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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Hey you, you suck! (AKA: Outing bad film handlers) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Hey you, you suck! (AKA: Outing bad film handlers)
Brad Miller

Posts: 17775
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 03:59 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
I've had it with sloppy "projectionists". Enough is enough. It's time to start "outing" bad theaters. Get your cameras ready and put that upload feature to good use. I'll start.

Hey Writers Guild of America screening room in Los Angeles, YOU SUCK!

Tonight I got the pleasure of receiving a film that played in your screening room. Just so there is no confusion, it was Miramax's "Frida" and the print came couried from YOU! Let's take a look.

Here we have reel 1 of "Frida" as it arrived. Note the awesome wind this print has! Clearly the Writer's Guild has a cheap platter that does not provide proper backtension and an incompetent operator. Don't see a problem? Let's take a closer look...

See the problem now? Yes indeedy, whoever broke this print down had the utmost concern for proper film handling and knew there was no way such a sloppy wind could possibly get damaged in transport to the next theater.

Selma Hayek doesn't seem too happy to have her face slit in half by this gaping green emulsion scratch. And to think, all this time I had no idea the Writer's Guild of America had colorization services!

Lookie, lookie! The scratches get worse as the reel plays. Here you can see that fabulous green scratch from the picture above, but that scratch now has friends...and they are all gathering on this fine print of Frida to have a party.

So you're saying to yourself "wow, they really trashed that print. I wonder if they got any complaints?" My guess is no. This damage appears to be breakdown damage. After all, they were never going to play this print again, so why in the hell would they possibly give a shit about the next guy, right? RIGHT! Here we see a perfect quality masking tape splice.

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Brad Miller

Posts: 17775
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 04:01 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Since the forum program has a limit of 8 pictures per post, I will now continue the analysis of this print of Frida...

And here we are at the end of that reel. Just look at the care that went into this fine example of a breakdown. Not only were TWO identification frames chopped for no good reason whatsoever, but they have also managed to destroy another THREE! Yes, masking tape is definitely THE way to go for a quality breakdown.

But it doesn't stop there. Take a look at this shot. This was about 3-4 feet from the end of a reel. What could've caused that? Why letting the leader slap around on the floor or on the rewind bench without protective leaders, of course. But again it's no big deal. This theater will never have to run this print again, right?

This is a shot about a foot from the beginning of reel 4. Clearly this theater built the print onto large reels AND CHOPPED THE LEADERS OFF WHEN THEY DID causing these magnificent hub scratches for the last foot of the reel. Notice how this frame captures the end of the scratch marks where the unprotected film was wrapped around the hub of the reel and got damaged. Now what am I complaining about? This is easily fixed! All that has to be done is to chop off a foot or so of the offending frames and VOILA, no more scratches!

Yes indeedy, this theater cares a LOT about the prints they run. Just look at the GENEROUS amount of tape they used to "secure" the leaders to the reels. I might note that only 2 of the 6 reels were actually still taped down upon opening the cans. But again, that's just leader, so who cares?

(By the way, I am convinced that eating KFC while handling film is a policy in this booth. Never have I seen such greasy fingerprints all over the leaders!)

And finally I will close with an interesting picure of how the tail leader was chopped off for no apparent reason. Jack Valenti himself would be proud to see his rating band so meticulously preserved.

And did I mention that EVERY one of their "splices" had the soundtrack crossed? To the projectionist of the Writers Guild of America screening room...YOU SUCK!


I will report the quality of the replacement print if it is not in acceptable condition. Unfortunately I will not have the luxury of "outing" a specific theater for any damage, as it is coming from the TES depot, so any damage will be directed at their "integrity inspectors". I requested a new print that had not been played before, but I got the bad feeling that Technicolor only has used prints available of this title. I'm sure it will be "integrity inspected" though, so obviously I have no worries.

To Miramax, please always make it a point to send your junk prints to this theater. Save the rest of our presentations, please!

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Glenda Cockrum
Film Handler

Posts: 58
From: Monaca, PA, USA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 10-27-2002 09:36 AM      Profile for Glenda Cockrum   Email Glenda Cockrum   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well Brad welcome to our world, the world of second run houses; the print you have posted is how many (if not most) prints we receive come , although vey few have had all the problems you have on one print! But there are usually combinations of these nasties within every print received. On the rare occasion we have a print come from another reel to reel house the differences are very obvious, head and tails were they should be; trailers attached properly, and very little in the way of "gobs" of masking tape. Maybe because reel to reel houses have an easier time breaking down prints back to shipping reels, maybe because reel to reel people know how frustrating setting up can be for smaller houses, maybe just because reel to reel folks are more likley to be owner/ operators that seem to care more? I don't know, but this is something we are always expecting to be part of our normal set up procedures. Rick always allows about an hour to an hour and a half to check and set up our shows on Thursday nights just to cover these problems and knows he will have to check every splice, trailer, etc. It is sad to see this from what should be a first class house. There is no solution to this, we just keep going and try our best to give our customers the best presentation we can with what we are given. Glenda Cockrum

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Ray Brown
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 111
From: Dayton, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2002

 - posted 10-27-2002 10:27 AM      Profile for Ray Brown   Author's Homepage   Email Ray Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We are in the same boat as Glenda. When you work at a little small town single screen house, you can pretty much expect trashed prints.

