Home #Hwoodtimes TCM Classic Film Festival Virtual Roundtable with Ben Mankiewicz & More

TCM Classic Film Festival Virtual Roundtable with Ben Mankiewicz & More

By  Judy Shields

Rancho Cucamonga, CA (The Hollywood Times) 04/14/2020

The Hollywood Times was part of a virtual press roundtable Q&A with TCM Host Ben Mankeiwicz, Pola Changnon (TCM General Manager) and Charlie Tabesh (TCM Senior VP of Programming) to discuss their upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition this weekend April 16-19, 2020.

Celebrating the Past Decade of the TCM Classic Film Festival.  This special home edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival will feature favorite movies and festival moments, TCM hosts and special guests that can all be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.

Click here to watch a special video message from TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz.

Grab a favorite movie snack, your remote and a comfortable spot to unwind with us on TCM.


See Below for more information about the TCM Classic Film Festival 2020: Special Home Edition.

Merchandise will not be available for sale but fans can win merchandise in Twitter giveaways throughout the weekend!

Question:  Jack. With the current emergency, which has impacted many aspects of the economy, but I think one of worst hit is moviegoing and movie theaters, does TCM have any strategic ideas that they are working on to hopefully get people back into the movie theaters, like Fathom or any other organizations that you work with?

Pola Changnon attends The 50th Anniversary World Premiere Restoration of “The Producers” Opening Night Gala and Robert Osborne Award at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on April 26, 2018 in Hollywood, California. 350569. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TCM)

TCM General Manager Pola Changnon:. Thank you about the comment about what theaters are doing because that is a paramount issue to us as well.  The film festival reflects our interest in making sure that people have the opportunity to see films in theaters with the community of people who love them and that enjoy films. It is concerning and we ourselves as fans of going to the movies are super concerned. We are absolutely in conversation with our Fathom partners looking at all kinds of opportunities, with a special eye for us in some cases it is what’s gonna happen when people start to feel comfortable going back to the theaters how can we contribute to that, how can we coming from the classic movie world think about programming things that maybe do the a good job of bringing in families for example. We are looking at some of that because we know while this is a really incredibly difficult time for folks, it’s not gonna be forever and we want to start creating some thinking around how we can encourage folks to come back eventually.

Question:  Pete Hammond: How did this idea come about and how did you put it all together?

Pola Changnon: It really was about a month ago which is so surprising we obviously all were looking with concern at what was evolving and in terms of the situation from a health standpoint and how that might or might not impact our festival date. It was literally this time a month ago basically where it was clear that we were going to have to cancel the festival. We didn’t even really feel comfortable thinking about how to postpone it because it didn’t seem like there was a clear space to do that and you can imagine what work it takes to just check availability of venues and rearrange everything that we would have to do around the films and talent commitments.  So honestly within a day, all of us were fortunately together and a lot of key folks were together in LA for other business, which is not always the case and we started the day off with an acknowledgement that we would need have to cancel and by the end of day, Charlie, felt confident that he could pull something together, sort of in place of the festival on our network. We want to still recognize that it is a special weekend that a lot of people look forward to all year long, passholders and franklly the staff look forward to it all year long. So at the end of that day we were all thinking about what would it look like, how could we do this, could it be special enough to really stand up to what people’s expectations are for TCM relative to a festival. So within a couple of days, Charlie came up with something so robust and beyond my wildest dreams and we all knew that we had something very special.  

Charlie Tabesh:  One of the considerations was, how do you make it different from what is currently on TCM because the trick is every single day and every single night is kind of a film festival because we are putting programming together.  We wanted this to be special and that meant including a lot of material we wouldn’t normally include day to day on TCM and so the first idea was why don’t we play a lot of the movies that we were planning to play at this year’s film festival. The issue there is that you don’t have all the material, you don’t have the guess, you don’t have tribute pieces, the things that were done throughout the year.  One of reasons this evolved into bringing back some of the best from past festivals was that we could really make it special by Ben doing his intros and talking about being there with certain stars and filmmakers by having some of the tribute pieces that have been produced over the years or special interviews or conversations that happened before or after a film with the audience. This makes it different.  Our team has done an amazing job working remotely, using Zoom and also pulling together a lot of material that has been created over the years and reformatting in a way that it can be in and around the film and really hope to make it feel like a film festival experience best you can do in a virtually.   

