Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on September 25, 2014
If you watch a lot of television you’re probably familiar with hashtags or #hashtags that programs now regularly promote to reach audiences on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. On PBS for example viewers are encouraged to use the hashtag #DowntonPBS, #DowntonAbbey or #Downton when watching their popular series DOWNTON ABBEY and during events such as the 2014 Winter Olympics many hashtags including #Sochi2014, #Olympics2014 and #TeamAmerica were regularly used online. Hashtags are a simple way to link conversations about a topic on social media sites so anyone can search for them easily and join in the discussion. And if a hashtag becomes popular on Twitter it can become a ‘trending topic’ that gains national or even international attention.
A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching. Recently @TCM_Party celebrated their third year anniversary on Twitter so I decided to reach out to them and ask a few questions about what they do and how TCM viewers can participate. @TCM_Party host, Paula Guthat (aka @Paula_Guthat) was kind enough to get back in touch with me and what follows is a brief Q&A about the group and their events.
Q: Who came up with the idea for the TCM Party group on Twitter and how did it get started?
A: The original idea for TCM Party originated with Kathleen Callaway in September 2011. She would live-tweet movies on TCM and add the hashtag #TCMParty. I found the tag and started joining in later in the month.
I started hosting in October 2011, and I soon decided we needed a separate Twitter account to host and promote from, and that was the beginning of #TCMParty’s current format. We also started a TCM Party Facebook page and a Tumblr, both of which I still update. By “hosting,” I mean picking a specific movie from the TCM schedule, promoting the date and time it would be on to get as many people together as possible, and then tweeting information during that movie in real time.
Kathleen left TCM Party in March 2012 to to concentrate on her handcrafts and animal rescue work on Etsy. I had persuaded Trevor Jost (aka @tpjost) to guest host SUNRISE (1927) that month and he joined @TCM_Party on a regular basis in April of 2012. We built our following by hosting 2 or 3 scheduled parties in the evening every week. I promoted them and would just generally be on Twitter chatting about classic movies every day. We also got and continue to get a lot of great support from a core group of regular attendees and guest hosts, without whom #TCMParty wouldn’t exist. It’s really evolved into an online community where people can discuss classic film in general with people who love classic movies as much as they do.
And in case anyone is wondering why there’s an underscore in our Twitter handle @TCM_Party . . . it’s because @tcmparty was taken. Whoever has that account never uses it, but three years later it’s probably not worth changing it.
Q: How many members or followers does @TCM_Party have? Can anyone participate?
A: The @TCM_Party account has just over 6,300 followers (as of 9/25), but anyone can participate in a #TCMParty. All you have to do is have a Twitter account and add the hashtag #TCMParty to your tweets when you’re watching a movie on TCM. Or if you just want to see how things work, you can watch that tag just to see what people are saying. It’s OK to lurk! But we hope you’ll join in eventually.
Q: Do you organize specific events around films being shown on TCM or are they spontaneous? And if there is a regular schedule of TCM Party events online, where can members find it?
A: There are both specific events — scheduled hosted parties — and spontaneous ones. The number of participants and tweets increases quite a bit during the scheduled parties, but actually, the #TCMParty never really stops. The hashtag is continually is use though, just about 24/7.
Trevor posts the schedule of the week’s hosted TCM Parties on Sunday evening for the week beginning the next day (Monday) on the main Tumblr page, http://tcmparty.tumblr.com. (Praise or blame for the rest of the Tumblr posts is mine.) I also post party reminders via @TCM_Party, on the TCM Party Facebook page and Tumblr.
Q: Is there a particular format that you follow or are #TCMParty hashtag events all spontaneous? And are there any rules or guidelines potential members should know about?
A: For the scheduled parties we spend a fair amount of time researching the films we host and try to have a good mix of information about the film, its cast and crew, trivia, and conversation with other #TCMParty people.
#TCMParty happens on Twitter, which is a public forum; anyone can add the hashtag to their tweets, so there isn’t really any way to impose any guidelines or enforce any rules. That said, we would like the discussion to be fun, respectful and relevant to the movie so that everyone will feel welcome. Disagreements can and do occur, but we focus on what brings us together — the love of classic movies and TCM.
Q: What topics seem to generate the most #TCMParty hashtags on Twitter? Are there any particular films, actors or directors that members seem to enjoy chatting about?
