Saturday, September 3, 2016

The 5th Anniversary of TCM Party

It was five years ago today that the first TCM Party took place on Twitter. For those of you who are wondering what a TCM Party is, it is a collective live tweeting of movies aired on Turner Classic Movies using the hashtag #tcmparty. TCM Parties often, although not always, have hosts who tweet trivia about the specific movie on at the time and essentially curate the whole event. Since that first TCM Party on September 3 2011 TCM Party has grown to the point that TCM Parties are going on 24 hours a day. TCM Party has become an established part of TCM fandom, to where even the official TCM Twitter account and such guest TCM hosts as Illeana Douglas have taken part in TCM Parties.

Here it should be pointed out that TCM Party was not the first such organised live-tweeting of a movie airing on Turner Classic Movies to take place. It was in June 2011 that Turner Classic Movies dedicated each Thursday of that month to classic drive-in movies. It was then on June 9 2011 that a group of TCM fans live tweeted to the classic giant ant movie Them! (1954) using the hashtag #TCMBugout (I participated a little bit in that particular live tweet, but unfortunately I did not realise there was a hashtag until after the fact). That night TCM also aired Tarantula (1955), The Cosmic Monsters (1958), The Black Scorpion (1957), and The Wasp Woman (1959), so the #TCMBugout hashtag got quite of bit of use that night.

The following Thursday that June 2011 TCM was not airing any movies featuring monster insects or arachnids, so the hashtag #TCMDriveIn was created. #TCMDriveIn would survive after a fashion following the end of June 11, evolving into #DriveInMob, an organised live tweeting every Thursday to a classic drive-in movie (not just those aired on TCM) that survives to this day.

That brings us to TCM Party. It was Kathleen Callaway, then using the Twitter handle hockmangirl who conceived TCM Party. Like many Turner Classic Movies fans at the time, she would live tweet to films shown on TCM with her friends. She figured this would be made easier if there was a hashtag tweets fans could use to keep track of everyone's tweets. Kathleen Callaway was the first TCM Party host, choosing a specific movie from the schedule and then letting everyone know that there would be a TCM Party for that particular film. During the film she would tweet trivia about it. It was then on September 3 2011 that the first TCM Party was held.  The film that was live tweeted that night was one of the greatest classics of all time, Casablanca (1942).

It was in October 2011 that the name probably now most associated with TCM Party began hosting: Paula Guthat. It was not long after Paula began hosting that it was decided that TCM Party should have its own Twitter account. It was then that the TCM_Party account was born. TCM_Party was chosen because tcmparty was already taken. It was shortly after that Tumblr and Facebook pages were created for TCM Party.

Over time TCM Party would see changes in its hosts. In March 2012 Kathleen Callaway left TCM Party to concentrate on her handicrafts and animal rescue work. Paula had convinced silent film expert Trevor Jost to guest host  F. W. Murnau's classic Sunrise (1927). Afterwards Trevor joined as a regular TCM Party host. Still later Joel Williams would join as a regular TCM Party host. Of course, since then there have been a number of guest hosts (myself among them). What is more, TCM Party has changed a bit from the beginning. While films from the Turner Classic Movies schedule are still chosen for "official" TCM Parties, at any given time of day there is almost always an informal TCM Party going on. And generally during those informal TCM Parties there is someone (often more than one) who will act as a host, tweeting trivia about the particular film being live tweeted.

Here I have to point out that TCM Party has had one minor problem over the years. As the #TCMParty hashtag grew in popularity, spammers started using it. In the summer of 2012 there was a rash of porn sites misusing #tcmparty. We spent about two days constantly reporting them before it stopped. In 2013 there was an odd sort of spam where fake accounts would steal tweets and tweet them. Many of these tweets were from TCM Parties. To this day no one really knows why these spammers took this approach, but we reported them nonetheless. Eventually that too stopped. Since then TCM Party has not had much problem with spammers, and with any luck it never will again. 

Even though TCM Party had been around since September 2011, I would not take part in my first TCM Party until December 22 2011. That night I live tweeted to The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), and Another Thin Man (1939). The first TCM Party I officially hosted was for Bedazzled (1967) on May 11 2012. Since then I have served as host of many TCM Parties. In March 2012 I was the TCM Party host (and translator as well) for the British New Wave movies aired on TCM each Monday night. And I think I am the default TCM Party host for every time Turner Classic Movies shows A Hard Day's Night (1964).

While I have enjoyed hosting TCM Parties, I think the real fun is simply being one of the participants in a TCM Party. My all time favourite TCM Party was on May 24 2013 when Turner Classic Movies aired The Loved One (1965) as part of their Second Looks series. Illeana Douglas, who hosted Second Looks, tweeted along with us and The Loved One is a fun movie to which to live tweet. It also happens to one of my favourite comedies of all time. I also have found memories of February 1 2014. In honour of the 75h anniversary of 1939, widely regarded as the greatest year in the history of American film, Turner Classic Movies showed Oscar nominees from the year all day long, including Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind. I think it was the most I have ever live tweeted in one day! I also enjoy live tweeting A Hard Day's Night every time it is on. It was especially fun when I was the Fan Favourite who got to introduce the film with Ben Mankiewicz.

Of course, the best thing about TCM Party is not so much being to live tweet favourite and not-so-favourite films with others, but the many friendships that develop through TCM Party. Through TCM Party I have made a number of friends, many of whom I feel closer to than people I have known in person. I know for a fact that I am not an exception. Not only have many TCM Partiers found close friends among other TCM Partiers, but I do believe a few marriages have even resulted from TCM Party! Anyway I want to thank everyone who has participated in TCM Parties over the years, and in particular the many friends I have made. I especially want to thank Paula, Trevor, and Joel for all their great work over the years!

On this fifth anniversary of TCM Party, I only have to say that I hope there will be TCM Parties going on for years and years to come. TCM Parties are among the most fun a classic film buff can have. Even when a particular film may not be that enjoyable, taking part in a TCM Party always is.

(special thanks to Paula Guthat and Will McKinley, whose chronicling of TCM collective live tweeting made this post possible)

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