Sunday, May 8, 2016

TCMFF 2016 - Day 0

This is the first of my posts on each day of the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). Technically, there isn't a Day 0, but since I came up the day before and there are unofficial events going on, I'm using Day 0 notation. I'm from San Diego, so the drive from San Diego isn't too bad unless you take into account traffic, which ranges from bad to awful. I usually take the train, because even if traffic is just bad, Amtrak to Union Station and LA Metro Rail to Hollywood is about the same amount of time as driving. That and you don't have to pay for parking a car you won't have time to drive.

The train also has the advantage of being able to do stuff other than watching the road. The two weeks leading into TCMFF were really busy this year, so I spent part of the trip catching up on e-mail I had neglected. Then I spent the rest of the trip looking at twitter to see what everyone else was doing, not a bad way to get in the mood for TCMFF. Plus, the first part of the trip the train runs right along the coast, so the scenery is pretty cool as well.

I had misread the train schedule. I thought I was getting into Union Station at 11:40, but it turned out I got in at 12:20, which meant I'd be cutting it close on the TCM press conference that started at 1:00.  The train made it in about ten minutes late, which only made things worse. I was hoping to check into the Hollywood Roosevelt first, but I was barely able to make it to the press conference in time with all of my luggage in tow. I barely had a chance to say hi to people before it got underway.

Press conference, left to right, Charlie Tabesh  (Head of 
Programming), Jennifer Dorian (General Manager), 
Ben Mankiewicz (Host) and Genevieve McGillicuddy 
(Festival Director)

I was at the press conference last year, and there was a lot of talk about the controversy of showing newer films. This year the controversy centered around film vs digital presentations. Charlie Tabesh explained that a lot of the time you go with you can get. If a studio has completed a digital restoration, that is the version that they are going to want to screen and often the results are going to be better than an unrestored 35-mm print. 

I asked one question. It seem that the festival sold out faster this year than it had last year, and I wanted to know if there were plans to expand the festival, with additional tracks of films or programming. Genevieve McGillicuddy confirmed that they did sell out faster this year. In fact, the Spotlight and Essential passes sold out in just 14 minutes. She said that they don't have any current plans to expand the festival. They think the size of the event is good now and are want to make sure that any growth of the festival is managed carefully. 
After the press conference, friend and fellow TCM Social Producer Jeff Lundberger helped me shlep my bags to the Roosevelt. Thanks, Jeff. 

My room was ready, so I dropped off my luggage  in the room and headed back downstairs. I had made tentative lunch plans which fell through, so I hung out it in the lobby for a while. Another Social Producer Annmarie Gatti and I met with Yacov Freedman, who was in the TCM Backlot area of the Roosevelt lobby. Both Annmarie and I had done beta testing on the TCM Backlot website, so it was good to meet the guy we were trading e-mails with. Plus, he had TCM Backlot baseball caps for us. 

I still hadn't eaten lunch and Annmarie and Aurora (another TCM Social Producer) wanted to grab coffee, so I went with them and grabbed a quick bite at Starbucks. We had a few minutes to kill before the 4:00, Meet and Greet, so we joined Paula Guthat (still another Social Producer)  and hung out in a patio off the Roosevelt pool area. If you plan to attend TCMFF, you should try to come in a day or two early. This is about the only time you have to really hang out with your old movie Cronies. 

I'd had some buttons made, my own designs and I
did my best to give them out at the Meet and Greet
The Meet and Greet was nice. I know I'm going to forget people, but I did get to meet a number of people I knew from online. I know I met Ana, Mary, Andrea, and her husband, Teresa (who'd flown in from Australia) and others. I also touched base with Social Producer Christy Putnam, but she was really busy trying to find the TCMFF newbies to give them some bandannas she'd brought (part of her Social Producer responsibilities of helping get TCMFF first timers up to speed).

A lot of people asked about my TCM Social Producer partner in crime, my 16-year-old daughter Jasmine. Both my wife Mary and my daughter were coming up this year. Mary had made a hair appointment at the same time I needed to be on the train for the press conference, so they came up on a later train. This worked out well, because it allowed Jasmine to go to school on Wednesday and only have to be [cough cough] sick for Thursday, Friday, and Monday for TCMFF. The Meet and Greet ran into another unofficial gathering of the TCM Facebook group. I couldn't stay for this. I'd promised Mary and Jasmine that I would meet them at Union Station and help them negotiate LA Metro Rail to Hollywood. I figured a cab ride in rush hour would be kind of a nightmare. At least, the Metro Rail would get you there quickly and make it worth the trouble of dealing with luggage on the train. It turns out the Metro Rail wasn't that crowded either there or back.

Sturhann tribe at TCMFF, I swear Mary is sitting
at the same table

I had toyed with the idea of trying to catch a Pre-Code Busby Berkeley movie at the New Beverly that night, but the timing would have had us eating popcorn for dinner and I figured we'd be doing enough of that over the next several days. Instead we ended up getting dinner at 25 Degrees, the burger joint in the Roosevelt. The food was really good and I had a burger and their Guinness milkshake. Jasmine said, she wanted to marry her fries, and while I like to consider myself fairly progressive, I'm not sure how I feel about inter-tuber relationships. My only complaint was this:

I'd made some home made Vip, and 
was doing my best to pawn it off on
people at the bar, details here
On the way out of the restaurant, we ran into Social Producer Ariel Schudson and Danny from They were getting ready to head out to the pre-TCMFF gathering at the Formosa and asked if we wanted to share an Uber. We got to there at about 9 and things were in full swing. Again, one more reason for getting to TCMFF early, another chance to meet and hang out with people at a time when you don't have to worry about what you might be missing. 

A highlight of the evening was meeting Czar of Noir Eddie Muller and his wife. They were on their way out when we met them, but we ended up talking to them for about 15 minutes anyway. He's a great guy, and he encouraged us to catch the screening of Los Tallos Amargos on Thursday. This was the film he was most excited about presenting. I confessed that I hadn't planned on it, but as it worked out I ended up seeing it anyway.

We ended up walking back to the Roosevelt mostly because the trip took us past two points of interest:

  • Jim Henson Company, the former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios. 
  • Ralphs, a 24-hour grocery store. With the demise of the Fresh and Easy on Hollywood Blvd., this would ensure that we had at least some food each day that didn't come with butter flavoring and salt.

Charlie Chaplin door at Jim Henson Company
that faces the sidewalk on La Brea Ave.

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