TCM Sets the Mood with Image Spots

Turner Classic Movies aims to capture the flavor of vintage cinema in a batch of new on-air image/ID spots that are something akin to film shorts.

The newly crafted interstitials are "really atmospheric, almost mini-movies," said TCM executive vice president and general manager Tom Karsch, who added that the promos are "striving to be very different from those in the past." Prior efforts specifically stressed films.

The new, more intellectual batch of 11 branding promos —titled "Artists & Poets" and set in a so-called "TCM city" — set the mood through a combination of striking visuals and actors reading poems or other literary works.

Nearly all the spots are filmed in black and white, in keeping with a TCM lineup that's 60 percent monochromatic, according to Karsch.

Each spot opens with an animated sequence that depicts a car driving down a darkened street. The phrase "Life in the TCM City" is revealed as the vehicle passes over the pavement; each spot's title is featured at an intersection.

In the closing animation sequence, headlights and shadows pass over a building front that bears the TCM logo.

The "TCM city" concept — largely inspired by the film noir genre — was created by on-air group head, vice president and creative director Shannon Davis Forsyth, Karsch said.

One spot features a quotation about heroes from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Notebook" against a Civil War battle scene, while another quotes from Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel" against a Bowery background.

Another features Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart footage and the song "As Time Goes By," as Rebecca De Mornay reads a Bergman movie line about "a kiss."

Forsyth's group culled the images from stock footage, as well feature films and shorts from the TCM library. Spots range from 45 seconds to 81 seconds in length.

"The beauty for us is that we don't live in a 30-second or 60-second world," Karsch explained. "We don't have commercials and our only [promotion] breaks are between films, so we can create spots for as long as they need to be."

The campaign will have a long shelf life, he said, indicating that the new spots would run through next year.

Two new sets of TCM interstitials — "Hollywood In My Hometown" and "What a Character" — tend to be more lighthearted and information-driven, said Karsch. To date, TCM has completed three Hometown featurettes and eight installments of Character, which run four to five minutes long. Several more of each are in the works.

The interstitials will appear between TCM feature presentations and can serve as lead-ins to related films. For example, Hometown's "John Ford Country" — which explore the director's use of Utah's scenic Monument Valley in his Westerns — will air before such Ford films as Fort Apache.

"What a Character" — the full-color introduction that depicts an amusement park photo booth with such button selections as "villains," "tough cookies" and "mugs" — will profile actors such as William Demarest, Hattie McDaniel and William Frawley.