Rooftop Films is a non-profit film organization based in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It is best known for its Rooftop Films Summer Series, a film festival that runs from May through August every year, and consists of as many as 47 outdoor screenings of new independent short and feature-length films. Rooftop screenings all take place on rooftops or in other outdoor locations throughout New York City. Rooftop also offers film and video equipment rentals throughout the year, as well as grants which help finance new independent film projects.
Founded by Mark Elijah Rosenberg in 1997, the festival included one night of short film screenings in each of its first two years. Rooftop moved in 1998 to the roof of Peter's Car Corp. a 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) artists' loft and occasional event space located at 265 McKibbin Street. An all-volunteer staff that included Rosenberg, Joshua Breitbart and Moira Griffin helped Rooftop expand from one screening a summer to more than 12 a summer by 2002. In 2003, Rosenberg became Rooftop's first full-time employee as Artistic Director, while former volunteers Dan Nuxoll and Sarah Palmer became part-time employees as the Program Director and Festival Director, respectively. That year, Rooftop moved its offices and event space a few blocks down the street to Office Ops. Daisy Rosario served as festival producer from 2007 until 2011.
In winter 2004 Rooftop moved their offices to The Old American Can Factory in Gowanus Brooklyn. In 2007, the staff expanded to include Managing Director Genevieve DeLaurier, and now also includes Will Chu (Technical Manager), Danielle Kourtesis (Music Coordinator), Kristin Molloy (Festival Manager Manager), and dozens of other seasonal employees. The Board of Directors includes: Anne Carey, Michael Clark, Samara Daly, Brent Green, Catherine Martinez, Casimir Nozkowski (Secretary), Teresa Lee, Evan List, Anne Hubbell, Sarah Palmer (Treasurer), and Mark Elijah Rosenberg, and Brian Newman (Chair). The Board Advisors include: Joshua Breitbart and Philip Rosenberg. The Panorama Advisors include: J. Tad Barnes, Amy Dotson, Lucila Moctezuma, Josh Penn, Molly Thompson, and Nicole Tschampel.
Rooftop Films is best known for its Summer Series. With an audience of over 30,000 each summer, the Summer Series has become one of the best-attended film events in the United States. Screened films often include world premieres and festival award-winners. Admission to a screening is almost always $13 or less, and screenings are often followed by open bar after-parties.
Summer Series events take place at a wide variety of outdoor venues including the roof of the Old American Can Factory in Gowanus, Open Road Rooftop in the Lower East Side, the lawn at Automotive High School in Williamsburg, the roof of El Museo del Barrio, the roof of Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, and more. Past venues have included Governors Island, the roof of Westbeth Artists Community, Fort Greene Park, 210 Cook Street in Bushwick, Solar One on East 23rd Street, a roof within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Soutpoint Park on Roosevelt Island, and many other spots across the city.
Live music precedes almost every Rooftop screening, with many established and up and coming performers appearing each year. Past musical acts include TV on the Radio, The Bravery, Sharon Van Etten, Jose Gonzales, The Mountain Goats, Julianna Barwick, Titus Andronicus, Phosphorescent, The Antlers, Teengirl Fantasy, Mutual Benefit, members of Fugazi and Califone, Vic Thrill, Dirty on Purpose, O'Death, and many others.
Rooftop has enabled the success of many of its alumni through its Filmmakers’ Fund Grants, which provides production or post-production support to independent filmmakers. Rooftop earmarks a portion of all ticket sales and submission fees to its Filmmaker's Fund Grant program. Filmmakers' Fund Grants have supported award-winnings films such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. Many additional grantees have gone on to have tremendous success at festivals, reaching wide, appreciative audiences.
Rooftop makes all its film/video exhibition equipment available for low-cost rentals. Projectors, sound systems, screens and more are available, including its 40-foot wide inflatable airscreen.
- Rosenberg, Mark Elijah. "ROOFTOP'S INCREDIBLE STAFF". Rooftop FIlms. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
- Dollar, Steve (May 19, 2016). "Rooftop Films Looks Back on 20 Years". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
- Dollar, Steve (May 11, 2011). "Film Series Lands a New Role". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
- Kohn, Eric (September 18, 2020). "NYFF at the Drive-In: How Rooftop Films Helped Save the City's Most Revered Film Event". IndieWire. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
- O'Falt, Chris (May 29, 2015). "Rooftop Films Helped Launch Lena Dunham and Benh Zeitlin: Who's Next?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
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