Features and Columns · Movies

A Love Letter to On-Screen Projectionists

DO pay attention to that man behind the curtain!
Cinema Paradiso Projectionists
By  · Published on September 9th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that spotlights projectionists appearing on screen in movies.

There is an inherent drama in seeing a film projected. A certain added element of artistry and risk that breathes activity into an increasingly automated profession. When a film is projected by a person, rather than a computer, it infuses irrefutable energy into the room. This is a print whose unique damage, history, and peculiarities are in someone’s hands. Suddenly, a prayer more at home in live theatre emerges: please, let it all go smoothly. Let the changeovers be seamless, may the sound be in-synch, and let the splices hold true.

This is, of course, a very romantic way to talk about film projection. And if you’ve spent any time on Film Twitter (god help you) you’ll know that waxing poetic on the ephemeral virtues of the “movie theater experience” is contentious, to say the least. No one asked me, but here are my two cents: everyone ought to have the opportunity to see films exhibited in whichever format they prefer. Of course, in the case of projected films, such idealism comes with two massive and unfortunate caveats. First: the ongoing pandemic has complicated the very notion of seeing a film in a theater — projected or otherwise. Second: well before the pandemic, the status of film projection was as an increasingly arcane art reserved for repertory cinemas and galleries.

So, in light of these two massive bummers, excuse the romanticism. And join in, with this video collage extolling the many, many cinematic representations of that noblest profession: the projectionist. From spliced-in obscenities to nitrate fires, to invading monsters, to booth-bound rendezvous, there is no shortage, on-screen anyway, of men behind the curtain.

Watch “Do Pay Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain“:

Who made this?

Established in 1981 and focusing on arthouse films, De Filmkrant is the largest independent film magazine in the Netherlands. You can check out their official website (in Dutch) here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.