Business of Art | Programs for Interactive Media Makers at the Tribeca Film Institute
As the world of interactive media grows, organizations like Tribeca Film Institute are expanding their support for transmedia projects.
The digital age is teeming with new and immersive technologies. Creative storytellers, filmmakers, journalists, technologists, and designers around the world are experimenting with technology’s interactive power to tell their stories. They are our innovative, interactive media-makers!
Interactive media may seem to be a niche art form. Since 2011, though, organizations like Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) have prioritized the expansion of programs to support teams across industries that are harnessing interactive media to advance social justice causes. As of this publication, TFI has hosted 24 hack-a-thons in 16 cities internationally, awarded $1.9 million in funding to 31 interactive projects, and hosted over 3,000 curious event attendees, allowing them to talk, play, and explore interactive media arts.
In November 2017, NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship presented an event with Zeina Abi Assy, manager of Interactive Programs at Tribeca Film Institute, where she shared the mission-driven support available to transmedia collaborations. TFI is creating new funds and programs for 2018, as part of a continual re-examination of their programs, with the goal of best supporting projects that address the uncertainties of our social and political climate.
Look out for program announcements and deadlines in early January of 2018, and read on below to learn more about the types of support available for projects, get tips on how to get noticed by TFI, and explore examples of transmedia projects incubated or supported by the Interactive Programs team at Tribeca Film Institute.
TFI New Media Fund
The TFI New Media Fund funds non-fiction projects that predominantly focus on social justice issues. Projects must be in the production stage. If your project is cross-genre with both fiction and non-fiction elements, your project can still be considered for funding. The Tribeca Film Institute emphasizes the project’s need for a social justice focus and engagement with its targeted audience.
Grants range from $50,000 – $100,000.
TAA Interactive Prototype Fund
The TAA Interactive Prototype Fund supports fiction and nonfiction projects that focus on a social issue. Projects must be in the development stage. The grants allow an interactive media team to devise a prototype that will help them determine whether their idea is feasible for production.
Grants range from $10,000 – $20,000.
Programs & Resources
TFI’s hack-a-thons aim to nurture cross-disciplinary collaborations and experimentation with different methods of activating storytelling. Hack-a-thons are organized at least once a year and typically range between three to five days. The results of a hack-a-thon are typically a prototype or a strong project idea that engages with new tools and technologies.
An application for each hack-a-thon is required.
TFI Interactive is a one-day forum that coincides with the Tribeca Film Festival. In order to foster conversations on the evolving industries of storytelling in the digital age, the forum includes a line-up of speakers and skilled media artists that TFI has worked with in the past; an Interactive Playground where audiences can experience groundbreaking interactive projects; Storyscapes, a juried exhibition featuring interactive installations, simulations, and Virtual Reality (VR) projects that grapple with social issues; and a Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Arcade.
TFI Sandbox is a resource for interactive makers to learn how to build and sustain projects from the ground up. The site includes a timeline for related funding opportunities, tips on project management, methods to investigate and measure a project’s impact, and a list of past grantees, with select interviews regarding the challenges that they faced and their process.
Tailoring Your Application
What does Tribeca Film Institute look for from an applicant? Below, find tips on how to present a strong case for your project. Please note this list is not exhaustive and does not include all requirements for an application. When applying to a specific opportunity, be sure to read all guidelines carefully.
- One of the first questions of a jury is who the project’s audience is and how the project will reach and impact that audience. Thus, have a specific audience in mind that you are trying to target, and a plan for engaging them. Remember, the more specific your audience, the more universal your project can be.
- Show that you as a team of makers are the best team to tell the story. What brought you to this story, and what are your intentions?
- Communicate the project’s relationship between storytelling and technology. A great team in transmedia arts reflects the breadth of various industries. All members need to be involved in the program from day one. For instance, the technologist should be in the room from the inception of the idea, shaping the interactivity with the user, while the designer creates the look.
