Whether you have “Oscar Fever” or just love all manner of movies, TCM’s Ultimate Movie Trivia Game by Frank Miller is bound to keep your friends entertained for hours as you kill some time between the big awards ceremony or in between films.
Casablanca: As Time Goes By and Censored Hollywood: Sex, Violence and Sin in the Movies author Miller spoke to Conskipper about writing the questions for the new game, some of his favorite categories, and some definite cult classics in this exclusive interview.
How did you get involved with TCM’s Ultimate Movie Trivia Challenge?
Frank Miller: I worked for Turner Broadcasting from 1983-1992 and had a lot of good responses to my writing and my knowledge about movies. I left to write Casablanca: As Time Goes By for them, and they’ve kept sending me freelance work since then. Mostly, I work for TCM. I’ve done a few more books for them, written articles for the web page and written the movie descriptions for the TCM Classic Film Festival. I’d done brief trivia quizzes for them in the past, and they recommended me to Running Press for this.
Have you always been interested in trivia as a film fan and author?
Miller: I think I got through puberty by obsessing about the movies. I wore out some of the local library’s books on film and then started buying books of my own. I did all my college work in theater, but I kept up with movies and film lore. I’ve even written academic papers on film. I’m fascinated with the way film interacts with its culture. And, of course, as a theater teacher, I’ve been happy to show my students the ways theater and film intersect. Since there’s always this sometimes unstated, sometimes very open rivalry between theater and film departments, I particularly love showing how most of what’s done on screen originated in the theater: closeups, tracking shots, montage, special effects. Theater did it first. And the theater is always in 3D, without any special glasses.
How did you decide on the categories for the game?
Miller: It was a mutual decision with the editors at Running Press. We could have gone with film genres, but that can be a very subjective choice. Going by the roles people play in production (directors, leading men, leading women, behind the scenes, supporting players) was pretty obvious then. So was the focus on great films. I suggested cult films so we could include people with more esoteric tastes, the fans of TCM Underground.
In terms of research, how much came from your own knowledge and how much from research?
Miller: Maybe a quarter came off the top of my head, though I checked everything. I started with my own lists of favorite movies and performances to get ideas for subjects. Then I went to the Oscar nominations through the years. For cult movies, I used the Wikipedia listing of cult films, which is pretty exhaustive.
Was there any piece of trivia that surprised you or that you believed was false?
Miller: There was a tidbit about Rin Tin Tin, the canine star, that threw me for a loop. I started checking and found it backed up in a book about him and a New York Times article, so I’ll bow to their fact-checkers. I tried questions out on my friends, and a music teacher I know quarreled with a question about film scoring, but I found a quote from the composer on the BBC’s website that confirmed my answer.
Which was your favorite category and why?
Miller: I love cult movies, the weirder the better. I watch a lot of horror films and get a kick out of really finding obscure gems on the streaming services. I tried to keep up with films that are acknowledged to have cult followings, but I still got into some weird items like The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
Miller: Right now I’m just catching my breath and trying to keep up with my other freelance assignments. I’d love to do a study of Dario Argento’s films. His pictures fascinate me, and who wouldn’t love Four Flies on Grey Velvet, the film that made Fran Lebowitz give up her job as a movie critic? I’d also love to do another trivia deck. If people really like this one, maybe they’ll let me do Son of TCM’s Ultimate Movie Trivia Challenge.
TCM’s Ultimate Movie Trivia Game is currently available at your local bookstore.