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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » Becoming A Projectionest... (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Becoming A Projectionest...
Andrew McCrea
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 645
From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 03-18-2001 09:14 AM      Profile for Andrew McCrea   Author's Homepage   Email Andrew McCrea   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
For all the projectionest out there...

Where'd you learn to become a projectionest? How can I learn how to operate a projector and the other booth equipment?

Do the unions teach you or will they?

Andrew McCrea

"I'm Not Bad, I'm Just Drawn That Way!" - Jessica Rabbit

Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9460
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 03-18-2001 10:57 AM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In most areas In Canada the unions (IATSE) offer apprentiship programs for candiates for membership
Most circuits train internally as well
It is basically a apprentiship approach even then since it is really hands on
In most areas one must be 18 to operate machinery under workman compensation laws
Hope that is helpfull

Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12859
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99

 - posted 03-18-2001 05:40 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Try this:

Get a job at a movie theater.

It worked for me. I worked doing all of the menial duties like being an usher, doing concession, and selling tickets in box office. Eventually one of the assistant managers taught me how to do projection because he didn't want to do it. We were supposed to be assistant manager level before we knew such stuff because we still had the union and they would work 5 days a week (1 union guy per theater). It eventually was known that I was running the booth, and no one seemed to care. Not even the union guys. Well most of the union guys anyway. I was promoted to assistant manager anyway and worked that job for awhile, which I will NEVER do again!

Eventually I took a job as projectionist at the non-union United Artists Theaters for awhile. I eventually came back to Mann and all of the union guys had been driven out of the booth by the evil scabs and made into "techs". They were just as lazy in that area as well. Now before anyone chimes in, I know "union" doesn't mean "lazy", but these particular fellows certainly were. They gave "union" a bad name. At least their main man, who we'll call "John" did.

But the moral of the story is it would be best to have an actual job to learn projection.

Ian Price
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1714
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 03-18-2001 06:56 PM      Profile for Ian Price   Email Ian Price   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I was working as an Assistant Manager for Landmark Theatres in 1986. We were using union projectionists who ran 2,000 foot reel to reel with carbon arc lamphouse. We then built a new theatre with xenon’s and platters, and then they renegotiated the contract with the Union so they ran only 40 hours per week and the managers ran the rest. The Union wouldn't train us so our city manager did the training. He told me that it would take two weeks to train me. He gave me two hours of instruction and that was all I got. The very next shift, I was on my own. But I learn all the time. I even got to run 70mm at that theatre. I have learned an extraordinary amount from my cinema technicians. I have helped install booths. I talked my way into being a projectionist for a 10-plex even thou I had only ran 2 projectors before. I went to work for a film festival as a manager until they insisted I become a projectionist for them.

Do I know it all? NO! Absolutely not.

But I'm still learning.

When you are 16 your local cinema can hire you. They will be eager to get you to work. But their insurance and worker's comp rules may not allow them to place you in the booth until you are 18.

Tim Reed
Better Projection Pays

Posts: 5244
From: Northampton, PA
Registered: Sep 1999

 - posted 03-18-2001 09:18 PM      Profile for Tim Reed   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
C'mon, guys! Let's not lead this young man down the primrose path!

First, let me say to everyone who might be offended by this, that I'm not knocking anyone or their job, or who they work for. Those of us who have been projectionists have all been there, and struggled with the way the business has evolved. I'm merely relating my experiences to someone who's at an impressionable age, and trying to save him his future.

Andrew, you look like you're about the age I was, when I decided I wanted to be a projectionist. Everything was still carbon arc and 20-minute reels then, it was very exciting! And it was hard for an awestruck youngster to even get IN a booth, much less learn how to operate one.

Luckily (or maybe un-luckily), I found a mentor who took me under his wing. Even then, he kept trying to talk me out of it; he knew the craft was on its way out. He was right. Several years later, I found myself desperately searching for a way to make a living, doing the only thing I knew.

Fortunately, I found I could still make a decent wage by becoming a sound service engineer, so I taught myself the electronics by reading books. At the present time, service work generally pays a liveable wage, but I can see the writing on the wall for that too, just like the projectionists 20 years ago.

There have been many times over the years that I wish I'd taken my mentor's advice and pursued one of my other dreams: to become an animator, or a streetcar conductor (just kidding about that last one).

So, the best advice I can give you is something I hope you will take to heart; if you must become a projectionist, do it only during your school years, while you are learning another profession. You can always get some used equipment and have your own booth at home, as a hobby. But don't rely on being a projectionist for a living, because you can't.

Life is too short. There's no point in getting involved in a field that has nothing to offer.

Please, save yourself while you can!

Better Projection Pays!

John Wilson
Film God

Posts: 5436
From: Sydney, Australia.
Registered: Dec 1999

 - posted 03-19-2001 01:15 AM      Profile for John Wilson   Email John Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sadly Tim, you are right.

"It's not the years,'s the mileage". Indiana Jones

Linda Learn
Film Handler

Posts: 16
From: Tunkhannock, PA, USA
Registered: Aug 2000

 - posted 03-19-2001 08:55 AM      Profile for Linda Learn   Author's Homepage   Email Linda Learn   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Too true Tim,in almost every technical field nowadays.
Andrew, you could start your life with another career, then found a non-profit to buy an old theater and demand to be the projectionist..... IS possible!


Phil Connolly
Film Handler

Posts: 80
From: Derby, England
Registered: May 2000

 - posted 03-19-2001 11:27 AM      Profile for Phil Connolly   Author's Homepage   Email Phil Connolly   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The best advice I could give would be to watch the movie "Cinema Paradiso".