Ben Mankiewicz: We shot some stuff in a way I have never shot before, unbelievably scaled down crew and nobody came within 10 feet of me and we wrote fresh intros and they were related to the festival.  So the programming that you will see this weekend, the 16th through the 19th will look different because I wont be on my set, we shot that knowing the situation that we were in. I am also reminded as to what Paula said, that people look forward to this all year and that includes us.  We look forward to it in large part because of this incredible mornting connection that we offer to our fans. So when we announced that we were doing away with the festival, when the executives, Charlie, Paula and others made the decision that we couldn’t have it this year, they asked me to write something to say on the air.  That same night I wrote it and did it the next day. Both in writing it and in delivering it I got very emotional and the first take I almost didn’t get through it without crying. I didn’t expect that and this is important and wanted to let people know there was going to be a festival next year and that TCM and all of us are going to get through this together.  It is emotional and what Charlie programmed I think helped us all and certainly helped me to be able to come up and talk about these movies and provide some new content and festival context to it and plus, all the stuff we are doing online and social media, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter to enhance the programming we will have this weekend. I have never been busier than these couple of weeks.

Beth: My question is for Ben.  You have always been active on social media, Twitter in particular, during the pandemic you have been reaching out to the fans in an even more personal manner with your videos, even with family members participation, during this time how do you feel this is helping us all get through this together?

Ben Mankiewicz:  Well, the fan responses of the first video I posted and I did feel weird posting it. It was to just check in and this is an emotional time for me and I imagine that it was for others.  I know that I am in a better position to get through this than a lot of people. I see that video and see those lines and see that grocery store workers making so little money and I just didn’t get it and I got moved by it.  I just needed to check in with our community and make a video and make it funny and ask what movies they have seen and how they are managing and overwhelming emotion to those responses. One that stood out the most was someone that had been working 30 years in publishing and just got fired and posted that video and said they came home, bundled up and watched TCM.  So almost every response I got, and I feel bad that I haven’t been able to respond to all of them. As this conference call started I am working on another one and airing a bunch of festival memories and asking people about theirs and we have also have coming up this week, a chance for fans to engage or maybe get involved in some programming that will show up later in the summer.  This network lives because the fans care so deeply and that those videos provide some type of meaning how every small and I hope they make them feel good because they make me feel good. I will try and do more of it. They take a little longer that I expected.

Peter for Charlie Tabesh:  How does next year look?

Charlie Tabesh attend the “FilmStruck” launch event at 404 NYC on October 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/ Getty Images for Turner)

Charlie Tabesh:  This a good question.  There are things for this year we can use for next year.  Having said that, there will be different anniversaries, different restorations, different talent that wasn’t able to come this year.  There are things that are going to come along that will reshape the festival, so it’s not as simple as placing this year onto next year and saying we are done.  So I think there is a bit of a head start and work still needs to be done.

Kristin: How will this year’s cancellation affect next years film festival financially?

Pola Changnon:  You can imagine how hard that was for festivals that live for this once a year effort and it’s so complicated. We are incredibly fortunate that we have a network that generate revenue and that the festival is not a live or die revenue for us.  It is all about creating something that brings all those classic film fans together annually. So, in short, we are already planning next year’s festival and already working on dates and venues as we would ordinarily.

The Hollywood Times:  Following the upcoming Classic Film Festival Special Home Edition, will TCM consider building from this event to host more frequent focused home events throughout this year, in addition to the traditional film festival?

Pola Changnon:  It’s a great question. Anything we planned at the beginning of the year or even two months ago, we are going to learn a lot from it.  We are going to learn what works from the people who enjoy this experience and the people watching and we will be taking lots of notes honestly to see if this is something that we would try in some way, shape or form . It is an experiment as well as it, I think, an expression of the brand, in these tough times when we couldn’t throw, what is for us, the party of the year!  So stay turned and we look forward to hearing your feedback.

Ben Mankiewicz and THT reporter Judy Shields TCM Classic Film Festival 2019

Ben Mankiewicz:  I have no say in this matter, but I will say that I am all for it.  I will share this with Paula and Charlie and Genevieve McGillicuddy, festival director, that the response that I get on social media is almost the most significant response that I have gotten to anything ever.  I spend far too much time on Twitter. Look, the engagement with the fans is the best part of this job, it’s the most meaningful part of this job associated with TCM and I don’t say that because it sounds good when you guys print it, I say it because it is just true.  I think at a bare minimum we have learned, and assuming this goes well this weekend, and I assume it will, there is real value to this and we learn something about how we can do it and the more things we do that include more of the people who love TCM, the better for us.  

Question?  May I wish TCM a happy birthday

Pola Changnon:  Yes

Charlie Tabesh: It is our birthday.

Pola Changnon:  Don’t we look good for our 26th, we sure do!

TCM Turner Class Movies was launched on April 14, 1994, 26 years ago!



Welcome to the TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition, an on-air celebration of TCM Classic Film Festival movies and moments from the past decade that fans can enjoy from the comfort of their homes. As a part of the Special Home Edition, TCM is proud to showcase films that have been a part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, both from years past and slated for this year’s event.

To provide additional context and insight, details are below that share when these films were screened at the Festival along with the special guests that attended these screenings. This special edition of the Fest begins April 16 at 8pm continuing until April 19 on TCM and will include TCM hosts, special guests and events to watch on-air and follow on social media.

See exclusive content and interact with our hosts and special guests on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube