Rooftop Films is a non-profit organization whose mission is to engage and inspire diverse communities by showing movies and showcasing live music in outdoor locations, producing new films, teaching filmmaking to young people, and renting low-cost equipment to artists and non-profits.
At Rooftop Films, we bring underground movies outdoors.
The annual Summer Series of outdoor screenings is the central organizing element of our work. As our name indicates, our trademark venues are rooftops throughout New York City. Additionally, we screen in public parks, along waterways and other scenic spots. By screening new independent short and feature-length films in spectacular outdoor venues, we attract large audiences to see movies that would otherwise go unseen and have cultivated a large and diverse film-loving community. By bringing films made by emerging and local artists to the big screen we support important dialogue and foster meaningful connections between neighbors, artists, activists, youth and the urban space we all share.
While there are numerous outdoor film screenings in New York, there are none that showcase the undistributed work of emerging and local artists. Rooftop Films screens insightful and entertaining films created by independent filmmakers, not multimillion-dollar films made by corporations. We are committed to presenting films from communities underrepresented in the film world, particularly films in which people of color and women have held primary production roles. The artists we present include a mix of first-time filmmakers, long-time outsider artists and seasoned film professionals. Rooftop gives voice to artists and issues who might not otherwise be heard. We showcase films made by underrepresented filmmakers and partner with local organizations to organize screenings of these films in new communities.
Through our various exhibition, distribution, production and education programs, Rooftop Films has become one of the most successful and innovative supporters of emerging filmmakers in the country.
Our work includes:
- The Summer Series: The Rooftop Films’ Summer Series is one of the largest film festivals in New York, showing a wide range of local, national and international independent short and feature-length films (along with live music and after-parties),
screened in a variety of stunning outdoor locations.
- Youth Education: To foster the growth of emerging young filmmakers and community activists Rooftop Films sponsors a film training and media literacy program for low-income youth at Automotive High School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In conjunction with public screenings at New Design High School (Lower East Side, Manhattan) and Brooklyn Tech (Fort Greene, Brooklyn), Rooftop will also be presenting educational in-class programs to students at these schools in 2009.
- The Rooftop Filmmakers' Fund and Production Collective: Rooftop Films dedicates a portion of ticket sales proceeds and submission fees to the Rooftop Filmmaker's Fund, a grant system which funds new works by filmmakers who have previously screened with us. The goal of the Filmmakers’ Fund is to promote "films we don’t see enough of,” which often means funding films by women and people of color, and personal films about larger social issues. We also maintain film production and exhibition equipment which we share with our filmmakers through the Rooftop Production Collective, and rent at low cost to artists and non-profits.
- Film Distribution and Television Shows: In order to give people across the country and world access to our distinctive programming, Rooftop Films curates shows of short films on a variety of themes for distribution to museums, theaters, micro cinemas, universities and online. Every summer, we post 100 short films from the festival online at IFC.com. We are currently screening the third season of Rooftop TV, ten 28-minute episodes of short films broadcast in New York and on the internet.
- Live Music: Music has always been a part of the Rooftop Films experience, and we take great pride in all the amazing musicians that perform before our films. Highlights have included TV on the Radio, The Mountain Goats, members of Fugazi and Califone, Dirty on Purpose, O'Death and A.R.E. Weapons. This summer we continue our partnership with Sound Fix Records to present the music for the Rooftop Films 2009 Summer Series.
Rooftop Films came into existence in July of 1997 atop a tenement apartment building on 14th Street in Manhattan. Filmmaker Mark Elijah Rosenberg had just graduated from Vassar College and moved back to his native New York and was looking for an innovative way to get people together for screenings of new short films. Over the ensuing summers, Rooftop’s audience and reputation continued to grow, allowing the organization to formalize and subsequently expand programs.