As the days to TCMFF draw closer, anticipation regarding the event certainly grows! Typically, I would post about several pre-fest events in celebration of the upcoming festival. This time around, pre-fest events are fewer with the event not taking place in Hollywood among gatherings of classic film fans from all over the map. However, TCM is to be lauded for efficiently and effectively reimagining the beloved TCMFF as a Special Home Edition for viewers to enjoy.
It is my pleasure to share coverage from a recent press conference as well as a wonderful fan tribute leading up to the festival.
Thanks to Ginsberg/Libby, I was able to partake in a press conference with three individuals from TCM: TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz, TCM General Manager Pola Changnon, and TCM Senior VP of Programming Charlie Tabesh. This roundtable discussion offered an interesting view of the planning processes involved in TCMFF as well as the clear dedication and devotion TCM has for its fans.
Traditionally, the TCMFF is centralized at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with screenings taking place in several movie theaters on and near Hollywood Boulevard. Though the traditional festival was canceled due to concerns and safety precautions surrounding COVID-19, TCM creatively transitioned the festival to the TCM channel for viewers at home to enjoy safely.
“Charlie [Tabesh] felt confident that he could pull something together in place of the festival,” said Changnon. While passholders look forward to TCMFF, Changnon emphasized that TCM staff do, as well. “Within a couple of days, he came up with something so robust and special that it was beyond my wildest dreams.”
In crafting a version of TCMFF for the TCM channel, Tabesh wanted to challenge himself with making the programming for the days of the festival particularly unique.
“We wanted this to be special and to include material that we don’t show day-to-day,” said Tabesh. “Instead, we’re bringing up the best of the best from past festivals. There’s a lot of production that went into this.”
TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz also echoed the variation in programming.
“Programming will look different. People look forward to this all year–and that includes us,” said Mankiewicz.
As more events were being canceled throughout the nation, it became clearer that the TCMFF would be impacted. Though expected, it was difficult to cancel this highly-anticipated event. When TCM made the decision to cancel the traditional festival, they communicated the decision quickly to fans via Mankiewicz.
“They asked me to write something that night to say on the air,” said Mankiewicz. “I recorded it the next day. I got very emotional.”
Nonetheless, the new iteration of TCMFF is still appreciated by fans. TCM will be hard at work supplementing the TCMFF with content to enjoy on social media.
“We’ve never been busier than these past few weeks,” said Mankiewicz. “There are so many things we can do virtually that we couldn’t do otherwise.”
Throughout the days between the cancellation of the Hollywood-based TCMFF to the new version of TCMFF, Mankiewicz has been touched by fan support and responses. Moreover, he has been present on social media to check in with fans and noted that many have turned to TCM as a source of comfort during this difficult time.
“Some people got fired from their jobs and they told me that they came home, bundled up, and watched TCM,” said Mankiewicz.
Mankiewicz will be doing his best to continue the momentum of TCMFF.
“I’m sharing festival memories and asking people for theirs,” said Mankiewicz.
At the core of TCM and the continuation of TCMFF, however, is a clear passion for TCM’s fans.
“This network lives because the fans care about it so deeply,” said Mankiewicz. “The response I’ve gotten on social media is the most significant I’ve ever gotten–and I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Engagement with fans is the most meaningful part of my job. There is value to this.”
With the current situation, the film industry and a wide variety of other industries are, of course, impacted. Since TCMFF and TCM Fathom Events screenings rely upon audiences frequenting movie theaters. TCM is hopeful that it can ease into Fathom Events screenings once again.
“Fathom Events reflect our interest in having people see movies in theaters” said Changnon. “Coming from the classic movie world, we’re thinking about how we can bring families back into theaters, eventually.”
The future of TCMFF is also being considered, as TCM looks to plan the next film festival for 2021 in Hollywood.
“We’re already planning next year’s fest and details around venues and dates,” said Changnon.
However, transitioning the intended events for 2020 into 2021 is not entirely possible. While some events are able to be transferred to the next festival, certain changes will inevitably be made.
“There will be other anniversaries and maybe other restorations and talent,” said Tabesh. “It’s not as simple as moving everything to next year.”
The possibility of additional home-based events is also one that may be considered.
According to Changnon, “We’re going to learn a lot from people who enjoy it. It’s an experiment, in addition to an expression of the brand. It’s the party of the year for us.”
As fans look forward to the new TCMFF, there is much to applaud in TCM’s dedication to sharing classic cinema with audiences in addition to quickly transforming their TCMFF into a home edition. Moreover, on the day of the press conference, TCM celebrated its 26th birthday after making its debut on April 14, 1994.
“Don’t we look good for 26?” said Changnon.
Here’s looking at you, TCM.
The full lineup of the TCMFF Special Home Edition is available here.
#TCMParty Zoom Meeting:
TCM has a robust community of fans on various social media platforms and Twitter is no exception. There, the #TCMParty hashtag has viewers interacting with one another in realtime as they enjoy what TCM is airing. During the festival dates, participation will certainly heighten with #TCMParty participants as well as individuals communicating under the usual #TCMFF hashtag.
One of the great assets of TCMFF is the wonderful community of fans. While I certainly will miss seeing them in person, I was so happy to see Jeff Davis coordinate a Zoom meeting for us to get together and socialize virtually before the festival fun begins. Many of my favorite memories from attending my first TCMFF (last year, 2019!) included finally meeting so many of these fabulous people in person. I was so delighted to enjoy our virtual meeting together!
In addition, we were joined by two TCM staff members–Senior Creative Director Chuck Moore and Senior Director of Marketing Steve Denker. Both individuals shared their enthusiasm for the upcoming TCMFF and it is clear that they are putting my hard work into this new iteration of TCMFF. They shared that many new introductions and special messages from hosts will be aired, in addition to a particularly special introduction to TCMFF’s opening film, A Star is Born (1954).
There is clearly much to enjoy during this upcoming TCMFF. Be sure to bring along your pass–courtesy of TCMFF–as you enjoy the TCMFF Special Home Edition with no lines from the best seat in your house!