Tribeca Film Fest lets fans make their own AR movies

The festival taps Jam3 to keep audiences engaged without in-person screenings and help virtual programming stand out.


Due to COVID-19, this year’s Tribeca Film Festival did a bit of an about face from big screen to home screen. But it used an AR execution to stand out from the other high-profile events, festivals and brands that have been rolling out programming online – as well as keep audiences engaged, even if they can’t watch the screenings in person.

The New York City-based festival is temporarily postponed, but ran an online version from April 15 to 26, and with its “#TribecaMakesMeWanna” initiative, social media users were able to use AR and make a short film in their own homes using 3D avatars, which they could then share on Instagram.

Agency partner Jam3 was brought on board not only for its augmented reality expertise, but for its digital strategy capabilities to help with what the festival needed to do behind closed doors. Heather Phenix, executive producer at Jam3, says the agency had a brief relationship with Tribeca’s VP of marketing and communications and had held a meeting a couple of weeks before COVID hit, and was brought on board because of the “huge amount of effort” bringing a festival like that online.

This included creating the digital framework and production schedule for the Jury Awards, usually held in private but instead moved to Instagram, where it also shared key emotional audience moments and announced each winner. Jam3 also created the framework for recorded video calls between the jurors, presenters and award winners, live participant intros and remarks from festival co-founder Robert De Niro.

According to Phenix, “Tribeca has always had a pretty engaged Instagram, where most of its audience engagement happens,” she says. “It’s a nice place to promote linking back to the website, where the content is housed.”

Phenix says incorporating AR made sense, as Tribeca “is positioned as a film festival that has a bit more of an immersive edge,” doing things like partnering with Oculus to feature 15 VR films and the New Online Work (N.O.W) Creators Market, a digital platform that highlights emerging artists using new and immersive techniques. Jam3 also was involved in designing a digital framework for N.O.W, bringing exclusive interviews with emerging creators to Instagram, to get to know filmmakers in a more personal, engaging way.

The AR tech is more geared to the millennial and Gen X crowd that makes up Tribeca’s primary audience, and the experience was designed as simply as possible with straightforward avatars and a self-record button.

Phenix says Tribeca was looking for ways to take advantage of a challenging situation to amplify some of its emerging storyteller programming, and happened to already have assets available, like motion captures of 3D avatars of important members of the film community and festival, like Ben Sinclair, co-creator of the HBO anthology comedy-drama High Maintenance.

“So, they had 3D models available for us to use,” Phenix says. “Typically, we’d have a much longer runway [to put all of this together].”