Bob Maar
(Maar stands for Maartini)

Posts: 28608
From: New York City & Newport, RI
Registered: Feb 2001

 - posted 03-19-2001 03:08 PM      Profile for Bob Maar   Author's Homepage   Email Bob Maar   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Andrew, Do what Phil suggests, rent "Cinema Paradiso". Maintain your enthusium for what you believe in. It would great to do as Joe recommends, take a job in a cinema, learn as though you were going to live forever. Every job in the theatre has a purpose and somone need to do the job. Remember what it is like to sell tickets, tear tickets, usher people to seats,Learn how th hawk the lines, serve concessions, fill out the door report, the concession inventory, make up bank drops, clean a theatre. Carry film up to the booth. Put a film together, break film down. wipe down the projector. Cut out tear sheets, learn co-op advertising, one sheets, bill boards, booking, film buying, settlements. Yes it's a fabulous business. It's changing but you will have a foundation to build upon.
If you want to be a theatre owner be a good one.

Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9460
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 03-19-2001 08:02 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would also recomend renting
The projectionist
The smallest Show on Earth

John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 03-19-2001 09:34 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Andrew: Yes, technology does move on. The important thing is to learn HOW to learn, and always be open to learning new skills.

When I went to college, computers filled entire rooms, and we punched our FORTRAN code onto cards to program the computer. Today, there isn't much market for FORTRAN programmers, but many of those people still work in the computer industry because they were able to translate the logical thinking good programming requires to new programming languages, or to management skills.

I received my degree in Electronic Engineering in 1970. So long ago that vacuum tube theory was one of the courses. I recall one class where the professor passed around an integrated circuit chip, stating in awe that it had the equivalent of a few hundred transistors on it. Yet the communication theory, Maxwell's Theory, electron theory, solid state physics, logic, etc. I learned in other course still apply today. (And so do the economics, sociology, psychology, English Composition, and other courses that make up a "liberal" education).

Even the "hands on" skills you learn as a projectionist will translate to future careers. Unfortunately, today projection is sometimes treated as a minimum wage job that anyone "off the street" can do with a few hours training. Yet you can see from the others on Film-Tech that good projection is much more, and a good projectionist never stops learning. IMHO, contrary to the claims of "being run at the click of a mouse", future Digital Projection systems will require highly paid and skilled people to properly maintain them, just as computer networks today require skilled IT professionals. A person having the knowledge of optics, electronics, sound, and dare I say it, "Showmanship", that a good film projectionist has will have an advantage over a "computer geek", who only knows 1's and 0's.

So if you really love the movies, do become a projectionist, and a GOOD one. But also continue your formal education to gain skills that will translate into the careers of tomorrow, (whatever they may be).

One of the jobs I applied for after college was at Bell Labs, to work on the picture phone. Well, it took 30 years for the picture phone to happen on a large scale, but it's NOT a phone, but over the INTERNET, which itself was just a dream in 1970. And what remains of Bell Labs is now Lucent Technology, with many people who started working at Bell in 1970 long gone and moving on to different careers. So even getting into a "high tech" career is no guarantee of job security, but being willing and able to learn and adapt is.

Good luck, and as the ancient knight in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" said, "Choose Wisely".

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Eastman Kodak Company
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7419
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: 716-477-5325 Cell: 716-781-4036 Fax: 716-722-7243
Web site:

John Keegan
Film Handler

Posts: 26
From: Trevose, Pa Near Northeast Philadelphia USA.
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 03-20-2001 11:25 AM      Profile for John Keegan   Email John Keegan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The way I got started was rather interesting. I actually contacted some who posts of Film-Tech here and got my foot in to look at his theater. We started talking and told me of some open positions that were available. I filled out an application and after a while got an interview. The theater where I work is not union and becoming a projectionist there is pretty much an off the street job. They trained me right there and afterwards sent me up into the wild blue yonder by myself. I can't complain now since I know what I am doing, sort of. I am always learning new things, such as starting movies manually when the automation doesn't kick in. My advice would be to learn everything you can and don't give up, You never know where it will land you. I just happened to luck out and be in the right place at the right time. Good Luck.

Lee E. Burgess
Film Handler

Posts: 2
From: Glencoe, IL, USA
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 03-23-2001 08:39 AM      Profile for Lee E. Burgess   Author's Homepage   Email Lee E. Burgess   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What Tim and Linda say is right on. When I was your age, I wanted to be a projectionist and even had a mentor like Tim who trained me on the old 20 minute carbon arc Simplex-Strongs. But in Detroit (in the 60's), the union was father-son and I couldn't get in. I went on to many other things in life and as I got close to retirement, used my savings to buy and restore an old theatre. Now I'm the projectionist.

Andrew McCrea
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 645
From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 03-23-2001 04:49 PM      Profile for Andrew McCrea   Author's Homepage   Email Andrew McCrea   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I just got back from my trip to Saskatoon. It was a fun trip.

I've just been through the forums reading the latest posts.

I would just like to learn how to do it for a part time job.

I'm planning (when the time comes to go to university) on getting an MBA so I can do good on owning my own theatre chain. I also plan to get a degree in architecture cuz I love to draw buildings and I believe I'm quite good at it. This way, when I can expand my chain, I can do the blueprints my self!

Andrew McCrea

"I'm Not Bad, I'm Just Drawn That Way!" - Jessica Rabbit

Brad Miller

Posts: 17687
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 03-23-2001 05:13 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 

Check out the tips section here. Each booth uses different equipment, so the tips offered here won't be exactly the same as may be in your local theater...but at least you can see step by step how to build prints, thread the projector and such. I am working on a breakdown page currently.

Also, download the manuals and read them thoroughly. You will learn an amazing amount of things from them and most every piece of equipment in a booth is on the manuals page here.

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