Geoff Gilmore had one of the film world’s most coveted jobs as director of the Sundance Film Festival. So it was a surprise to many when he announced in February he would leave after nearly two decades to join Tribeca Enterprises, the for-profit media company which operates the Tribeca Film Festival (at home and abroad) and Tribeca Cinemas.

“I’ve been doing what I’m doing at Sundance for 19 years,” Gilmore explains. “I wanted something to keep me fresh and keep me growing.”

His arrival in early March triggered speculation about future moves for Tribeca Enterprises - specifically in relation to year-round plans for independent film to embrace the digital future. One of the things that attracted him to Tribeca was the team’s forward thinking.

Both Gilmore and Rosenthal claim it is too early to say how staffing or organisation at Tribeca Enterprises could change with future plans and growth

“They have an openness to new ideas and an openness to develop and evolve this new paradigm,” he says. “Thirty years of independent film has led to a point where the industry is going through a real base change.”

Jane Rosenthal, who founded the festival in 2001 and Tribeca Enterprises in 2003 with Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, says Gilmore is a great fit for the company’s ambitions. “When we look at the world of film festivals and the world of independent film, and how everything is in transition, the one person who has an overwhelming knowledge of all of this is Geoff,” she says.

Rosenthal adds that he was the perfect person to hire “as we look to grow our website, explore digital distribution and grow our year-round educational programmes”.

Major role for distribution

Gilmore joins the company’s board and in his newly created role of chief creative officer he will be responsible for global content strategy, leading creative development initiatives and expanding the brand.

Both Gilmore and Rosenthal claim it is too early to say how staffing or organisation at Tribeca Enterprises could change with future plans and growth.

Exactly how Tribeca Enterprises will move into the digital world is yet to be seen, but models such as digital distribution will be explored.

“Festivals help support distribution platforms, and distribution platforms help support independent film-makers. These are pieces of a puzzle that can fit together to become mutually supportive. It’s an evolving model and Tribeca can play a significant role and help the future evolution,” Gilmore says of the company’s digital future.

“I see a number of ways to think about it, but it’s impossible for me to be more specific at this point.”

Tribeca Enterprises may remain tight-lipped as to its future plans, but distribution - theatrical, digital or alternative - is expected to play a major role.

The company, which has collaborated with the Rome Film Festival and run cultural exchange programmes in Milan and Beijing, also appealed to Gilmore because of its global ambitions.

“I’m interested in working globally and Tribeca has that reach and importance,” he says.

New Doha event

To that end, Gilmore is already involved in planning the first Tribeca Film Festival Doha, slated to run November 10-14 in Qatar, in partnership with the Qatar Museums Authority.

“It’s not just about us trying to place a programme in another place,” Gilmore says of the Doha ambitions. “It’s about partnering and helping develop a film culture there and understanding our partner’s agendas and objectives.”

Rosenthal sees Doha as a continuation of this Tribeca ethos. “The roots of Tribeca were starting a film festival in the aftermath of 9/11 and trying to restore confidence and hope through film,” she says. “Arts and culture can rebuild relationships and change perceptions - that’s not only true of Americans but also in the Arab world.”