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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCMFF Starts with a Round Table with Host Robert Osborne

With the TCM Classic Film Festival beginning tomorrow, April 28th, 2011 in good old Hollywood, TCM host Robert Osborne started out a busy day of press interviews and personal appearances with a special Round Table meeting with an exclusive selection of online media representatives.

Early today (Wednesday the 27th) as part of the preparation for the opening of the 2nd annual Classic Film Festival, I and about nine others were allowed special access to TCM on-air host Robert Osborne. It was a surprise bonus to what already promises to be an exciting festival. An opportunity I readily jumped at and enjoyed thoroughly.

If you’ve ever seen Osborne perform any of his TCM spokesman duties then you already know he is immensely charming. What you may not know is the man is doubly so in person. And when you’re sitting in an intimate room just above the historic lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel and the man greets you with a pleasant smile and a warm handshake as he looks you in the eyes and repeats your name you feel like you’re the most important person at the festival. And for about an hour this morning I did.

After the quick round of introductions Osborne effortlessly fielded question after question. It’s not as if anyone posed anything too demanding, but they were questions any real TCM fan would ask given the chance, from queries on scheduling selection to the TCM focus and continuing impact on modern audiences. It was really more like a conversation rather than an interview, with the group as a whole carrying on a string of thought started by one another, and Osbourne carrying the other half of the dialogue. It’s really impressive how well he knows his world and how he understands its effect on others. There was never a pause or incomplete answer. Osborne was completely within his element and, without a doubt, the master of his domain.

Osborne first answered a question about how the festival came to be. The idea of the actual festival itself had been floating around since the inception of the network itself 17 years ago. He said TCM’s first concern was where to hold it. “The problem was where to do it, and for a while they thought to have kind of a floating festival... Starting out in Hollywood and then maybe do it in New York, and then maybe Chicago”. If they had the festival in a different location every year it would make it more accessible to more fans. But TCM realized that the cost of bringing out the stars to such locations would make it too costly to host, let alone the time commitment required of each participant.

The TCM host then added, “If you do it in Hollywood you have access to say Anjelica Huston driving down from her house to introduce Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and driving back, taking half a day out of her time... and of course Hollywood being where all these movies started out might be the best destination, cause people love Hollywood, love coming to Hollywood, and that whole mystique about the movies”. According to Osborne that because of these factors and the huge success of last year’s festival the CFF will remain in Hollywood indefinitely. As a Hollywood local that’s good news for me!

Osborne also elaborated on the future evolution of the festival. That as it becomes more established and develops a solid reputation the programer (Charlie Tabish) won’t have to focus on the so-called Marques movies, “so you go knowing you’re going to see great movies, and see some great celebrities and stuff. You may not know the films like Casablanca or Singin in the Rain, but you’re going to see great movies”.

Ever the consummate host, Osborne went on to express his main personal concern with the first festival “was that people would love (them) on the channel and they come, and not being used to a festival like people who go to Telluride and being told (what to do) and if you’re used to Telluride that’s okay, but our (viewers) think we’re wonderful, and the main thing was that the people be treated so well that they would leave thinking well of us”. And they did, because they ended up getting constant reports on just how well people were treated. Having gone to other festivals myself I can say without reservation I felt very much like an honored guest every minute of the CFF last year. So far this year is following in those footsteps.

Osborne continued to be comfortably conversational throughout his hour of interaction with me and the others in the room. We would have kept him all day if his time was not in such great demand. Hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to interact with the face of TCM over the next four days, but even if I don’t this brief encounter has left me with the feeling that the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival is all about the fans; people like me who just want to share our fondness and enthusiasm of the classics with others like ourselves. Is it too soon to get excited about 2012?

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