Our copy of XXX was a good example. Reel 4 had 3 splices within the first 4 minutes. Halfway thru the reel there was about 3 feet that looked like it had been steped on. The whole reel was scratched up and had blurred spots. The entire print had scratches thru out.

The main thing we try to do is to ship them out in as good of shape as we got them or better. If they come in with masking tape holding the leaders and tails on, they go out with single side tape splices in frame. We also put the TES paper bands on even if they are totally worthless.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8146
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 10:34 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Brad--not to defend this kind of sloppy film handling in any way, but is it possible that the Writers Guild of America screening room rejected this print outright and that the damage isn't their fault? I have a hard time believing that any type of screening room would have either a platter or such an incompetent operator; I also can't believe that they would use zebra tape. The 1" square of tape (ripped--not even cut with a pair of scissors) holding the end together is classic!

Glenda is absolutely right that many second-run and repertory prints come in this sort of shape. Sad. I do, however, think that Glenda and Rick would be very happy to receive any of the prints that I've shipped out of platter houses. I do use single-sided splices to re-attach the leaders, but all that should be necessary is to add another piece of splicing tape to the head and tail and confirm the position of the cue marks. I (and pretty much everyone else with any degree of common sense) also use either the reel bands or a nice, long strip of tape labelled with "R1 - HEAD" or something similar (and _not_ both) to hold the film on the reel during shipping. Lately, I've adopted Brad's suggestion of adding 20' of clear leader to the tail of the last reel when making up prints for platter use. The problem isn't with platters but with operators who are either lazy, stupid, or poorly trained. I don't claim to be perfect, but "film done right" really isn't much more difficult than "film done very wrong."

On the topic of reel bands: what do people do if the string catch is damaged? I've been using tape as a replacement for the string to hold the band together, but that doesn't feel right somehow. Almost invariably this will happen on at least one reel of every print with brand-new TES reel bands. This doesn't happen with the high-quality reel bands made of thick cardboard with real string.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7474
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 10-27-2002 11:06 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree that we have to recognise the difference between people who don't care and those that do but do not have the technical resources to put on an ideal presentation. The latter need help and support; the former need outing.

So... for all UK readers, if you're even thinking about going to see a film at the Odeon, Wimbledon, I have one word of advice - don't. I have had a string of shite presentation experiences over the last few years there when I've been visiting friends and relatives in that bit of south London where I grew up. The most recent one I described in the 'cinemas on the verge of closure' topic in Film Yak. The place is a run-down old fleapit which should not be accepting people's money any more. Admittedly, not quite as bad as the Princess in Watseka, but not far off it.

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

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

 - posted 10-27-2002 12:03 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
To the projectionist at the Writers Guild of America Screening Room LA who is responsible for that print:

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Frank Angel
Film God

Posts: 5305
From: Brooklyn NY USA
Registered: Dec 1999

 - posted 10-27-2002 01:38 PM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Of course all the posts above are right on the money and as a member of the SATP (Subrun after the Playoff) club, I agree. And Brett's idea of outing these incompetent imbeciles is brilliant. And getting the information back to the distrib is also important. Seems to me that the studio has a vested interest in stopping this kind of damage, especially on titles that may still have additional play left in them.

Scott, you are a trusting soul. I am not. I have see what can come out of the so-called prestigious houses, and you can find the same kind of damage from any theatre that has made the conscious decision to ignore what goes on in the booth, because skilled craftsmen cost more than inexperienced, unskilled minimum wage labor. If you've put such a worker in the booth, that means you don't give a flying whoha about quality in your OWN theatre, is it any surprise that you couldn't give a rat's ass about what happens to the next theatre down the line?

I have been in the booth of one of the most prestigious art theatres in New York -- The Anthology Film Archives. Oh, if I only had secreted away a camera to show the world what a pigsty this place is and what filth their so-called "archive" condition the prints are subjected to. The fact that they collect huge amounts of money by purporting that they are a bastion of film care and preservation can only be fraud based on what I have seen in their booth, because those donations and grants are not going to running a booth with even the minimum of good operating practices, let alone the kind of highest quality you would expect from an operation that claim the lofty ideals of the Anthology.

Operations like these need to be outed.


