"I Bet On Myself"

Tribeca Film Festival Founder Jane Rosenthal Gambled With a Move to New York—
and it Paid Off, Big

Tribeca Film Festival Founder Jane Rosenthal Gambled With a Move to New York—and it Paid Off, Big

By Lauren Waterman

Jane Rosenthal is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood—or rather, she would be, if she and business partner Robert De Niro hadn"t decided, back in 1988, to set up shop in lower Manhattan, almost 3,000 miles away. Clearly, the distance hasn't hurt them: Over the course of her two-plus decades at the helm of Tribeca Productions, Rosenthal has produced or executive produced more than 30 movies, including A Bronx Tale, Analyze This, About a Boy, and the blockbuster Meet the Parents trilogy.

But despite her success, the 56-year-old Rhode Island native admits that her decision to leave Los Angeles (where she had been a vice president of production at Disney) to start an independent film company with the star of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull was—like much of what she does—something of a leap of faith. "This business isn't brain surgery," she says, as a way of explaining that there's more art than science to most of the decisions she makes day-to-day. "It's about instinct. I knew that I didn't want to be the head of a [major] studio. I wanted to be closer to the creative process. So it was about making a bet. I bet on myself."

Jane Rosenthal (above) is cofounder of Tribeca Productions, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Institute.

Needless to say, she won. Big. Now Rosenthal divides her time between a dizzying array of projects. Asked to name the upcoming endeavors that she's most passionate about, she lists almost half a dozen, including Inside Out, a documentary for HBO about the TED-prize-winning street artist known as JR (whose work hangs on a wall in her top-floor office), and a television show based on the 2006 spy drama she produced, The Good Shepherd. (She jokingly refers to the series as "The Better Shepherd," because the action will pick up where the movie left off.)

"I'm at a point where I can tell the stories that I want to tell and work with the people that I want to work with," Rosenthal explains.

That flexibility has allowed her to branch out far beyond the limits of what would ordinarily be considered a part of her job description: In 2002, just six months after the September 11 attacks, she cofounded the Tribeca Film Festival with De Niro and her husband, real estate investor Craig Hatkoff. "We felt we had to do something," she says. "We weren"t firefighters or policemen or steelworkers, so it was a matter of, 'What can I do to bring people back downtown?'" she says. "The world didn't need another film festival," she admits, "but TriBeCa did. And I"m proud of what we've been able to do, to contribute to the economic activity of lower Manhattan, and, those first few years, just to remind people that it was OK to laugh again."

Jane Rosenthal (above) is cofounder of Tribeca Productions, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Institute.

"The world didn't need another film festival

but tribeca did. I'm proud of what we've been able to do"

—Jane Rosenthal

A Perfect Partnership

In 2012, shortly after the grand opening of its first New York City property, Conrad Hotels & Resorts heightened its commitment to downtown Manhattan by sponsoring the Tribeca Film Festival, a relationship that continues in 2013. The partnership truly is a celebration of creative individuality, urban style, and the city of New York as a dynamic place for filmmaking.

"Globally, this is the premier film festival," says Richard Wolfman, Conrad Hotels & Resorts" director of partnerships and promotions. "Our sponsorship of the Tribeca Film Festival is a reflection of the brand's ongoing commitment to self-expression and the arts."

The trio also founded the Tribeca Film Institute, a nonprofit arts organization that provides grants and professional development to filmmakers, and education to tens of thousands of children and teenagers. "We're in underserved populations, mostly in New York," Rosenthal says, though they hope to expand internationally. "We work with kids who are homeless, kids for whom English is a second language, and we teach them how to make a film. Arts funding is continually being cut in schools, and it's really important that everybody have a way to express themselves."

Rosenthal isn"t certain, she confesses, whether she"d have followed the exact same path had the attacks not occurred: "Something like that changes your perspective." She's come a long way from her roots as an adolescent would-be actress who realized that her talents lay elsewhere. "It's been an interesting journey," she says. "One thing that this profession, this job, whatever this thing is that I have created for myself, has allowed me to do is have access to all kinds of fascinating people, creatively, socially, politically ... either I"m going out to meet them, or they end up coming here." Oftentimes, those connections pay off in unexpected ways, as when she asked Richard Holbrook, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whom she met while developing The Good Shepherd, to help her secure Nelson Mandela as a speaker for the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival. "In that sense, it's really fun," she says. "I just never know what's going to happen."

The Hit Maker

Jane Rosenthal has more than 33 producing credits to her name. Here are five movies that have been among her biggest blockbusters so far.

1993

A Bronx Tale


This crime drama, set in the Bronx during the 1960s, was directed by Rosenthal's producing partner, Robert De Niro, who also costarred in the film.

1997

Wag the Dog


Life imitated art when just a few weeks after this political satire about a presidential affair was released in theaters, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke.

1999

Analyze This


De Niro and Billy Crystal created comedy magic in this hit about a mob boss who suffers from anxiety attacks and his psychiatrist.

2000

Meet the Parents


This comedy starring Ben Stiller launched a wildly successful trilogy of films that included Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers.

2002

About a Boy


Laugh-out-loud funny and soul-touching at the same time, this hit starring Hugh Grant was one of the most loved films of the year.

EVERETT COLLECTION

The Best of the Tribeca Film Festival

Thousands Of Films Are Shown, But Only A Few Rise To The Top

By Kimberly Papa

One of the biggest moments of this year's Tribeca Film Festival took place at Conrad New York, where festival cofounders Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff hosted the annual awards ceremony. It was there that one of the festival's highest honors was presented: winner of the World Narrative Competition. Each year, hundreds of narrative (non-documentary) films from around the globe are shown at the festival, and they are often some of the most sought-after viewings. Typically, about half of the films are international and half are produced by Americans. And while it's rare for these films to get a wide release, you can always check them out on Netflix.

Six Must-see World Narrative Winners

These compelling films have taken top honors at the Tribeca Film Festival

2013

The Rocket


Directed by Kim Mordaunt

2010

When We Leave


Directed by Feo Aladag

2012

War Witch


Directed by Kim Nguyen

2009

About Elly


Directed by Asghar Farhadi

2011

She Monkeys


Directed by Lisa Aschan

2008

Let the Right One In


Directed by Tomas Alfredson

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: SCOTT GRIES/GETTY IMAGES; THE ROCKET: TOM GREENWOOD; ABOUT ELLY: EVERETT COLLECTION; SHE MONKEYS: MARIA VON HAUSSWOLFF

One of the biggest moments of this year's Tribeca Film Festival took place at Conrad New York, where festival cofounders Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff hosted the annual awards ceremony. It was there that one of the festival's highest honors was presented: winner of the World Narrative Competition. Each year, hundreds of narrative (non-documentary) films from around the globe are shown at the festival, and they are often some of the most sought-after viewings. Typically, about half of the films are international and half are produced by Americans. And while it's rare for these films to get a wide release, you can always check them out on Netflix.


Scan this QR code to watch "Metamorphosis," a short film created in partnership with TFF.