Behind the Scenes at the Tribeca Festival

When it comes to who gets the most attention during the Tribeca Festival, the actors, the directors and the celebrities who walk the red carpet are foremost.

But behind the scenes, there are many people who aren’t under the spotlight, yet are integral to the event nonetheless. Without them, the festival, which runs Wednesday through June 16, would not happen.

These players include the attendees and the employees — more than 600 of them, according to the festival’s chief executive, Jane Rosenthal, who co-founded the festival with Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff. This staff works across 18 departments, ranging from security and box office to production and operations.

Rosenthal calls them the festival’s invisible figures. “As a guest and supporter, you, of course, want to have a great time, but the team who brings it to life ensures that you have it,” she said. “They keep guests happy and the schedule running.”

Here are four snapshots of people who are hidden from the spotlight’s glare, but key to the festival.

Angela Robinson, in her 50s, is a call center customer service manager for the festival’s ticket sales.

Robinson started at the festival in 2003 as a volunteer usher for film screenings, and she had a paid box office position the next year. “Back then, people would come to physically buy or pick up their tickets that they bought online,” Robinson said. “We were a team of more than 20 who worked at a nonstop pace.”

In the following years, attendees could download tickets on their phones, so in-person interactions declined. Call volume, however, rose.

“People would ask us for directions to venues, about the length of screenings and for restaurant recommendations,” Robinson said. “They also wanted to know what movies were getting the most buzz. Out-of-towners wanted hotel and sightseeing tips.”

Robinson said that besides answering festival questions, the call center staff became — and continue to act as — double-duty concierges who shared their New York insights.

“I created a binder of information that I constantly update with the newest places,” she said.

During the pandemic, the call center team pivoted primarily to remote work, which eliminates Robinson’s two-hour round-trip commute, but she said that she missed the camaraderie of being with her team. “The festival celebrates the resiliency of New York, and that pride comes to life when I’m physically there,” she said. “I go to the box office every chance I can and attend screenings to keep myself present and engaged.”

Robinson has gotten to know some familiar faces. One is a documentary fan who shares the favorites that she has seen since the last festival. Another likes to catch only matinees, and laughingly complains that the festival does not have enough afternoon screenings. “I don’t see these people for a year, but we pick up exactly where we left off,” Robinson said.

Marty Shapiro, 65, is the managing partner of the Tribeca Grill.

No matter the occasion, Shapiro is a constant fixture who watches over the dining room and manages the logistics of the service at the more than three-decade-old restaurant that is co-owned by De Niro and has been a primary venue for many of the festival’s post-screening events since the inaugural year, 2002.

“There’s a lot of life coming through the doors during the festival,” Shapiro said. “We have actors, writers, artists, directors, and most importantly, people from all over the country who are here to see the films.”

He said that Tribeca Grill had hosted parties for several movies with more than 200 guests. The Yogi Berra documentary “It Ain’t Over” in 2022, the Al Sharpton documentary “Loudmouth,” also in 2022, and “The Zen of Bennett,” a documentary about Tony Bennett, in 2012, have been among the standouts, he said.

“The mood in the room during these parties had a strong community sense,” Shapiro said. “You could feel the New York spirit.”

This year, the eatery is the post-screening gathering spot for the opening night documentary, “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge.” Although Shapiro, along with the restaurant’s executive chef Stephane Motir, and the other co-owner, Drew Nieporent, customize menus for each event, he noted that Tribeca Grill classics, such as the Caesar salad, spicy rigatoni and tuna tartare, almost always appear.

The annual jurors’ luncheon at Tribeca Grill is Shapiro’s festival highlight. It sees the various jury committees, more than 80 people in total, gather to evaluate the participating films.

Given the midday timing, the meal is intended to be compressed, Shapiro said. “We feel the pressure to get the food out fast, but everyone ends up staying for hours,” he said. “They come as guests who are there for work. They leave as friends, and I’m privileged to see that transpire.”

Linda Reynolds, 73, is a security manager.

Reynolds was a chief deputy sheriff for the New York City Sheriff’s Office who volunteered at the festival, opening packages and compiling gift bags. When she met the festival’s security consultant and he learned about her full-time law enforcement career, Reynolds said that he offered her the security manager job.

Working on the festival’s security staff of at least 80 people, Reynolds’s responsibilities over the years have included escorting actors down the red carpet.

Providing security for the festival’s after-parties was also part of her role until last year.

If she’s accompanying a major celebrity, Reynolds said that she often stayed by their side throughout the screening.

“I must have interacted with more than 200 stars,” she said. “The chattiest was Olympia Dukakis. She asked me about my family and even gave me a good night kiss on the cheek.”

Reynolds’s days span 12-plus hours and can wrap as late as 2 a.m., but she doesn’t mind the long days. “It’s only for three weeks, and I’m on a high the whole time because I get to watch New York, where I was born and brought up, being celebrated,” she said.

Joy Kutaka-Kennedy, 71, has attended the festival annually since 2016 except in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Kutaka-Kennedy, who lives in Boulder Creek, Calif., and is a professor of special education at National University, said that her love of New York and her timeshare apartment in the city inspired her to travel here. “I was looking for any excuse to visit, and the Tribeca Festival was it,” she said.

Now, the festival itself is the appeal. “The storytelling is so powerful in the movies, but I’m even more riveted by the talks with the filmmakers that the festival hosts, where I get to learn about their back stories,” Kutaka-Kennedy said.

She stays in town for two weeks and invests in a Hudson pass ticket package ($1,350), which gives her priority entry into most screenings and key events.

Kutaka-Kennedy said that she attended up to five screenings and events a day, grabbing quick meals in between and even packing food to eat on the go. “I’m not in New York for the cuisine. I’m here for the festival,” she said. “I start my days by 10 a.m. and may not be done until close to midnight.”

The festival warrants the long hours, Kutaka-Kennedy said, especially when she gets to catch a performance by an artist who is the subject of a film. Last year, that meant Carlos Santana, who sang to a crowd following the screening of the documentary “Carlos” about his life.

“I was singing his song “Black Magic Woman” out loud with the audience when he performed it,” Kutaka-Kennedy said. The dancing started, she said, during Cyndi Lauper’s set, which happened after “Let the Canary Sing,” a documentary about her life. “I was jamming like a teenager when Cyndi sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” she said.

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