Showing posts with label Charles Tabesh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Tabesh. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival Press Conference

2016 TCMFF Press Conference
Left to right: Tabesh, Dorian, Mankiewicz & McGillicuddy
On Wednesday April 27th, TCM held a press conference before the start of their classic film festival. The conference panel consisted of Charles Tabesh, senior VP of programming, Jennifer Dorian, Ben Mankiewicz, host of TCM and Genevieve McGillicuddy, VP of brand activations and partnerships and festival director. Tabesh and McGillicuddy oversee the logistics of the festival and Mankiewicz is taking a bigger role this year, as he did last year, in the absence of Robert Osborne. He'll be conducting most of the big interviews that will happen during the festival.

Here are some key takeaways from the press conference:

  • Mankiewicz, who is introducing the opening night film All the President's Men (1976), gets emotional every time he sees the movie because of the connection to his father. NY Post's Lou Lumenick has a great article with more details.
  • According to McGillicuddy the projected number of attendees this year is 26,000 which includes passholders and standby attendees. I didn't realize it was that many people!
  • TCM is launching FilmStruck (think of it like "awestruck"), a new subscription service. They've teamed up with Criterion, who will end their current partnership with Hulu, and together will be curating arthouse films, indie and cult classics and other more obscure films. Jennifer Dorian says this fills a need in the marketplace. It's important to note that this is not a standalone streaming TCM service. While it was not said at the conference, TCM's relationships with cable TV companies most likely prevents them from having such a service. Read Will McKinley's post for more details about FilmStruck.
  • TCM is launching TCM Backlot, an official fan club. The membership costs $87 a year and comes with a variety of perks. There will be meet-ups across the country, exclusive content for subscribers, etc. The Backlot will give members a behind-the-scenes look at TCM and an opportunity to share feedback.  Dorian says "early members will help us build the club of our dreams." I have a membership and will be following up with my thoughts on this blog.
  • Based off feedback, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) will be the most sought after event at the festival. Tabesh says Angela Lansbury, who will be at the screening, is always a big hit with TCM fans.
  • McGillicuddy says they've been really working hard on curating Club TCM events and she's proud of the offerings this year.
  • On sought after guests, Tabesh says Olivia de Havilland almost made it to the festival one year and their number one pick Doris Day is unlikely to ever be a guest. McGillicuddy said Sidney Poitier is someone they've tried to get multiple times are still hopeful he will come. Tabesh says Barbra Streisand is interested but hasn't been able to make it work with her schedule.
  • Ben Mankiewicz said "The success that the previous six festivals have had has unquestionably played a role in smoothing it over for some people because their friends and colleagues and other big stars have told them this is a worthwhile thing..." Having several successful festivals under their belt has opened up opportunities to feature other special guests. For example, this was key in getting Faye Dunaway to attend this year. Although it was not said during the conference, I do believe having Sophia Loren last year really made a difference. I can imagine that opened an opportunity to feature Gina Lollobrigida.
  • Spotlight and Essentials passes sold out in 14 minutes. They won't be expanding the festival to add more venues, screenings and days. They want to keep the intimate atmosphere of the festival.
  • Tabesh says the industry is moving towards digital. Access to 35mm prints and the ability to show them becomes more and more restricted over time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 - Press Conference with Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy

“The audience that comes to the festival is a wonderful snapshot of who watches the network. It really represents the diversity of all backgrounds, all ages that love classic film.” - McGillicuddy

Here are some highlights from the press conference with Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival. Note that this is paraphrasing and not direct quotation unless quotation marks are used.

On film preservation – Ever since TCM has started working on the festivals they have become  more involved with film preservation projects. TCM tries to use various formats including film prints which are harder and harder to find. They work with studios and film archives to coordinate restorations, screenings and blu-ray releases.