- If you apply to a production fund, have a strong prototype ready to show to the jurists. A prototype serves as a blueprint and demonstrates the feasibility of the project.
Additional Questions? Email [email protected] to get in touch with program staff. To stay up-to-date with program and funding news, sign-up for Tribeca Film Institute’s newsletter here.
A Few Projects Supported by TFI
Below, you’ll find a sample of five select projects that went through Tribeca’s programming and which exemplify strong explorations in technology.
Question Bridge: Black Males
Creators: Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas (Fellow in Photography ‘06), Bayete Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair
Question Bridge is an innovative transmedia project that is a web documentary and an installation, reflecting on what it means to be a black man in America. The project interviewed 160 black males from different cities in the U.S., allowing for free-flowing conversation between them with no interference from the creators. The most powerful aspect of this project is that it was created for a specific community, by members of the community.
Question Bridge was a recipient of a New Media Grant in 2012.
Do Not Track
Creators include: Brett Gaylor, Sebastien Brothier, and Margaux Missika
Do Not Track is a seven-chapter web documentary that focuses on issues of tracking and privacy on the web. The project asks the user to input their information and shows how you are tracked when you share this sort of information. This big idea about online privacy becomes personal to the user. Depending on your location in the world, the language available will change.
This project’s inception began at a Tribeca Hack. Its production was then supported by the New Media Fund in 2014 and was also included in Storyscapes. The project won a Peabody Award in 2015.
Creators include: Ram Devineni, Lina Srivastava, Dan Goldman, and Vikas Menon
Priya’s Shakti is a comic book and augmented reality experience that educates users about gender-based sexual violence in India. The project targets young people by creating a superhero and placing her in fun, mythological narratives. Within this format, real testimonies of real women who were raped are shared, and perspectives on women are challenged. This method of presenting these issues also allows those who share their stories to protect their privacy and identities. The augmented reality is an app, and is easily accessible.
Priya’s Shakti was awarded a New Media Fund grant in 2014 and was a participant in TFI’s Interactive Playground in 2014.
The Argus Project
Creators: Ligaiya Romero, Julien Terrell, Raquel de Anda, and Gan Golan
The Argus Project is a performance intervention, video installation, and wearable sculpture, or more specifically, a superhero suit with a computer controlled camera. The project strives to empower the community to hold the police accountable. Community events, workshops, and street interventions are conducted with the suit.
The Argus Project received a New Media Fund grant in 2016.
Creators: Alexander Porter, Yasmin Elayat, James George, Mei-Ling Wong, and Hannah Jayanti
Blackout is a virtual reality documentary set in the New York City subway, sharing stories by New Yorkers in their own voices. Blackout aims to bridge social differences, and is an ongoing participatory project, gathering stories of real people living in New York City in today’s political climate.
Blackout received a New Media Fund grant in 2017, participated in Storyscapes, and will be exhibited at the New York Transit Museum.
Zeina Abi Assy is a writer and media artist from Lebanon. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School, and a BFA in Graphic Design from The American University of Beirut. In her work, she explores the intricate intersection between the personal and the global manifestation of culture, art, and politics. She is the manager of Interactive Programs at Tribeca Film Institute, and she is the digital media editor of an online publication called The Seventh Wave. Find her on Twitter: @zeeabiassy.
Tribeca Film Institute is a year-round arts organization that champions storytellers to be catalysts for change in their communities and around the world.
– Priscilla Son, Program Assistant, Fiscal Sponsorship & Finance
This event was co-presented by NYFA Learning, which offers professional development for artists and arts administrators, and by NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship. NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship’s next quarterly no-fee application deadline is December 31.
Images, from top: courtesy Claudia Sohrens, Mise En Abyme: Archive (Sponsored Project), Pop-Up Archive setup, 2017; courtesy Eric Corriel, Everything Will Be Here (Sponsored Project), A viewer interacts with Glaciers Will Not Be Here