Proximity to Cannes is still an issue, say international attendees, but those who attended found it a useful pre-Cannes meeting point and appreciated the 75 world premieres in the programme. Wendy Mitchell reports...

The Tribeca Film Festival has clearly stated that one of its aims is to increase the presence of the international film industry.

So did this year's event, which ended Sunday, meet that goal' It depends on who you ask. Tribeca organisers said there were 119 international industry registrants in 2007, up about 15% on last year. Of the 280 buyers for all platforms, 35 were international (up from 15 last year); of the 102 sales agents, 25 were international.

There were a handful of small pick-ups but nothing big enough yet to stir major industry interest. Still, most international industry attendees said Tribeca's industry outreach has grown with this sixth edition, although there is room for improvement in coming years.

James Velaise, director of French distributor Pretty Pictures, picked up When The Road Bends T ales Of a Gypsy Caravan at the 2006 TFF, and returned this year for what he calls 'the excellent level of programming. The festival is both alaunching pad for new US indies and catching up on the best of the best from various less reported festivals, like Istanbul or Rome.'

Others said that the festival's stated goals of re-invigorating downtown Manhattan and being a festival for New York's public can be somewhat at odds with being an industry must-attend event.

'The obvious downside of that for us as a British sales and distribution company is that a large section of the films are perhaps too local in their appeal,' said Oliver Dungey, of The Works Media Group, based in London. 'Nonetheless, there were plenty of films we were keen to cover. In that respect we see Tribeca as a place to start a few conversations that might be concluded in the coming months.'

The festival doesn't have the pressured feel of Cannes, however. 'It's informal and very accessible and that is something I was pretty happy with,' Dungey added.

Sebastien Chesnau, head of international sales at France's Rezo, agreed: 'Tribeca is a friendly working atmosphere. People are not as stressed as in Cannes and it's a good follow-up after Sundance.'

Screen spoke to several international companies who had registered to attend but ended up not making the trip. 'We made a last-minute decision not to attend Tribeca this year although we are still hoping that Tribeca will grow into a commercially viable market for us,' Yuuki Matsuzawa, manager of acquisitions at Japan's Presidio said.

'A primary reason we decided not to attend was due to preparation for Cannes and did find the scheduling proximity to be somewhat problematic.'

'It was useful in terms of seeing US distributors pre-Cannes'
That Cannes conflict is certainly an issue for those travelling from overseas. Tribeca front-loads its more industry-oriented events during its first half, but still, the event ends just 10 days before Cannes starts.
'It's definitely an issue and we wouldn't have felt comfortable attending the whole festival but I went for four days and that was still worthwhile, if rather intense,' Dungey says.

There is a flipside to getting meetings done before Cannes. Samantha Horley of sales company Lumina Films came to Tribeca with world premieres of Puerto Rican love story Maldeamores and controversial documentary The Workshop, and was very pleased at distributor and public response to both.

'Now I can go to Cannes and tell international buyers that I've got North American interest from Tribeca,' she says.

One obviously industry lure is presenting so many world premieres - 75 this year. 'It is important that they continue to present a good number of premieres,' Dungey said of his plans to return to the festival in coming years.

Premiering a film at Tribeca instead of Cannes also helped to make more of a mark, Horley explains. 'No matter how wonderful a film is, even if you could get that into Cannes to get that to stand out is so hard. In Tribeca, we had this huge premier, queues around the block, cheering, all of our screenings were sold out, all the US buyers got to see it.'
Another foreign sales agent, who didn't want to be named, agreed: 'It was really useful in terms of seeing US distributors pre-Cannes.'

One logistical downside was lack of a festival 'centre' - with events and meetings downtown and industry screenings in midtown. Echoing thoughts from most attendees, Maxyne Franklin of the London-based Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation, said: 'This year it seemed to lack a cohesive hub.

'Whilst the delegate lounge is great, it's so far from the two press and industry screens this year that it's difficult to access between films, and you end up somewhat stranded uptown. I think this reduced the potential for chance meetings.'

'The quality of films needs to improve significantly'
Yoonhee Choi, from South Korean sales company Film Messenger, complained that the festival's lack of a market makes it 'hard for an international attendee like me to meet people - there were just a few international attendees and American industry people.'

Lumina's Horley, meanwhile, praised the personal treatment from the festival's programmers, particularly David Kwok. 'David went around to all the buyers before the festival and went through all the line-up with each buyer as to what films might and might not be good for them - he helps them navigate the programme. Tell me any other festival that does that.'

But, another international attendee cautioned that there might be limited industry growth for Tribeca. 'To become a true acquisitions festival, I think the quality of films needs to improve significantly and whether there are enough good films out there to satisfy another festival so close to Cannes is another question altogether,' the sales veteran warned.

Still, one can't forget the film-makers in this discussion, and most Tribeca screenings can promise those elusive sell-out crowds not always seen at some larger or smaller festivals.

Yael Luttwak, the UK-based director of Tribeca competition documentary A Slim Peace, said: 'The audiences were excellent and asked excellent and challenging questions after each screening.'