On programming – TCM has a team of programmers which is led by Charles Tabesh and includes four other TCM staffers. Themes are decided upon as a group but different people handle different parts of the scheduling (day time, prime time, etc.). There is a lot of research that goes into the programming. Since there are several themes going on within a given month, Tabesh says it’s a lot of work for the programmers to research and implement the themes so that they are successful on air.

On The Story of Film – This documentary series by Mark Cousins recently won a Peabody Award. TCM originally came across the documentary when Telluride Film Festival Co-Director Gary Meyer recommended it to them. Tabesh’s team watched it and loved it and decided to add it to their programming.

On the TCM Classic Film Festival – TCM had talked about having a film festival for years and it was a natural progression for them. The timing worked out and they created the event to connect with their fans. The festival is a visible manifestation of the community coming together and it’s an extension of the channel.  It has also heightened the public's awareness of TCM.

On TCM’s programming philosophy - The programming philosophy hasn’t changed at all. They’ve always had the same mission but have become a little more adventurous over the years. TCM is still committed to exploring film history. When TCM first launched, 90-95% of what they aired was strictly from the Turner library (MGM, Warner Bros., RKO, etc.) but over the years they’ve developed relationships with other studios and distributors and have expanded their programming by bringing in more movies.

On diversity on TCM – TCM is very conscious of diversity. Over the years they’ve tried, programming-wise, to do as much as possible to focus on diversity even though so much of early film is non-inclusive. They try to include tributes to minorities, people of different walks of life, etc. to diversify their programming. Tabesh is hoping to do more kid’s programming on the channel soon.

On celebrity presenters - People like Essentials co-host Drew Barrymore and festival presenter Anna Kendrick are examples of contemporaries from Hollywood who love classic films and wanted to do something with TCM. They reach out to TCM and share their enthusiasm for the network and express interest in working with them. TCM keeps an open dialogue with these celebrities and tries to work within the constraints of their busy schedules. TCM loves to bring together new and old Hollywood and this is one of the ways they can do that.

On TCM internationally - There are TCMs in Europe, Latin America and in other regions of the world. They are programmed and marketed differently from each other and are run independently. Some have advertising, some show more contemporary movies and some work with different rights and licensing agreements and because of this each TCM is different. There are some parallels between the different TCMs but ultimately the programming is different in each country.

On feedback from fans - TCM pays attention to what fans say. Social media is a great way for the fans to interact with each other as well as to interact directly with TCM. When they receive complaints they handle them carefully. They make sure to see if the complaint is just a misunderstanding or if it's something they can improve upon. The key with the feedback is that if TCM watches it very carefully it can be useful to them.

On the greatest pleasure of working on the festival
Tabesh - the greatest pleasure for him is when hears someone say they saw a film they had never seen before and they loved it.
McGillicuddy - the greatest pleasure for her is watching an audience watching a film on screen, sharing the experience with them and knowing that she played some part in making that experience happen.

On the biggest challenge of working on the festival
Tabesh - the biggest challenges are finding good prints for the festival and having to rearrange the schedule because of last-minute changes.
McGillicuddy - to pull off an event this size with venues that are all owned by different companies. They try to utilize many different theaters which is both challenging and rewarding.

On their top sought after festival guest - Doris Day is #1 on their list. She was bumped up after their original #1, Maureen O'Hara, committed to the 2014 festival.

On working for TCM - Tabesh says he loves his job and enjoys going to work every day. He learns something from every festival experience. There is always something new going on at TCM and his job never gets boring. McGillicuddy loves having a job where she can go to the office and have a discussion about which Greta Garbo movie they're going to show next. She says that conversations like that are such a gift and she doesn't take for granted the great team of people she works with at TCM.

On nationwide screenings like Road to Hollywood - TCM is interested in doing more of those types of nationwide screenings in the future and currently in discussion about what those plans might be. McGillicuddy revealed that TCM will revive their partnership with Fathom Events and will be working them in the future.

