Rooftop Films is a nonprofit film organization, founded in 1997, that aims to engage and inspire diverse communities by screening films throughout NYC. The organization also produces movies, teaches filmmaking to youth, and rents low-cost equipment to the arts community. It is best known for their summer series, which offers a full schedule of independent film screenings that have not been presented in theaters. Since 2011, the organization has fulfilled a successful partnership with AT&T.
Rooftop Films' board member, Samara Daly, became aware of the company's mission to accelerate their support of cultural groups in NYC while working at Speaker Christine Quinn's office, before the mayoral run. Rooftop Films realized AT&T was most interested in providing support to homegrown, NYC cultural institutions. AT&T enjoys and benefits from Rooftop Films' connections locally and abroad, as they provide high-level access to the filmmaking industry.
The organization is best known for their Summer Series, presented by AT&T, a season of independent film screenings that have not yet been shown in theaters. 50 international and domestic films are shown throughout the summer, thus programming 3-4 events per week. This past summer, 35,000 people were in attendance, thus creating an attractive volume and reach for AT&T, as they aimed to benefit from Rooftop Film's ability to connect a wide, diverse audience. AT&T’s support keeps ticket prices low, supports live music at each show, and creates the reality for more big annual events. The company's contributions have provided multiple free screenings, including showings at Coney Island Beach, Metro Tech Center in Brooklyn, and Tompkins Square Park. Support also contributes to an "after party," which every ticket buyer is invited to, thus creating an open community with more engagement between their participants and funders.
AT&T was attracted to Rooftop Film’s ability to bring the independent film community together while reaching out to underserved neighborhoods. Resulting from the success of the Summer Series program is the Rooftop Films AT&T Feature Film Grant, for which AT&T also acts as lead sponsor. Filmmakers who have shown work through Rooftop Films are eligible for the grant which awards $10,000 in prize money. Additionally, one dollar from every Summer Series ticket sold goes to the fund, bolstering AT&T's main contribution. Notable recipients of the prize include Benh Zeitlin, for his Oscar nominated picture Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Sean Durkin, for the critically acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene. Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President-AT&T believes "New York is a hub for filmmaking, aiding our cultural and economic development, and AT&T is proud to be a part of this important citywide movement."
AT&T exemplifies how a company can connect with communities and artistic spaces to help strengthen their brand by bolstering the cultural landscape.