Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gathering of the Clan - at Classic Film Festivals - Classic Film Fans series Part 5

 What do you get when you gather thousands of classic film fans together?

Go ahead.  Think about a punch line.  Because I don’t have one.

This is our fifth post in our monthly series this year on the current state of the classic film fan.  Today we examine the gathering of the clan—at classic film festivals.  Such events are scattered throughout the year—climate and weather are irrelevant inside a movie theater—but just in the past three weeks three of the most popular have been held: The 18th Annual Noir City Festival in Hollywood, the 2nd Nitrate Film Fest in Rochester, New York, and the 6th annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Hollywood.

Hollywood, we may surmise, is not a bad place at all to hold a classic film festival.

Some festivals, like the Noir City, focus on a particular genre.  Some, like the Nitrate Film Fest at the Dryden Theater, Eastman Center, billed as The Nitrate Picture Show, the world’s first festival of film conservation, are geared more to the hardcore fan and film historian, those with a keen appreciation of “film” as opposed to digital movies.

The TCM Film Fest is a phenomenon of the modern—or we could even say younger—classic film fan’s expression of his fandom, with all the buttons and swag.  It seems, foremost, an emotional experience.

I have never been to the TCM festival, but perhaps as an outsider I can offer a few unemotional and objective observations.  I say that it is a younger festival not because there aren’t any Boomers in attendance—there most certainly are an army of them, but because I suspect that most of the some 26,000 projected attendees this year (TCM figures) are people without family constraints that prevent travel, and with disposal income to travel, and who specifically are geared to going to an “event” and being part of a event that is such a focus of social media.  I would love to know the demographics. 

The TCM fest is gloriously reported in social media, with in-depth reports by classic film bloggers (here’s a few by Raquel Stecher of Out of the Past, Kate Gabriele of Silents and Talkies, and look for an always thorough and articulate recap by Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, as well as her look at the Noir City Festival.  Laura goes to film festivals like some people go to Wal-Mart.).  Facebook, Twitter give us in-the-moment posts on what’s going on at the fest, and I love to read them.  I suspect there are a lot of us armchair fans.

Looking forward to when Theresa Brown gets back to her Couch and does some blogging on her impressions of the festival this year.

I get a kick out of Kate Gabrielle’s statement on one blog post of the rigors of attending:

I feel like TCMFF is actually kind of like practice for the apocalypse. Everyone around me could survive anything, making do without food or water for days while they plot out a plan to get movie projectors to work in a world without electricity.

Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, such as the wonderful Dame Angela Lansbury this year, are a major draw for fans.  One wonders, though, as there are fewer past stars to attend in future years, and with the increasing introduction of films that are from the post-classic era, how will the TCM Film Fest hold up in the future, and will its attendee demographics change as it becomes not so much a Classic Film Festival but a Film Festival?

TCM, always mining new opportunities and tweaking its brand, is slated to introduce TCM Backlot, an official fan club. Membership is $87 per year. There will be events across the country and exclusive content for subscribers. I’m interested to hear from classic film bloggers who join the club their impressions on the benefits and value of this membership.

Fan clubs have long been a part of Old Hollywood, a way for fans back in the day to connect with their favorite stars, and a way for the studios to promote the stars in their stable.  Today, merchandizing is obviously going to be part of the mix, but it’s a delicate balance to offer your members (customers—stores and theme parks may call us “guests” but we know we’re customers) something of value beyond just buying more junk on the credit card. 

An experience they are unable to get anywhere else is the genius of the TCM Film Fest, that emotional gathering of the clan, of like-minded people who share their passion for classic film in an environment that is fun, supportive, and obviously thrilling.  Most interesting is that this community appears to be wonderfully diverse: mixed in gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and in the movie preferences of classic film fans.  Sci-fi fans may not enjoy musicals, and not everyone goes big for noir, but they can still meet in a jubilant carnival and form lasting friendships.

What would Sam Goldwyn, L.B. Mayer, and Jack Warner think of that?

Go ahead, think of a punch line.  I don’t have one. 

I would like to thank all classic movie bloggers who attend and shared their experience.  It’s fun to see the festivities through their eyes. 

Next month, in the sixth part of this series, we’re going to visit the work of another classic film blogger, John Greco and review his latest book, Lessons in the Dark.


Part 1 of the year-long series on the current state of the classic film buff is here: A Classic Film Manifesto. 


Silver Screenings said...

There was a real mix of ages at the TCM Film Fest, from what I observed. I met one young woman who drove for over an hour, one way, every day to attend the festival. (I was surprised a number of people did that.) This woman didn't buy a pass, instead she waited in line for Standby tickets. I admired her dedication – and enthusiasm. She made it seem like it was the best experience of her life.

You raise a good point about the future of the classic film festival. I heard a few folks express unease with the festival showing some newer titles. I don't really have an opinion on that, but it will be interesting to see the guests and the film choices in years to come.

You're right about the genius of this festival. The TCM Boutique was doing a brisk business any time I wandered by. They even sold handmade TCM Film Fest Chocolate! I can never help myself when it comes to chocolate; I'll fill you in on the details when I sample it.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Ruth, thanks for sharing your observations of the TCM Film Fest. I'd love to hear the reports of other attendees. I always look forward to the posts of bloggers like yourself on your experiences at the film festivals.

Caftan Woman said...

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is a big deal in the city with street closures and star sightings leading local news headlines for ten days. From its start as the Festival of Festivals classic movies have had a role to play. During past festivals I was part of crowds that enjoyed, among others, "The General", "It's a Gift" and John Ford's rediscovered "Bucking Broadway".

I attended a TIFF free screening of "My Darling Clementine" and the capacity crowd had a number of younger people (the young ladies beside me) who were only there because it was free. They knew nothing of the movie, seemed disappointed that it was a western, and got so into it that when it was revealed through the necklace who killed James Earp, they gasped out loud as one. Lovely memories happen at film festivals.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Love this, CW. TEN days! Wow. I have to say, I've never attended a film festival, but Toronto's sounds like a great one.

Laura said...

I'm slowly catching up on my reading post festival and was delighted to see that you had covered TCMFF in your latest blog series. Thank you so much for the link -- which also gave me a good chuckle. I am truly lucky!

Kate is such a delightful person and writer -- that quote from her above is just delicious. And it was a treat to meet Ruth for the first time, literally in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard! (She recognized me from a photo.)

Wishing very much you could join us at TCMFF one day!

Best wishes,

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks for stopping by to visit us between film festivals, Laura! Reading about the meet-ups between bloggers I regularly read is especially fun. I don't know if I will ever make it to the TCMFF, but that would be the prime draw for me, to meet the gang.

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