Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 7pm
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Film Projection (But Were Afraid to Ask)

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Projection Instructions, Morgan Fisher, 1976, 16mm, 4 mins

“We notice the projectionist, as we notice projection itself, only when there is a technical problem. We are impatient with the projectionist to fix it, so we can resume being enthralled by the image. Projection Instructions consists only of a succession of written cards that are simultaneously read by the narrator. This text, written and spoken, is a set of instructions to the projectionist to manipulate the controls of the projector. Under ordinary circumstances this would be an egregious disruption of the film, but in this case only by doing so is the projectionist projecting the film correctly. ‘Normal’ projection would be a failed performance, as the audience can gather from the note addressed to the projectionist that begins the film. The note informs the projectionist that to project the film correctly he or she must follow the instructions that the film consists of. The film requires the projectionist to watch the film while projecting it, which ordinarily he or she seldom does, and to respond continuously to its demands. The disruptive acts that the projectionist must commit call attention to the machine that he or she controls, just as they also call attention to the projectionist. What the audience sees and hears is the interaction between the film’s image and sound, which together are a score, and the projectionist who performs it. The film is a performance work in which the score is visible while the performer is not. And the score, unlike most, changes in response to the performer’s performance of it.

Projection Instructions resembles ordinary movies in that it has a star; that star is the projectionist.”

- Morgan Fisher

This evening at Light Industry, following a presentation of Fisher’s piece, Spencer Christiano will provide an overview of the work that goes into film projection, a practice which is essential to the exhibition of motion pictures yet, as Fisher notes, largely invisible. His talk coincides with the release of The Art of Film Projection: A Beginner’s Guide, a handsome volume published by the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, where Christiano serves as Chief Projectionist. The book surveys the role’s myriad dimensions, including chapters on the film print (perforations, projection speed, aspect ratio, reel length), the projector (the projector mechanism, the picture head, the sound reader, the projector’s motor), screening environments (the booth, the screen, speakers), film inspection (the rewind bench, splices, shrinkage), pre-show preparations (threading the projector, mounting the reels, framing), final touches (gate tension, focus, masking), and of course the show itself, as well as information on the maintenance of the apparatus. There’s even a section dedicated to screening that most beautiful, rare, and—because of its extreme flammability—dangerous of film stocks: nitrate.

Beyond detailing the technical aspects of projection, the guide also advances an argument for the projectionist’s curatorial function. The care which should be put into the task is one of the most vital stages of film preservation; exhibited under the proper conditions, a print can survive unblemished after decades of screenings. Since the production of new prints is becoming more difficult with each passing year due to rising lab costs, the discontinuation of film stocks, and the challenges of obtaining quality negatives, the future of seeing films in their original format depends, in no small part, on the person who changes the reels, the star of our program.

Tickets - Pay-what-you-wish, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.