On the discovery films at the festival - It was asked whether TCM was interested in showing more international selections as part of their "discovery" sub-theme in the festival programming. Tabesh says there are 90 films shown at the festival but 400 show on TCM in any given month. He feels there are more opportunities to branch out with the channel more than there are with the festival. However, Tabesh tried to get the Bollywood Pyassa (1957) on this year's festival schedule but he couldn't get a good print. He'd like to be more adventurous in that regard and hopes to be able to bring in something more obscure for a future festival.

On other classic film channels - Every channel is different: some are ad supported, some have a different focus and some have different business models. When TCM launched AMC was already an established classic film channel.  One of the reasons that TCM is so successful is that they never saw themselves as having to compete with another network. They stayed focused on what they wanted to. AMC's model eventually changed and new networks popped up. Tabesh says he's not being dismissive of the other channels but they're not something TCM worries about.

On the festival guests - Tony Curtis was one of the first guests of the festival back in 2010. McGillicuddy remembers being in awe that he was in attendance. She also very fondly remembers Peter O'Toole and says that meeting him was on her bucket list. TCM feels very privileged that they get the opportunity to host people like Curtis, O'Toole and many more. McGillicuddy says that Maureen O'Hara was very excited about her appearance at the festival and hearing this was immensely gratifying for the TCM staff.

On the Academy Museum - The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be launching in 2017. It's been in the works for a while but is really coming together at this point. TCM has a great relationship with The Academy and are looking forward to the launch of this new museum. They have been in talks with the Academy so that TCM can partner with them in some capacity, whether it be the channel, the festival or both, to help them promote the museum. Nothing is set in stone because the museum launch is still some years away.

On Watch TCM - Will this ever become a subscription based service? Tabesh had no clear answer on this because he is not involved in the discussion. It seems like TCM's relationships with cable companies influence what they can and cannot do with Watch TCM.

On showing film and digital at the festival - McGillicuddy says there are reasons for showing both at the festival and challenges that come along with that. TCM works with Boston Light & Sound on the festival. McGillicuddy believes that company is the best in the business. They go into the festival theaters, take out all of the equipment and put changeover systems so they can show 35mm, etc.. The Egyptian theatre is already equipped to show both film and digital but the other theaters need the extra technical assistance. Tabesh says that the reason why TCM can get access to really good prints is because the film archives trust Boston Light & Sound.

Friday, May 10, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival - Press Conference with Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy

This is the third of my transcripts for the Press Conference that happened on Wednesday April 24th, 2013 at the TCM Classic Film Festival. This was a Q&A with Charles Tabesh, Senior VP of Programming, and Genevieve McGillicuddy, Managing Director of the festival. I tried to be as thorough as possible but there is some paraphrasing along with some quoting. It's not word-for-word but as close as I can get to it. Note that various people asked questions at the press conference. Enjoy!

Question: How does TCM come up with programming ideas?

Charles Tabesh: Tabesh says they get lots of ideas from fans of TCM who write in with suggestions. If it's something they did somewhat recently but there is still demand for it, they might keep it mind for the future but they don't want to be too repetitive. They go through message boards for ideas too. TCM tries to be open to ideas and they evaluate to see what would work and what would not.

Question: What do you think is the appeal of Film Noir? It was mentioned that several noirs are being shown at the festival.

Charles Tabesh: Last year's festival theme was style and noir fit in perfectly with that. They got a lot of great feedback and wanted to make sure that noirs were featured in this year's festival too. People love seeing film noir on the big screen, the mood is so rich in those films and resonates well with audiences.

Question: How did TCM react to Jonathan Winters, from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) passing away before the festival started? (He was scheduled to appear at the screening) What is the cutoff date for a film to be considered classic?

Genevieve McGillicuddy: TCM was very sad to hear about the passing of Jonathan Winters and planned to do a tribute to him at the It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World screening.

