The first day of the TCM Classic Film Festival is all about getting one’s bearings and only the truly hardcore get a lot accomplished. After checking into my hotel, the big thing on the agenda was the TCM press conference where the media and the organizers of the wonderful festival can come together and learn about each other. After the break you’ll learn about what went on during that media event.
The TCM veterans were out in force at the media event kicking off the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. Charlie Tabesh (Senior Vice President of programming), Genevieve McGillicuddy (Vice President of Brand Activations) and Ben Mankiewicz (our beloved TCM host for the fest) were on tap, along with newcomer Jennifer Dorian (General Manager). The group appeared eager to get started with the fest with Charlie saying the “community aspect is a big thing” for him. A community that’s fostered a television network, so much so that a film festival has been created, continues to astound the group, particularly Mankiewicz. “Every year that I’m here it becomes more clear. No other channel could do this.” As he mentioned last year, it’s hard to imagine Netflix, AMC, or FX having the brand recognition and fanbase to bring out audiences to a festival commemorating their work.
The passion, of both fans and the network, is what continues to help the network thrive. McGillicuddy mentions there’s “low turnover” at the network because so many of the employees love movies as much as the audience. “We’ve all got a passion for [the classics].” Dorian seconded this, mentioning that 69% of the employees boast a film studies degree of some type. Dorian, recently promoted to General Manager in January, certainly loves her new position, calling it “the stuff dreams are made of!” So far she definitely sees a “multigenerational experience” with regards to the fest and the network itself.
From there the questions got tough, particularly regarding scheduling. Tabesh, who mentioned before the fest started that he was prepared for battle regarding complaints about this year’s schedule, emphatically stated “There’s NO cutoff year for classics!” Although he acknowledges that the guest stars do dictate what films are shown, they certainly regard every film choice in context. Mankiewicz seconded this, mentioning that modern movies are generally shown on the channel to coincide with some type of historical significance, rather than being wantonly shown for no reason.
Despite claims that the movies are too modern, much was made about how the network has blossomed and thrived in its seventeen years of existence. Tabesh says that they were far more limited regarding content at the start, but that as their credibility has grown they’ve now been able to work every major studio. The recent announcement that TCM would be teaming up with the Walt Disney Studios was a huge coup for the network, as the House of Mouse was the last studio that hadn’t licensed content to TCM; currently, Disney still refuses TCM to show any of their animated content. Regardless, the Disney investment sounds like a sound one, as Tabesh says they’ve “always wanted to dive into the Disney inventory,” and that dream is now a reality. Sadly, one dream that didn’t come true was a screening of 1961’s El Cid, a film that, despite Tabesh’s phone calls, wasn’t able to be screened due to Weinstein Company head, Harvey Weinstein, possessing the only copy.
Finally, the group briefly touched on plans for the future. One reporter asked about a standalone equivalent of the Watch TCM app that wouldn’t require a cable subscription. Dorian said they’re currently “exploring and researching” additional avenues for streaming, but there’s no planned expansion at this time. The group also announced plans for both tributes honoring Orson Welles and Frank Sinatra’s Centennials.
The festival proper kicks off tomorrow as I try to squeeze in the red carpet screening of The Sound of Music, Grease, and possibly My Man Godfrey on top of my duties as a TCM Social Producer.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.