Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is There Anybody Out There?

The first fatalities of cinema’s digital metamorphosis are dropping all around the world. From Deli to Dublin, Hollywood to Helsinki, projectionists are being rubbed out, en masse. This has not come as a surprise to us, as this digital revolution has been on our particular horizon for at least a decade. Most multiplexes you now visit are automated. There is nobody anymore watching your backs from above. Sure, somebody will (eventually) come running should you have cause to complain, but you are ultimately at the mercy of the IT specialist and his firmware.

The IFI  is a particular exception. The nature of an institute and archive is that we have to be able to facilitate all formats. This includes digital in all its forms, such as Digibeta, DVD, Bluray and DCP. And indeed film, whether it be 8, 16, 35 or 70mm. Such places throughout the globe will become the last talent pool for our particular skill set. 

So, then, it is a skill, but is it art? Projectionists often talk about film the way sailors talk about the sea, as an unpredictable heartbreaker you could easily drown in. Every one of us have war stories to share and scars to show. But it’s not just about the skill:  it’s the caring. If it is an art, I think that’s where it lies.  Projectionisim may be my job, but I love cinema, and I endeavour to bring a personal touch whenever possible. How is that possible?All you’re doing is sticking on the movie. 

Well, a recent example of this would the The Artist. Our programme begins with the screen opening to full size to show you the trailer for War Horse in Cinemascope (I think we are the only cinema in Dublin that tries to run trailers in their proper format. It’s not always possible to run them this way, for technical reasons, but ideally there really should be no black bars on movie screens). The lens on the projector changes, our masking closes halfway for the obligatory adverts and remaining trailers. In The Artist’s case, we have a surprise, when the masking closes further to the film’s original aspect ratio there’s Casablanca: a brand new glorious preview of the forthcoming 70th anniversary re-release. Then, the lights dim completely, the volume rises and our feature begins...

All of the above is done by hand. As is every show in all our screens. We may not get it perfect each time, but know this: there is still somebody up there watching over you, and they love cinema just as much as you do.

Paul Markey
IFI Projectionist


  1. Well said, and much appreciated, from one of those 'out there'.

  2. Nice to know...keep up the good work !

  3. I went to go see The Artist today, my first film at the IFI, but I was too late, I'll go sometime next week though! Good to know that there is actually someone up there!

  4. Question: When you show 70mm to you use "changeovers" or is the film on a platter or tower? Keep up the good work - its nice to know there are some projectionists left in Dublin. Its so sad that all the dedicated film projectionists have lost their jobs.