Charles Tabesh: TCM had to do a last minute adjustment and it was emotional for them. In reference to the second question, the way that TCM defines what is a classic is all about the context. An example of something that was done recently was Katherine Hepburn as Star of the Month on TCM. They wanted to play every film from her career that they could, from the films she did in the early 1930s all the way until her last film Love Affair (1994). Love Affair was not a very good movie, not considered a classic, but in context with Katherine Hepburn's career they thought it was important to show her last performance. Tabesh makes it clear that there is no time cutoff date for TCM. He says that they are all about the history of movies and part of that history is newer films too. Part of TCM's mission is to branch out and be a little more adventurous from time to time.

Question: How did you come up with the sub-themes in Cinematic Journeys like River as a Road? Would you consider doing an LGBT special on TCM?

Charles Tabesh: TCM brainstorms on the sub-themes. Sometimes they worked around a title in particular. For example, this year they premiered a restoration of The General (1926) and because a train is prominent in that film they decided it was logical to include other films featuring trains as a form of travel. Also, the sub-themes help to put together newer and older films, the more well-known and the more obscure. There is no hard rule, they just do what feels right. As for the second question, they did do a series a few years ago called Screened Out: Gay Images in Film and they'd love to explore that again. In terms of the festival, they would love include it depending on what their broader theme is. They don't know what their theme is for next year's festival.

Question: The diversity of programming on the different TCMs around the world are very different. The other international TCMs don't have as much variety. Is there any way that TCM could help out those other ones to diversify their programming?

Genevieve McGillicuddy: They are in communication with the TCMs around the world and try to collaborate with them when they can. There are TCMs in Europe, Asia, Latin America, etc. The different TCMs have different goals and different branding. There are certain things TCM shares with the others. Programming varies from region to region.

Charles Tabesh: Each TCM programs differently and one of the reasons is rights. Some of the films in the library that TCM in the US has available to them may have been sold to other channels in other territories and the TCMs there might not have access to them. There is no way for them to have an exact match in programming with the other TCMs. Also, the business models are different. Some just have different sensibilities. TCM Spain likes more edgy and more contemporary classics. TCM is lucky that they've been able to give these other territories some broad access to their library. They have been able to negotiate deals when they've been able to go deep and get better access to films.

Question: How do you chose which films should be screened at certain times on the channel?

Charles Tabesh: TCM doesn't edit the films they show so they are careful when they place them on air. That's rare on basic cable because a lot of channels show edited versions of films but TCM won't do that. If there are a lot of bad words or nudity, they will play it later at night. They usually save those films for after 10 PM West Coast time. Thankfully DVRs are becoming more prevalent so it helps TCM with this issue of having to play these films at inaccessible hours.

If it's an older film without any content issues they try to play it once during prime time hours and might play it again much later in the evening so as to give both West and East coast better access to the film.

Question: Any chance of some more Fredric March in the future? [Bonus points if you guess the blogger who asked this question.]

Genevieve McGillicuddy: Turns out Genevieve is a fan!

Charles Tabesh: Yes, of course. March was Star of the Month a couple of years ago but they are open to playing more of his films in the future.

Question: There are more films this year presented digitally at the festival than there were at the first festival in 2010. Are you particular or not particular about format?

Genevieve McGillicuddy: When TCM started this festival, it was important to them to screen the films the way they were mean to be seen. They try to stay true to original aspect ratio, no editing, no censoring, etc. And they want to show the films in the best possible format they could. Sometimes that's 35mm which is great because that's the way those films were originally shown. However, there have been some challenges that have come up. Internally, the team has paid close attention to that world premiere restorations such as the ones they are having at the festival are being produced in a digital format. TCM thinks they look fantastic and are really happy to be able to present those films. For the time being, the festival will always be a combination of digital and film. They take this so seriously that 20% of the festival budget goes to projection and technical support. TCM works very closely with the venues screening the films to make sure they can do 35mm but sometimes they have to bring in all that equipment to make it happen (for the Chinese Multiplexes in particular). McGillicuddy points out how they were able to work the Cinerama Dome, El Capitan and the Egyptian who all screen at multiple formats. What's important to them is to show the best possible version of a film they can. For example, they had been working very hard to track down the best possible print of The Ladykillers (1955). In fact, they found one and it was delivered just in time for the festival. Ultimately, it's all about the best possible presentation of a film.

