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Tribeca N.O.W. director Victor Quinaz on the fest circuit

The film festival darling praises the festival platform and offers some sound advice for making a film: ‘Start yesterday’

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day.

Tribeca – the film festival founded by Robert De Niro, among others – are parting the tide to make way for previously unheard voices in cinema through their film festival and Tribeca Film Institute. Today, they provide some insight into the future of film, expound on how they support artists year-round, and select some new talent to keep an eye on.

Festival darling Victor Quinaz is a big proponent of the fest circuit – his short film Chinese Dream has played at more than a dozen film festivals all over the world. With Big City Bright Lights, Quinaz tore a new one when it was selected as part of Tribeca N.O.W. (New Online Work). Championing independent visionaries taking storytelling into the digital age, Tribeca N.O.W. is a strand that embraces a novel way to reach an audience. For his film Big City Bright Lights, director Victor Quinaz took “an overwhelming fear-based nostalgia for an 80s we didn't quite know”, and reworked it into a trippy short film that explores the underbelly of New York.

What was the funniest moment making Big City Bright Lights?

Victor Quinaz: When you work with a cast and crew like the gals and guys that comprise our lil squad, every day is a good day. But on Big City, it was probably the fact that everyone intimately discussed the finer points of snorting and having powdered milk up your nose (which makes great "stage coke" if you’re not lactose intolerant).

What is it about in your own words?

Victor Quinaz: Oh man. It’s not so much about anything in particular (the insanity of NYC, the famously overzealous D.A.R.E. campaign of our youth) as it is an ode to the city we lived in for 15 years. My wife and co-creator, Anna Martemucci, and I moved to Los Angeles (as all Brooklynites eventually do… to die). We made all of our PERIODS. series shorts in and around New York constantly trying to frame out the city and play up its natural aspects and pull off period filmmaking for a hundred bucks. But with Big City we wanted to finally reveal the city we had been working in, still wanting it to be period, of course.

Big City Bright Lights
Still from "Big City Bright Lights" Courtesy of Victor Quinaz

What is the future of independent filmmaking (in your opinion)?

Victor Quinaz: What a question?! I don’t know if we're qualified to answer that. We really don’t know. Maybe people stop thinking of independent film as a product? And start thinking of it as a genre? Does that make sense? Maybe we do that now, anyhow. Anna and I make features, indie features (our first film, Breakup at a Wedding, comes out in the UK in October and our second film, Hollidaysburg, comes out stateside in the fall). But we also make short films for the internet and web series and those are also independent. Sometimes we go to a festival like Tribeca and sometimes we just put them online or in digital stores. In the end the goal is the same: we want people to watch them and dig them. Content is content is content.

What’s the easiest way to get a film made?

Victor Quinaz: Brad Pitt stars in it.

If you could give advice to a young filmmaker, what would it be?

Victor Quinaz: Start yesterday.

“The stakes are lower. Probably the expectations too. We’re old enough to remember a time when what you did was make a short, play some fests, meet some people, and hopefully make something longer. Now we’re at a time where people watch shorts every day, all day long. It’s called the internet, son!”

What does ‘independent film’ mean to you?

Victor Quinaz: Now it means “holy-f*cking-hell-we’re-gonna-have-to-do-everything-ourselves-and-give-all-the-credit-away.” When we were kiddos it was the cinema that found us and made us feel less like freaks.

What are the benefits to doing a short film opposed to a feature film?

Victor Quinaz: The stakes are lower. Probably the expectations too. It’s funny because we’re old enough to remember a time when what you did was make a short, play some fests, meet some people, and hopefully make something longer. And the time after that when shorts were pointless. Now we’re at a time where they still have less of a value to leading to something other than happiness and self-satisfaction but people watch shorts every day, all day long. It’s called the internet, son!

Where do you think independent cinema will be in 5, 10 years time?

Victor Quinaz: Cleveland? Seriously though we have no idea. We think movies will still be around though. We’re already starting to think of features as short form compared to what a TV series can do and we’re already seeing TV being independently produced. I think it’s more of the same but hopefully with continued net neutrality and a better idea of where the audience is watching.

What did Tribeca N.O.W. do for your film that you couldn’t have done otherwise?

Victor Quinaz: Tribeca is legit. So by association we’re now legit. No more eating out of the internet dumpster, it’s all stuffed mushrooms and festival-sponsor brand vodka for us! Honestly, it just made us feel like people are watching and caring and that feels really great. We are beyond grateful.

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