The seventh Tribeca Film Festival kicked off in high spirits yesterday [April 23] as New York Governor David Paterson signed into law a tripling of the state's tax credit for film and TV productions and festival sponsors American Express extended their commitment for a further five years.

The new tax legislation raises the tax credit for below-the-line costs on in-state productions from 10% to 30% and brings New York on a par with its local rival Connecticut. The City of New York offers a further 5% credit, which boosts the credit that city productions potentially receive to 35%.

Credits will be paid in a single lump sum as opposed to the old system whereby claimants recovered monies owed to them by filing tax returns over two years.

Referring to the strong regional production like Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Paterson said: 'I am proud to have our great state foster an even greater number of productions, and feel fortunate that we have an event like the Tribeca Film Festival to showcase the work of great filmmakers and highlight the importance of this industry in our state.'

'Great films energise our lives,' festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal said ahead of the opening night gala screening of Universal's comedy Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. 'We started this festival to heal our neighborhood and bring the magic of film to the city we love. Over the next 11 days we will view the world through the lens of film-makers - advancing their work as we seek to inspire and entertain our audiences.'

At the inaugural press conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in lower Manhattan, film-maker Doug Liman announced the jurors for the festival's competitive categories.

Serving on the World Narrative Competition jury are Peter Hedges, Gregory Hoblit, Callie Khouri, Oliver Platt and Christine Vachon.

The jurors for the World Documentary Competition are Jared Cohen, Whoopi Goldberg, Ross Kauffman, Padma Lakshmi and Jose Padilha.

In the New York competition categories the Made In NY Narrative Feature Award jurors are Peter Dinklage, Fred Durst, Greg Mottola, Stephen Schiff and Annabella Sciorra, while the NY Loves Film Documentary Feature Award jury comprises Liman, Liya Kebede, Esther Robinson, Josh Schwartz, Jay McInerney and Andre Leon Talley.

In the short film competitive categories, Mario Batali, Christine Lahti, Molly Shannon, Lili Taylor and Zac Posen will judge the narrative entries and David Bowie, Red Burns, Matthew Modine, Lee Schrager and David de Rothschild will preside over documentaries an student shorts.

The 2008 Tribeca Film Festival will run from April 23-May 4 and will screen 121 features and 79 shorts from 41 countries. The film slate features 53 world premieres, six international premieres and 30 North American premieres.

Events include panel discussions, gala premieres of major studio releases, the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Among the free events are drive-in outdoor screenings, the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair and the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day.

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