Tiffany Vazquez will never forget the phone call she received at the beginning of 2016 from Turner Classic Movies vice-president of production, Sean Cameron, offering the 29-year-old Brooklyn classic film fan a rare opportunity.
“Sean asked if I would be interested in becoming the new daytime host at TCM on Saturdays,” said Vazquez from New York. “Then he joked, ‘OK, just wondering if you were interested – I’m not really offering it!’ But he really was.”
Vazquez was speechless.
“I wasn’t even aware they were looking for someone let alone that I was being considered,” she recalled. “I didn’t really have any words other than to just laugh-cry into the phone.”
Vazques was hardly unknown to the station. In 2014, she won the TCM Ultimate Fan Contest, having submitted a 90-second video of herself introducing the film noir classic, “The Naked City.” She later discussed the film on-air with veteran host Robert Osborne. She was soon invited to be a guest on TCM Spotlight segments, and was even recruited as a roving reporter at the last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival.
Several months elapsed from the phone call to her first official on-air broadcast as host on June 4, last year.
“Initially TCM didn’t know exactly when I would start because there was a lot to plan,” she said. “So I wasn’t allowed to say anything. It was hard keeping the news to myself and not even telling family or friends for a while.”
Vazquez signed a contract with TCM, although she says she can’t reveal its duration. Her primary duties involve taping short film commentaries for broadcast before and after the showing of Saturday movies.
These “intros” and “outros” are rarely used by today’s cable movie channels, but have become a popular TCM feature.
“I record three months of work at a time and do all the taping in about three days,” explained Vazques. “TCM sends me the list of movies I’ll be introducing as well as the scripts. I look them over and am free to make changes. I try to view all the movies, but that’s 48 films to watch in a short amount of time. Some I’ve seen before, some are
online, and rarer ones I might find on VHS at the New York University library or can be provided by TCM. Then I practice at home, before going to the studio.”
But rehearsing her lines privately isn’t quite the same as being surrounded by a crew in a busy network studio.
“The first few times were a bit overwhelming,” she admitted. “You’ve got producers, and lighting and camera people on the set – probably 15-20 people watching, and you wonder what they think of you. But fortunately, all the TCM people are incredibly nice and helpful.”
She says she just has to clear the voices in her head and enjoy the amazing opportunity to introduce movies.
“I find myself getting more comfortable on camera with every shoot. I just hope when people watch me, they see someone like themselves who genuinely loves classic movies.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 600 magazines and newspapers. See www.tinseltowntalks.com