San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TCMFF 2017 – Day 0

First off, Day 0 isn't really a thing. It's my term I made up for the Wednesday before the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). There are a number of official, semi-official, and unofficial events going on. Me, I try to get up there in time for the TCMFF Press Conference in the early afternoon.


As usual, my daughter Jasmine and I took the train up from San Diego. It's a nice trip that hugs the coast at least the the first part of the way. Between Amtrak and L.A. Metro, it gets you there as fast as you could drive in the normal bad traffic without the stress of dealing with traffic. Also, it's a good way to gather your thoughts as you're getting geared up for TCMFF. I usually spend most of the trip looking at Twitter to see who's en route, who's already there, and so on.

The one thing that jumped out at me on the trip up was an interaction I had with Dr. Richard L. Edwards who taught the Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir and Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies online classes the last two years. He said that it was only a day until the Hitchcock Meet and Greet at TCMFF. I told him I was bringing a MacGuffin. He wrote back that he hoped I could get Lincoln's nose through airport security. I responded that I was on the train, where they were much more generous about oversized National Monument carry-ons.

We got to the hotel, and while we were waiting to check in, Jasmine noticed that the person in front of us was Kelly Osborne, umm, and her dog.  I noticed the woman and the dog, but didn't associate either with Kelly Osborne or her dog, until after Jasmine mentioned it. Then again, she would know better than me. Our room wasn't ready, so we left our luggage and went up to pick up my Media pass and bag. We had enough time to grab lunch at the restaurant, 25 Degrees. We also ran into Kellee Pratt (Outspoken and Freckled), Aurora Bugallo (Once Upon a Screen), Annmarie Gatti (Classic Movie Hub), and in a separate group Laura (Laura's Miscellaneous Musings). 

Hopefully, I didn't miss anyone. Apologies if I did. Now, I know these posts seem like I'm name dropping, and that is probably true, but when you have been going to TCMFF for awhile and start putting names and faces with the people you know online, it's like running into an old friend after a long long time, when in reality, it was only last year.


Both Jasmine and I ordered ordered grilled cheese and split an order of fries which turned out to be a small mountain of fries. I remember setting down the Media bag and hearing the glassy thud of a bottle hitting the floor. I hadn't looked in the bag, but was more than psyched to see my Hitchcock Zinfindel was okay. 

We got to the press conference about fifteen minutes early. I wasn't sure whether it was okay to bring Jasmine along, so I want to have time to sort that out. Turned out to not be a problem. While we were waiting to go in, I met Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (shadowsandsatin) and Lara G. Fowler (Backlots), both of whom I knew online but neither I had met before.

The press conference was about as expected. Charles Tabesh, TCM SVP, Programming and Production; Jennifer Dorian, TCM General Manager; Ben Mankiewicz, TCM Host; and Genevieve McGillicuddy, TCM Classic Film Festival Director discussed TCM, TCM Backlot, FilmStruck, and of course TCMFF including highlights like the nitrate and Cinerama screenings. I remember someone asking about TCMFF guests they were trying to get but could never pin down. Someone said, they been after Doris Day for years and would keep on trying.

I had two questions that I wanted to ask, but felt like I wussed out and asked the easier of the two. I said that I had heard a lot online and social media this year that they were making changes to attract Millennials. I pointed out that I had my Millennial (Jasmine) with me, but I wanted to know if they considered that demographic important and wondered if they were actively going after it. For the most part, they downplayed it. While they want to have younger viewers, their focus for both the network and the festival is to have good quality programming that will appeal to people of all ages. Often younger fans (Millennials) are brought in through other people, like an aunt or a grandparent, so by appealing to all classic fans, the younger fans will come. If you're curious, my other question would have been about The Great Dictator, and whether it was the current political climate that prompted its selection.

About halfway through the press conference, they brought in additional speakers, Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and Jennifer Ahn, Managing Director, The Film Foundation to discuss nitrate film and film preservation, and David Strohmaier, Film Editor and Cinerama expert. Randy Haberkamp told a story about how one of the film archives, Eastman I think, had an an unusual way of disposing of nitrate prints after that had been transferred to safety film. They would set them on fire on the Fourth of July. Once the prints were earmarked for destruction, they would write on the canisters, Do Not Return. At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences when they were getting together nitrate prints, they kept running into canisters of film marked, Do Not Return. Obviously, employees of the Eastman (or whatever) archive didn't have them destroyed and luckily that's why they exist today.

Also I found David Strohmaier's comments interesting. In addition to working on Cinerama restorations, he also was a Cinerama projectionist and would be running the projectors at the Cinerama Dome screenings. From a projection standpoint, it was every bit as complicated as the cinematography. You have three reels of film running through three projectors to create one seamless image. That's why films like This is Cinerama often had talking segments in the middle. It gave the projectionist a chance to make subtle tweaks to the synchronization of the three projectors.

By the time, the press conference ended, our room was ready, and Jasmine and I were able to get a little bit situated. Since we had a little extra time, I wanted to go to a grocery store to pick up water and food/snacks for the weekend. We ran into Joel Williams (Joel's Classic Film Passion)  about a block away from the hotel. He and his wife were on the way to Trader Joe's more or less doing the same thing we were, but I wanted to go to Ralphs, mostly because it would take us by Charlie Chaplin's old studio, now the home of the Muppets. Jasmine is a huge Chaplin fan and had never seen the studio lot.


Theresa Brown and Julia Ricci
We made it back to the hotel in time for the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook Group mixer at the Hollywood Roosevelt pool. Though I'm not in the group (joined just a few minutes ago, oops), I still know a lot of the people  there. And it's another good chance meet and hang out with people before the craziness starts. I didn't get to meet TCMFF first timers, Julia Ricci (Cinema Crossroads) and Priscilla Smith (Rambling In Writing). As usual, there were Golden Age guests, Cora Sue Collins and Ruth Roman. Despite there being a microphone this year, you still couldn't hear very well. Fortunately, Danny Miller (cinephiled) did an interview with Cora Sue Collins after the festival and posted it hereIt turns out that Ana Roland and I ended up sitting together on a large round chaise lounge thing looked like it was something out of an Austin Powers movie. Oddly, we ending up talking with other people from Texas, Ana's also from Texas.


Jasmine bowling, yes there's a two-lane bowling
alley in The Spare Room, hence the name
By about 7, there was a text message from Jasmine saying she was starving and when were we going to dinner. Fortunately, Jasmine is now old enough to like food that doesn't necessarily come in nugget form, so we went to the sushi place in the Hollywood Highland mall. Yay, sushi. After dinner, Jasmine and I went to the TCM Media Influencers mixer in The Spare Room on the Mezzanine level at the Roosevelt. We had a great time. I covered that event previousy, so rather than repeating myself, you can check that out here. Suffice it to say, a fun time was had by all, and the combination of very good drinks, a chance to hang out with other film bloggers, 1940s decor, and a gaming theme made The Spare Room one of the highlights of the festival for me.

By about 10:00, Jasmine was fading fast. She has to get up way early for school, so she never deals well with late nights. I had made tentative plans to meet Theresa Brown (CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH), so I wandered downstairs to check out the bars in the lobby. If memory serves me, and it might not, I ended up in the Library Bar having a drink at the bar with Andrea Rosen and her husband. After a while Theresa wandered in and I joined her for a drink and old movie talk after the Rosens called it a night. 

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