Rooftop Films was founded in 1997 by filmmakers who were interested in making, watching, and talking about good films in a communal environment. We are a non-profit corporation, run primarily by volunteers, which promotes underground filmmaking in New York City by lending and renting equipment and services to filmmakers and programmers, connecting people with projects, and hosting a weekly short film series throughout the summer and on various tours during the rest of the year.
The Summer Series has always been our central organizing element: screening short, low-budget and underground films which might otherwise go unseen. We concentrate on short films, which we believe to be more than abbreviated features, but rather their own expressive medium. A poem does not aspire to the ideals of a novel; a short film should not aspire to be a feature. The best shorts, though often made from desperation, are not desperate to be something else. Small finances, quick shooting schedules, and limited equipment resources—these "restrictions" make the best short films so intense. In a short film, a film stripped to its essence, the filmmaker's passion is laid bare.
Often the most exciting work comes from artists working outside the feature film industry. Many of the movies we show are made by people who don't even consider themselves filmmakers. We want to reach artists who simply have something to say and will do anything to have it made and seen, in the medium of film. We present films in logical combinations but from varied sources, which brings together people from communities that may not otherwise overlap. And the venuesthe roof of a former factory in Gowanus, Brooklyn; an old pier on the Hudson River in Manhattan; and the rooftop of a former warehouse in East Williamsburg, Brooklynattract viewers interested in issues of community as well as those interested in film.
Last summer, in 2004, we showed 140 films to 4,000 people over 12 Friday nights, as well as Sunday, July 4, on a Hudson River pier in Manhattan, on a rooftop in Gowanus, Brooklyn, on Governors Island, and in a courtyard on the Lower East Side.
In 2003, we showed 165 films to 3,000 people over 14 Friday nights on a rooftop in East Williamsburg.
In 2002, we showed 156 films to close to 2,000 people at Peter's Car Corp in East Williamsburg.
In 2001, we showed 85 films to 1,500 folks over 12 nights at Peter's Car Corp.
In 2000, we screened 46 films to 1,000 people over our eight Friday night screenings at Peter's Car Corp.
In 1999, we screened short films over five nights at Peter's Car Corp.
In 1998, we showed one night of films at Peter's Car Corp.
In 1997, our first year, we showed a set program of short films, plus an open projector, on a rooftop on East 14th Street in Manhattan.