Our History & Our Mission
At Rooftop Films, we believe that film is powerful, not only as a creative medium, but as a vehicle for engaging in valuable dialogue with one another about the issues facing our communities. By bringing films directly to audiences, we foster connections between neighbors, artists, activists, youth and the unique spaces we all share.
A growing nonprofit organization, our mission at Rooftop Films is to engage and inspire diverse communities by showcasing the work of emerging filmmakers in outdoor locations, helping filmmakers to produce new films, and renting equipment & supporting film screenings citywide at low-cost to artists, nonprofits and community groups.
Founded in 1997 by filmmaker Mark Elijah Rosenberg, Rooftop Films set out to highlight innovative work from first time filmmakers, outsider artists, and underrepresented directors, as well as seasoned film professionals.
Since then, Rooftop Films has become more than a film festival. We are a community. For over 26 years, Rooftop Films has been championing the work of independent filmmakers and bringing films rooted in compassion, solidarity, learning, togetherness, exploration, and inspiration to tens of thousands of people across all five boroughs of New York City.
Our Signature Programs
Rooftop Films Summer Series
Our core program, the only outdoor festival of its kind, screening site-specific programs of new independent films throughout NYC from May to August. Our screenings are more than just film screenings—they are cinema events featuring live music, immersive performances, filmmaker Q&As, and huge after-parties. We host over 40 outdoor movie events with more than 48,000 attendees per summer in outdoor locations throughout New York City.
Rooftop Filmmakers Fund
Rooftop Films not only exhibits films from around the world, we also support our alumni filmmakers by helping them produce their next film through the Rooftop Filmmakers Fund. Every filmmaker who has ever shown a film with Rooftop Films (now over 2,750) is eligible for our grants. We commit $1 of every ticket sold and every film submission fee to the fund as well as provide service grants from our partner organizations.
The Rooftop Filmmakers Fund is an opportunity to help our community of filmmakers make their next movie. Rooftop Films set aside $1 from every ticket sold and $1 from every submission fee received and grants those funds out to our alumni filmmakers for their future film productions. We’ve been screening films since 1997, and every filmmaker who has ever shown a film with Rooftop is eligible for our grants. Rooftop Films has eleven grants available annually—seven for feature length films and four for short films. Each year, Rooftop Films will give away over $45,000 in cash grants and more than $300,000 in in-kind equipment and service partners.
Rooftop Community Fund
In an effort to support truly independent screenings, Rooftop makes all its film/video exhibition equipment, as well as our event production expertise, available to the public through low-cost or free rentals. Each year, we donate and discount tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and services to artists, nonprofits, and community groups. From individual artists, local neighborhood organizations to larger community organizations, Rooftop provides a vital support system and resource to our community in all five boroughs.