The Road to Tribeca: How Powerful Collaboration Created Short Film Success


Members of our Framing Agnes cast and crew on the Tribeca red carpet. L to R: Kristen Schilt, Chase Joynt, Angelica Ross, Samantha Curley, Becky Gebhardt and AJ Russo.

SEVEN YEARS AGO, we began planning the very first Level Ground Film Festival. We put a call for submissions on our website, hung posters at art and film schools around Los Angeles, and sent personal emails to filmmakers asking for screeners so we could consider their work for a brand new festival coming to Pasadena. Our volunteer programming team created a rubric to rate the various submissions as they came in.

After countless hours of watching film after film, we finally found one we loved, one we absolutely wanted to include in the inaugural Level Ground Film Festival. In that moment, the film festival became real to all of us. And then, I realized, I had no clue what to do next.

The Framing Agnes crew, plus Dylan (second from left), the first person from Tribeca to screen our film.

Fortunately, I’d met with a programmer from another fest weeks earlier. At the end of that meeting, she said I could email her with any questions that might come up for us later on. I hope I worded the email more professionally than this, but essentially, I told her, “Hey, our programming team watched a film that we want to include in our festival (yay!). What do we do now?”

I think back on that experience fondly; it’s an important reminder to me that no one knows how to do anything until, well, you actually do it. That conversation with the festival programmer stands out to me now as a yardstick that measures just how far Level Ground has come since our early days in 2013. We went from knowing basically nothing about how to run a film festival to producing a film accepted by one of the world’s top-tier festivals!

Being at the Tribeca Film Festival with Framing Agnes was a wild, unforgettable ride. We were on the receiving end of filmmaker badges and lounges, networking events and post-screening Q&As. We got to take big meetings and befriend other filmmakers from around the world. We even got a bottle of champagne with the custom engraving, “Framing Agnes: Tribeca 2019.”

During the festival, we met Dylan, one of Tribeca’s submissions screeners at a filmmaker party, and he got to tell us about Agnes’s journey to the festival screen. Dylan was the very first person on the Tribeca team to watch our film after we submitted it nearly nine months ago. Dylan loved our film so much that he gave it his highest possible ranking on Tribeca’s scoring rubric. Of the 200 submissions he screened, Framing Agnes was the only one to make it in.

Angelica and Chase were photographed for People Magazine’s exclusive Tribeca coverage.

In fact, out of more than 9000 submissions this year, Tribeca only programmed 63 shorts, including Framing Agnes. Those are some pretty intimidating odds, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the Tribeca programming team for seeing something valuable in our film.

If you’re hoping to see Framing Agnes yourself, we’ll be on the festival circuit for the rest of the year. We’ve already made it to Seattle, and we’re heading to Toronto and Shanghai shortly after that. Follow @framing.agnes on Instagram to know when we’ll be playing at a festival near you.

If you miss Agnes on the festival circuit, the film will be available online by early 2019, and hopefully sooner! We’re also in development to expand the short film into a feature-length hybrid documentary. We promise to keep you updated along the way.

You can read more about Framing Agnes in the Paris Review, the Chicago Tribune, in this GLAAD interview, or from Level Ground’s own SKEW Magazine. Level Ground has come a long way from programming and hosting film festivals to now screening at them. But I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of a new and exciting journey for Level Ground.

I’m so grateful for your support over the years, and I cannot wait for you to see what’s next for us.

Thank you,

Samantha Curley
Executive Director, Level Ground