Charles Tabesh: Sometimes the decision comes down to choosing between a very poor film print and a good digital restoration. Industry restorations are more digital these days.

Question: Can you talk about the importance of the venues at the festival? How do you decide which films go to which venues and is this a decision based on theme? Also, where do the prints come from and how do you find them?

Charles Tabesh: As far as thematic programming at venues, there isn't much to tie in together. Cinerama Dome is one example though because of 70mm and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) (I would later find out that the Cinerama Dome was built with that movie in mind). Other than that it's based on size of venue and how popular the film is going to be. How do they gauge that? It's a guess. Sometimes they'll get talent that's already scheduled for one of the smaller venues and they don't confirm until the last minute and that's just the way it goes. They just know that certain films like The Great Escape (1963) will draw a huge crowd. This is all combined with format and how the different venues are set up for different formats.

Question: How often do you rely on film archives for the festival and for the channel in general?

Genevieve McGillicuddy: It is crucial that they have ongoing relationships with the Library of Congress, Film Foundation, the Academy, UCLA, the list goes on, otherwise they would not be able to obtain some of the prints they have screened.

Charles Tabesh: And the studios as well. Some studios are much more willing to lend out whatever prints they have. If the studio doesn't have a good print of something, TCM will go around asking the archives to see if they have one. TCM has great relationships with a lot of studios and archives. Sometimes they are not able to find good prints and will have to work programming around that.

Question:  How many people are involved in the selection process of the festival and how ugly does it get?

Charles Tabesh: There is a core team of about three or four people that meets regularly really early on and they talk through ideas and plans. The same goes with the channel where there is a programming department. There is collaboration in terms of talking but certain individuals make decisions. Collaborating is important but personal vision is important too.

(Interjection: This was kind of difficult to understand but it seems like a few key people make decisions and they are given leeway to do so. I think Tabesh was trying to be careful answering this question.)

Question: About the channel, how concerned is TCM about ratings?

Charles Tabesh: Zero. TCM doesn't get any ratings. Tabesh doesn't even think they are allowed to get ratings. When AMC added commercials to their programming some years ago, cable service providers became concerned because they started getting a lot of complaints from subscribers. Those providers wanted to make sure that TCM never went that route. It's written into contracts they have with providers that they are not allowed to have ratings or commercials. They try to show what they think would be popular but they also try to show a good mix every month of the bigger better known films and everything else. TCM wants to have variety. They are not trying to maximize any certain demographic or target anything.

Genevieve McGillicuddy: It is crucial that they remain, from a business perspective, commercial-free. That's really the core of the TCM brand. Being commercial-free is important to the fans as well as to TCM and they are proud to have stuck to that vision of what they wanted their channel to be.

Question: What role does TCM play in major film restorations that were premiered at the festival? Was it at TCM's suggestion? Did TCM contribute financially?

Charles Tabesh: There is some back-and-forth with studios but for the most part they don't fund restorations. For example, TCM did not help fund the restoration for Funny Girl (1968) but they did do some funding for I am Suzanne! (1933). For the most part, the studios take care of those big restorations. About a year before the festival, Tabesh would solicit the studios for information about any restoration projects they had in the works to get a feel for what might work for programming. Tabesh and McGillicuddy discuss to see if that restoration has an important anniversary or would fit the programming for that particular festival. The restorations are mostly handled solely by the studios who do them in preparation for a Blu-Ray release.

Tabesh also notes that the restoration will also be shown on TCM around the time of the DVD or Blu-Ray release. This is almost like an ad for the studio because people watch it on TCM then want to buy it.

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