Today’s TCM Roundtable Discussion with General Manager Pola Changnon, Vice President of Programming Charlie Tabesh, and Host Ben Mankiewicz
In lieu of the traditional Meet TCM or our annual credentialed media informative sessions this year, TCM administrators have invited journalists to participate in a roundtable discussion with Pola Changnon, Charlie Tabesh, and Ben Mankiewicz.
Questions posed were asked by journalists in our audio conference call. As I am unsure if I have permission to post the names of the journalists, I will highlight or summarize their questions and the responses from administrators. My notes include only a portion of today’s comments, questions, and responses.
Question #1: The current emergency has affected many AMC has already hired counsel to discuss bankruptcy. Does TCM have any strategic ideas that they are working on to get people to go back into the movie theatres? Have you talked to Fathom or any other organizations you’ve worked with?
Pola Changnon: Thank you for that questions about the theaters. Obviously that is of paramount interest to us as well. The film festival reflects our interest in making sure people have an interest in seeing films in theaters with a community of people who love them and enjoy them. It’s concerning. As fans are concerned, we are absolutely in conversation with our Fathom partners. When people start going back to the theaters, how can we contribute to that by including programming for families, for example. We are absolutely looking at some of that because we know that while this is an incredibly difficult time for folks, we know that it is not going to be forever.
Question #2: How did this idea of the Special Home Edition come about? Does it involved any special introductions you are putting into it or are you taking older programming and programming it like you would normally program for TCM?
Pola Changnon: It was about a month ago that we were all looking with concern with the situations evolving about health concerns and hot that might impact our festival dates. This time a month ago, it was clear that we were going to have to cancel the festival. We didn’t feel comfortable thinking about how we would even postpone it. You can just imagine how difficult it is to check availability of venues and rearrange the talent for the festival. Fortunately, many of the key folks were together in L.A. at the time, which isn’t always the case. We started the day off with an acknowledgement that we were going to have to cancel the festival. By the end of the day, Charlie felt confident that he could organize the festival on the network. We certainly wanted to still recognize that a lot of people, pass holders and staff alike, look forward to it all year long. At the end of the way, we had already begun to formulate how to program the festival on the network. We wanted it to be special enough to stand up to people’s expectations. Charlie came up with something so robust that it was beyond my wildest expectations.
Charlie Tabesh: It is true. One of the considerations was how do we make it different than what’s normally on TCM. We wanted that to be special, which meant including a lot of material that we wouldn’t normally include on TCM day to day. The first idea was to play a lot of the movies that we had previously scheduled for the festival. The problem was that you don’t have the guests, the tribute pieces, the traditional segments of the actual festival that were done over the years. We could make it special by Ben doing his intros talking about previous guests, or when we were there with certain stars or filmmakers. With the question about production, there is a lot of production that has gone into the creation of the Special Home Edition, but we had been limited about how we could do that by the circumstances. Our team has done an amazing job of working remotely, using Zoom, and also pulling together a lot of material that has been created over the years and reformatting it in a way around the screening of the films to really make it a film festival that you could do virtually. It’s all come together beautifully.
Ben Mankiewicz talking with actress Meg Ryan on the #TCMFF Red Carpet 2019
Ben Mankiewicz: We’ve filmed some segments in a way that I’ve never shot some things before. An unbelievably scaled-down crew and they didn’t come within 10 feet of me. We always write fresh intros, and these were all fresh intros related to the festival. This programming will look different because I won’t be on my set. People look forward to this all year, and that includes us. We look forward to it because of this incredibly warming connection that we offer to our fans. When Pola and Charlie and others made the decision that we couldn’t have the festival this year, they asked me to write something to say on the air. And I wrote it and filmed it one the air the next day, and in writing it and in delivering it, got very emotional. That first take I almost couldn’t get through it without crying. I didn’t expect that. But we wanted to let people know that there would be a festival next year. TCM is like all of us. We are going to get through this together.