WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... In this classic Nora Ephron film full of moments, there's one that stands out to everyone: the lunch at Katz's Deli on Houston Street, where Meg Ryan, as Sally, fakes an intimate moment and drops every jaw in the place. The table where they filmed now sports a plaque that reads, "Congratulations! You're sitting where Harry met Sally."

2008: MAN ON WIRE In 1974, French equilibrist Philippe Petit got himself to the top of the brand-new World Trade Center and walked between the Twin Towers on a tightrope. Documentarian James Marsh captured the action for one of the most breathtaking moments in documentary history.

photographed at Conrad New York, TriBeCa
HER FILM: First to Fall

Time for a Story: I used to work in broadcast journalism and I hated having 90 seconds to tell an important story. Once I started working in film I realized that if you tell the story properly, you can make someone who doesn"t know anything about the subject on the screen love what they're watching.

First to Fall: I thought I"d be in Libya for eight weeks to follow two young expatriate men returning home to participate in the revolution. My days onsisted of whatever the guys were doing—I made no decisions, I had no phone. I was in deep, but I had to finish the story, so my stay ended up being eight months. I was capturing a moment in history no one else was staying to see.

New York Moves: I showed up in New York City last spring with a suitcase and a dream—corny but true! I had 200 hours of footage from the Middle East, and I wanted to connect with people. Because of my TFI grant I was able to go back to Libya to film the final moments with my guys, and the post-revolution tale adds a whole extra layer to the film.

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Photographed at Square Diner
Rachel wears a coat by Burberry, top by Theory, pants by Michael Kors, and shoes by Armani.
photographed in Duane Park, TriBeCa
HER FILM: Untitled Colombia Project

The Arts Saved Me: Becoming an artist was a path that i never saw because of where i came from: a rough Los Angeles neighborhood and my home country of colombia. in these places, you don’t imagine that you would be making movies. people were trying to survive day to day, trying to not get shot, not go to jail. i was living that life. But i discov- ered acting at UcLA, then eventually found filmmaking.

Telling Untold Stories: What gets me out of bed in the morning is sharing stories of inspiring human beings surviving under the most unimaginable circumstances, and finding happiness in those painful situations.

NYC and Film: the city offers diversity of all art forms, and all art informs all other art. having the tribeca Film Festival here brings global filmmakers to one of the many hearts of the world.

The Untitled Colombia Project: i’m working on a story that deals with the issue of violence against women as a weapon of war in colombia— it’s in the development stages, and i’ll be cowriting it as well as directing it.

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Photographed at Square Diner
Paola wears a dress by Yves Saint Laurent and tights by Wolford.
Photographed at Square Diner
Dawn wears a dress by Oscar de la Renta and belt by Michael Kors.
Wardrobe stylist: Katie Burnett; hairstylist; Jennifer Brent; makeup artist: Anthea King.
photographed at TriBeCa Cinemas, TriBeCa
HER FILM: Gideon's Army

The NYC Mind-Set: We New Yorkers have a lot of creativity, ingenuity, and resolve—that's what it takes to live here, and that also happens to be what it takes to be a documentarian.

Gideon's Army: My film is about public defenders. I am a corporate lawyer, and I thought public defenders were crazy. But when I met these people, I was blown away. Every other lawyer I know is trying to quit, and they're fighting to stay. They reminded me why I went to law school. They talk about the Constitution every day; they are what real lawyering is.

An Intimate Moment: In one interview, a woman featured in the film asked that everyone but me and the camera operator leave the room. She told me one of her clients was going away for life and figured he might as well make a name for himself, so he's planning to murder her. She gives everything to this job, and this is what she finds out. At that moment I thought, No matter what, I'm going to make this movie. I have to let people know what this work is like.

Tribeca Is Transformative: During the festival, you're dropped into all the meetings you've been chasing for years—you literally have them all lined up. For me? Gideon's Army premieres on HBO this year.

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