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New York stories

Five directors reflect the diversity of the Gotham filmmaking community with a range of stories that speak to their immediate environments.

STEVE BARRON

The veteran musicvid helmer (Michael Jackson, Dire Straights, A-Ha) and studio gun (“Coneheads,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) has ventured into low-budget territory with “Choking Man” (International Narrative Competition), a story about an Ecuadorian immigrant’s experience as a dishwasher in Queens.

Tribeca as showcase: “It’s a New York film, so premiering at Tribeca feels right. Sundance is very crowded, and this is a small movie, a very personal story, so it feels like the eyes and the ears of the audience of Tribeca are perfect for us. Plus, there’s the experience of soaking up the vibe of downtown New York.”

Previous fest experience: None.

Expectations: “Our best case scenario: complimentary reviews from respectable sources, and a deal for a theatrical release from a distributor who cares about the film. It can be very difficult to break through the wall of not having a star, but we hope someone will take a chance on us. And of course, we want the public to come to all five screenings and feel they’ve just watched a film that they haven’t seen before.”

REBECCA CHAIKLIN and MICHAEL SKOLNIK

These frequent collaborators (and partners in production company Article 19 Films) are the directors of “Lockdown” (NY, NY Documentary Feature). Pic chronicles hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons’ crusade to take down New York State’s notorious Rockefeller drug laws, which impose harsh sentences on first-time, non-violent offenders.

Tribeca as showcase: “I live in downtown Manhattan, and the festival has been great in that it symbolizes a resilience that New Yorkers have,” says Chaiklin. “We could have really shut ourselves off to the rest of the world after 9/11, and Tribeca has shown that we haven’t.” Adds Skolnik: “To Tribeca’s credit, you’re really seeing the growth of the festival as a market.”

Previous fest experience: Chaiklin produced “Poster Boy,” which screened at Tribeca in 2004. Regent Entertainment will open the film in 10 cities this year. Skolnik directed the doc “Hooked,” which, after screening at the fest in 2003, was acquired for broadcast on MTV and NBA TV and released on DVD. “I think we both can say the festival has been very good to us,” says Skolnik. “And of course it’s great to have such a big festival in our backyard.”

Expectations: “Realistically, we would love to have a great world premiere. The hope, of course, is that we get a big sale.” SAYS WHO?

ERIC EASON

Four years after his no-budget DV feature debut “Manito” came out of nowhere to win prizes at Sundance and Tribeca (see below), the New York auteur returns to the fest with “Journey to the End of the Night” (Spotlight), a noir thriller set in the underworld of São Paulo, Brazil. The film stars Mos Def, Brendan Fraser, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Scott Glenn.

Tribeca as showcase: “New York is my hometown and I have a special history with Tribeca. Also, the festival always represents a chance for me to be exposed to and inspired by filmmakers from around the world.”

Previous fest experience: “My first film ‘Manito’ played at the first Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, and I was lucky enough to win the American Express Emerging Filmmaker award that came with a $25,000 Amex card. ‘Manito’ also closed its theatrical distribution deal at Tribeca, so my experience could not have been any more exciting and fulfilling.”

Expectations: “I’m just hoping that ‘Journey’ is well received by its first public screening. I’m also hoping to secure the right distribution deal for the film.”

MORGAN J. FREEMAN

The veteran indie writer-director (“Hurricane Streets,” “Desert Blue”) arrives at the fest with his fourth feature, “Just Like the Son” (NY, NY Narrative Feature), the story of a New York thief who forms an intense bond with a young boy trapped in New York’s foster system.

Tribeca as showcase: “First and foremost, the timing was perfect in terms of when we finished our movie. Cannes is a great place, but we didn’t know if this little movie was going to get invited. Toronto is also great, but I didn’t want to wait until the fall. ‘Transamerica’ proved last year that movies can be found and bought for a good price value here. We have a tiny movie, so the fact our actors are based in New York means we can put on a big show and a great party with very minimal expense.”

Previous fest experience: “I’ve attended the festival in previous years. It’s perfect stop between Sundance and Cannes in terms of where the buyers are. Like Toronto, Cannes and Sundance, everyone comes to Tribeca. Plus, the ability to make a movie and premiere it two blocks from my house is a real gift.”

Expectations: “Ideally, I’d like to win the NY/NY competition and get the film into a bidding war. Realistically, I just want to find a home for the film.”

MARY JORDAN

Years in the making, “Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis” (NY, NY Documentary Feature) chronicles the life and times of the legendary Lower East Side artist, whose 1963 film, “Flaming Creatures,” was banned by the Supreme Court.

Tribeca as showcase: “It’s downtown. It’s New York. It’s Jack Smith.”

Previous fest experience: “My experience is that Tribeca is a great mix of films and seems to be expanding rapidly, but in a meaningful cultural way instead of what could be oh-so-typically commercial. It covers international, avant-garde and experimental programming along with great documentaries and dramatic films — feeding our cultural starvation. Someone told me Tribeca got almost twice as many submissions as Cannes this year. That’s impressive after just a few years.”

Expectations: “I know that Tribeca will put Jack Smith back on the New York map. It’s a place for social and business exchange by creative and interested people who look not just for ‘icing’ but real work.”

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