A: Films that are popular in general are also popular with #TCMParty. For instance, we’ve trended nationally with GONE WITH THE WIND a couple of times. CASABLANCA was the first #TCMParty I ever joined, and it remains popular, as do all of Humphrey Bogart’s films, particularly those with Lauren Bacall.
The “household names” such as Charlie Chaplin, Barbara Stanwyck, Errol Flynn, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford, to name just a few, are all popular. Best-loved directors include John Ford, Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, William Wellman, Fritz Lang, Michael Curtiz, Billy Wilder, and George Stevens, among others.
There’s also a lot of love on #TCMParty for actors and actresses who might be considered “lesser-known,” — Herbert Marshall, George Brent, Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Ray Milland, Joan Blondell, Franchot Tone, Ronald Colman, Carole Lombard, Warren William, Leslie Howard, and Joan Fontaine, among many others — and for character actors like Conrad Veidt, Jane Darwell, Eric Blore, Hattie McDaniel, Franklin Pangborn, Edward Everett Horton, Thelma Ritter and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall. Films noir are really well-attended, second only to pre-codes. Nothing draws quite so well as a pre-code. And though it’s difficult to watch them and tweet at the same time, silent films are popular as well.
Don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite here…the beauty of #TCMParty is that there is bound to be someone else who likes the same star or director you do.
Q: How about yourself? What types of films do you enjoy discussing on Twitter with the group?
Generally what I try to do with hosting a #TCMParty, if at all possible, is to choose either lesser-known films that I think should have a wider audience, or popular films that have interesting backstories. One of the best things people have said to me over the years is, “I love this movie and I never would have watched it if you hadn’t picked it for TCM Party.” That has happened with BLACK NARCISSUS, TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH, JEWEL ROBBERY, EXPERIMENT PERILOUS, THE GREAT ESCAPE, and A NEW LEAF.
I believe the way a film was lit and shot makes or breaks a film, yet cinematographers are overlooked a lot of the time. So I try to emphasize their contributions with my “Obligatory Cinematography Tweets.”
One of my favorite recent parties that I’ve hosted is EVIL UNDER THE SUN. It’s not an Oscar winner by any means, but it’s packed with acting talent, it’s eminently watchable, and everyone had a great time. Our recent Pre-Code Friday double feature of BABY FACE and NIGHT NURSE was a lot of fun as well. In a completely different vein, BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is a serious film about the madness and waste of war, so that #TCMParty was great for different reasons.
Classic movies have been a part of my life since I can remember, so I also really enjoy just tweeting along to whatever’s on TCM whenever I have some time to watch.
Q: It often seems as if discussions about older films online can become snarky or rather tongue-in-cheek. The TCM Party group seems to attract a variety of contributors including jokesters as well as more serious and informed participants. Is my observation correct and has that been your experience as well?
A: That is a correct observation. #TCMParty does attract people of different attitudes toward, levels of interest in, and knowledge about, classic movies. Anyone can add any hashtag to his or her tweets, including #TCMParty, so the views expressed and the tenor of the conversation vary widely, and it also depends on the movie being discussed. Like any other online community, disagreements do occur, but overall, it’s a fun, positive group. Some have been with #TCMParty since the beginning, and some just found us last week, but the vast majority continue to participate.
Q: Many TCM Party members seem to have developed friendships on and off line. Has this been your experience?
Yes! That’s a lot of the fun of it…meeting the people I’ve met through #TCMParty in real life. This usually happens at the TCM Classic Film Festival but many #TCMParty people have met up year-round in other places across the country. Without exception, when I’ve met other #TCMParty people off-line, it feels like we’ve known each other for years, which, in a way, we have.
Q: At the last TCM Film Festival some members apparently met up so they could get together with other classic film fans. Can you tell me a little bit more about that event? And do you plan to organize similar events in the future?
A: In a sense, the entire TCM Film Festival is a meet-up for classic film fans. Lots of connections are made over those four days. There hasn’t been a #TCMParty-specific event that I am aware of. I’d like to organize a tweet-up at TCMFF for anyone who wants to come. But since November of 2013, my husband and I own a movie theater, Cinema Detroit, and before that I worked full-time at a university, and I always seem to just run out of time to plan something like that.
Q: And last but not least, any upcoming plans for the TCM Party that readers should know about?
A: On Friday, September 26, our scheduled party is SCARFACE (1932) at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Keep an eye on our TCM Party Tumblr for future parties.
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