The Last Of London's Projectionists

By Stuart Black Last edited 36 months ago
The Last Of London's Projectionists

Until recently, cinema projectionists were like silent magicians conjuring new worlds out of the popcorn-scented darkness. Sadly, new technology has rendered the old ways obsolete as shown in these two London Shorts: Way Of The Dodo by Liam Saint-Pierre and Facts About Projection by Temujin Doran.

Liam Saint-Pierre told Londonist: “Way Of The Dodo was inspired after I found an old Super 8 projector back in 2011 and decided to get it repaired. As Ümit worked on the projector we quickly slipped into a conversation about the beauty of celluloid. It took regular visits to the shop for about a year before Ümit felt comfortable enough to allow me to begin to film. What started as a short interview ended in hours and hours of discussion, along with trips to film fairs and screenings. I hope Ümit's shop keeps going and that more people get to experience it. It’s hard with rents and rates going up, superstores move in and communities start to lose the things that give them an identity. Though I'm sure Ümit will keep going: if you love something as much as he does you always find a way.”

Temujin Doran told us: “I made this film while working as a projectionist at Screen on the Green. It was the first job I got when I moved to London, and really one of the best I've ever had. I made the film initially just to salute the job, but also because I knew that it could never last due to digitisation in cinemas.”

"I'd say that in some ways projection is in a sad state these days. It's almost all digital and entirely automated and most cinemas don't have a projectionist anymore. Instead films for entire cinema chains play from a kind of timer that's computer operated, and sometimes somewhere miles away from the actual cinema. Lots of projectionists were made redundant by this shift because cinemas thought they could save money. A few niche places do still thankfully employ projectionists, but in extreme cases cinema management just stopped caring about what was being shown or how well it was presented. Profits trumped all else, and that wouldn't come from ticket sales, but the mark-up from customers buying food and drink."

"Before the digitalisation and renovation to the cinema, Quentin Tarantino came to a screening of Kill Bill and reputedly said that Screen on the Green was his favourite cinema in London. Knowing his penchant for 35mm, and the fact that his favourite seat no longer exists, I do wonder what he'd make of it now."

If you want to see films projected like they used to be we recommend keeping an eye on Ciné-Real, which Liam Saint-Pierre runs with Ümit. It’s one of the only film clubs in the UK to exclusively play films in their original 16mm format. On 16 July the club is screening the mighty Sunset Boulevard at Wilton's Music Hall. Tickets £10.

Want to be featured? If you have a London-themed short film that you’d like us to consider for this series, send an email with the subject “London Shorts” to Stu Black and Ioanna Karavela via our email: londonshorts@londonist.com

To see other London Shorts click here.

Last Updated 22 May 2015