Lights. Camera. Fan Interaction!
Meet Yacov Freedman, the face of Turner Classic Movie’s official fan-club: TCM Backlot. From covering a rocket launch to working with classic movie fans, Yacov has had quite the career here at Turner.
In this edition of Turner's “Hello, My Name Is…” a self-proclaimed Star Wars nut shares his adventures while working Turner.
TurnerNow (TN): What’s your name and role at Turner?
Yacov Freedman (YF): Yacov Freedman. I’m a senior manager with TCM Enterprises & Strategic Partnerships.
TN: How long have you have been with Turner?
YF: Seven years – four as a producer with HLN and the last three at TCM. It’s been a blast.
TN: We heard you run Backlot, TCM’s official fan club. Tell us more about Backlot, what makes it so special and your role in running it.
YF: Backlot is wild because it brings fans into the world of TCM by allowing members to help determine programming, attend special events (including TCM’s first-ever public studio tours), watch rare footage, and gain insight into how TCM is run. We also are giving the classic film community a way to get together IRL (in real life), as the kids say… or at least they said that ten years ago.
My role is to be a curator of Backlot content, which means I run contests, plan events, publish videos and articles, and communicate with fans. It’s a very forward-facing role, because we want Backlot members to have someone present at TCM that they can reach with questions or suggestions.
I’ve gotten to know TCM fans from across the continent, and it’s remarkable how warm and close-knit the community is.
TN: What’s the most interesting part of your job?
YF: In addition to meeting the fans, Backlot allows me to work with every department at TCM and FilmStruck – from production to finance to marketing to digital to PR to programming to creative to talent to business development and beyond. Backlot is a big project, and there’s no way one person can do it all, so thankfully everyone at TCM contributes. In fact, one of our most popular contests, where fans pitch us concepts for an event in their hometown, was an idea that came straight from the top, from our GM Jennifer Dorian. I’m lucky that I get to interact with all the talented people at TCM – and to put a spotlight on their work, as well.
TN: What impact do you feel you’ve made at Turner?
YF: At HLN, I wrote a lot of goofy banners and lower-third headlines, and I was always amazed when they made it on the air. I like to think that I helped make the news a little flashier, a little funnier, a little more eye-catching. I still can’t look at a story without trying to figure out the best possible headline.
For TCM, I’m always pushing for more fan interaction, to get our viewers involved and invested in the network as much as possible.
For example, I started a fun program for Backlot where fans can start local chapters in cities around the country. They self-organize, get together for screenings and events, and tell other people about TCM. It’s a very old-school fan club concept, but the fans have proven to be amazing ambassadors for the network, and we’re constantly looking for new opportunities to make them part of the TCM story.
TN: What does innovation mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your role?
YF: Television is evolving beyond a one-sided presentation, and my main goal is to help create a two-way conversation between the network and our viewers. It’s not easy – we have to be more transparent, more flexible and more responsive.
Instead of asking folks to invite us into their living rooms, we should be inviting them into our workspace. Because the benefits are huge.
We can’t recapture the glory days of appointment television, but we can create something more meaningful, like community and friendships.
TN: What is the most memorable moment you’ve had working at Turner?
YF: Oh, I’ve had a bunch. At HLN, I got to meet my all-time favorite filmmaker, George Miller, during a segment I produced for Jane Velez-Mitchell. Jane is a strong animal-rights activist, and George was promoting “Happy Feet Two” (this was a few years before he blew everyone away with “Fury Road”), so it was a natural fit. And talking with George for a few minutes afterwards was the thrill of a lifetime.
I did a ton of fun shoots when I was at “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” but probably the coolest one was when I went to Florida with meteorologist Bob Van Dillen to cover a rocket launch from an Air Force base. Bob is hilarious, but he’s also a true scientist, so our live shots that morning were exciting, entertaining and educational. I sure learned a lot, anyway. And the rocket launch itself was awesome. Even from a mile away, we really felt the force of that ignition. I remember my glasses rattling.
And on the last TCM Classic Cruise, my colleague Kristen Welch came up with a great idea for a movie trivia tournament for Backlot members. I organized groups of trivia buffs as they played against each other, with the last team standing facing off against a team of ringers from TCM. It was a nail-biter and came down to the final question, but Team TCM pulled off the win – and I had a lot of fun doing my best Guy Smiley impression in the role of hammy game show host.
TN: What is your favorite Turner show and why?
YF: “Robot Chicken.” Action figures, pop-culture references and totally juvenile humor – it’s like they made a show just for me.
TN: What are your interests outside of work?
YF: I know this sounds cliché for a TCM employee to say, but my favorite thing to do is see a movie, especially in the theater.
I like watching movies, showing movies to my kids, reading about movies, talking about movies, and when I’m feeling disciplined, writing about movies.
I’m also a hardcore, unapologetic Star Wars nut, and I keep up with that fandom on a daily basis. And I love playing cards. I’m pretty good at gin and cribbage; but if you want to win some money, invite me to a poker game.
TN: What is the best thing about working at Turner?
YF: You’re encouraged to take risks and think beyond your role. Even at TCM, which is rightfully protective of its brand, we’re constantly brainstorming and finding ways (and budget) to execute new ideas. I’ve worked for other companies and trust me, that attitude is not the norm.