It’s no secret that I’m a classic movie fan, so when my dreams came true not once but twice having the opportunity to intro films on Turner Classic Movies, as a fan and as critic was more than I could’ve ever dreamed for. I’ve been a chronic staple at the TCM Classic Film Festival for years, so like many of the fans, I too was disappointed that COVID-19 has caused humanity and the entertainment industry to shift and reassess for the greater good doing this health criss.
Movies have always provided an opportunity to escape into worlds and characters of people and places that could only exist in my wildest imagination. Because Turner Classic Movies recognizes the power of their fan base and because unlike most film festivals that have had to shutter during this most difficult time, TCM network is able to provide a Stay-At-Home Festival for classic film fans. Recently, I participated in a virtual journalist roundtable with TCM GM Pola Changnon, SVP Programming and Production Charlie Tabesh and beloved TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz about the changes, expectations and challenges of shifting online. Here are some excerpts from that conversation and remember the festival kicks off TONIGHT at 5pm PST with Judy Garland’s A STAR IS BORN.
TCM General Manager Pola Changnon on Strategic Ideas to get fans back to the movie theatrers once the pandemic has lifted:
It was literally this time a month ago, basically, where it was clear that we were going to have to cancel the festival…and can you imagine what work it takes to just check availability of venues and rearrange everything. We would have had to around the film, the talent…fortunately we were all together in LA for other business and we started the day off with an acknowledgement that we are going to need to cancel. And by the end of the day, Charlie (Tabesh) felt confident he could pull something together sort of in place of the festival on our network because we definitely wanted to still recognize it. That is a special weekend that a lot of people look forward to. We were already starting to think about what would it look like? How could we do this? Could it be special enough to really stand up to what people’s expectations are for TCM and the festival? Within a couple of days he (Charlie Tabesh) had come up with something so robust and beyond my wildest dreams and at that point I knew we had something really special.
SVP Programming and Production of Turner Classic Movies – Charlie Tabesh
One of the concerns is how can we make it different than what is already being broadcast on TCM. I mean the truth is every single day, every single night is kind of affected. Don’t pesto on subsets because we’re fanatically putting, putting programming together. But we wanted this to be special and that meant including a lot of material that we wouldn’t normally include day to day on TCM. Of course we’ve been limited in how we can do that production, but our team has done an amazing job of working remotely doing it, using ZOOM and pulling together a lot of material that’s been created over the years and reformatting it in a way that can be in and around the films to really make it feel like a festival experience with us that you can do virtually…I’ve seen it all really coming together beautifully.
TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz on the importance of the fans and intros
The programming that you’ll see this weekend of the 16th through the 19th will look different because I won’t be on my set. I’m also reminded that people look forward to this all year and that that includes us…so when we announced that we were doing this virtually, I was important to let people know that they’ll be festival next year and that TCM is like all of us…we’re going to get through this together. But it’s emotional for us. It is. Right now…we’re doing stuff online on social media, on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter to enhance the programming that we’ll have this weekend.
For the full interview, please click on the video below of this hyperlink TCM Stay-At-Home Interview