PS I have absolutely no affiliation with the Anthology -- never worked for them (and never will). I am not a disgruntled employee. I know of the conditions because a projectionist who is a friend of mine worked there and I was invited up to the booth on a few occasions only to be appalled and disillusioned about what I always thought was a first class art house operation (which shows excellent marking and image-making on their part....too bad they don't spend as much energy on film care). My union projectionist friend, one of the most conscientious projectionist I know, after a year of trying to get management to clean up the mess, quit in total disgust. They hired a non-union man to replace him.

I say out ANY theatre that does this kind of thing to prints.

PPS Brad, maybe we should have a YOU SUCK Forum just for outing the bad guys.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 01:50 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm with Glenda and Ray. When we get used prints, which is the case about 95% of the time, it is a given that each print will have at least several of the problems listed above, along with busted reels.

We are currently running Sweet Home Alabama. Every reel had its tail chopped off out of frame, and it has little green scratches along one edge throughout one reel (replacement is on the way but not here yet).

Last week we had The Tuxedo. The DTS disks were scratched and would not play properly.

I could go on but you get the idea. If every 2nd-run theatre was to send pictures of the film damage received, this site would probably crash from overloading within one week.

Clearly there are a lot of meatheads out there masquerading as film handlers.

As for the reel bands: If the string is missing, I tape them together at the end, but I do not tape the bands to the film itself. I always use a nice long 4" strip of tape to hold the film, if there is no band.

All prints that we ship out go with single-sided splices, in frame. (and they've been thoroughly Film-Guarded!)

No food of any kind, fried chicken or otherwise, is allowed in our booth. That includes popcorn.

I'm not claiming perfection here, but dammit, it's a goal worth shooting for!

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Ray Brown
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 111
From: Dayton, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2002

 - posted 10-27-2002 03:36 PM      Profile for Ray Brown   Author's Homepage   Email Ray Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We are currently running Sweet Home Alabama. Every reel had its tail chopped off out of frame, and it has little green scratches along one edge throughout one reel (replacement is on the way but not here yet).

Sweet Home Alabama was an exception for us. Definetly came from a theater that cares.

Another note on the XXX print. The DTS disks and reels 1 & 2 came in a 4 reel can. Both sides of reel one (TES translucent) were broken completely off. Luckily the film was wound tight on the core so it didn't come loose and string out in the can.

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Brad Miller

Posts: 17775
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 03:39 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Scott, I cannot say 100% for sure, but if that is what really happened, then the projectionist of that place is welcome to come aboard here and explain what happened. I am almost positive though that if a theater outright rejects an entire print that it is TES policy to return that entire print straight back to the depot so that it may be fully inspected, and not just send it along to another theater which is what happened.

I must now point my finger in shame to you Scott. I HATE theaters who "cut" the splices with a splicer or scissors. If the breakdown theater is too lazy to take the time to peel the tape off or is too rushed to meet a pickup to do so, the proper way IS to tear the splices. Now let me explain why. By tearing the splices instead of re-cutting them, the original splicer cuts are not damaged and the next theater only has to peel the last guy's tape off. Using scissors or re-cutting the splice will almost always end up damaging the integrity of the cuts. Once a sliver off of the cuts are accidentally "trimmed" by another chop of the splicer blade or scissors, then commonly 2 more frames must be cut off to make a good overlap or butt splice (depending on how you make splices).

In general, yes I know this is how things are in the used and second run world, and if everyone starts posting these sort of examples, then maybe the depots and studios will wake up and start enforcing some minimum standards. Just make sure you put enough information for the post to be useful to the studios and the depots to catch these guys. If the posts cause the server to explode, then fine. I'll build 2 more servers and keep it running.

I see more damage on breakdowns sometimes than from incompetent monkey threaders themselves. So sad. The biggest offender I see with used prints is masking or Artist tape "splices". I see this all the time and I have two theories on this.

Theory #1 The projectionist at the theater uses cheap splicing tape that does not peel well and "thinks" he is helping the next guy, when in reality what commonly happens is that edge damage (like shown above) occurs.

Theory #2 The projectionist has a Strong platter (or platter with similar thought put into the design of it's makeup table). These tables have no place to put a splicer. They are basically BEGGING their operators to just masking tape the leaders back onto the film. Shame!

In regards to the paper bands, if the string is gone or has been cut (I see this all the time on brand new prints from TES), then to hell with it. They go in the trash. The string is part of the bands and if the string is not there then the band is defective. As was mentioned above, a minimum 4 inch piece of tape should be required when there is no band.

By the way, that's Frida print #8 and from all signs this was the first theater where the leaders had been cut. (Quite possible it was ran reel to reel a few times. That would explain the nasty leaders a bit more.)

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David Stambaugh
Film God

Posts: 4021
From: Eugene, Oregon
Registered: Jan 2002

 - posted 10-27-2002 04:41 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Can I interject? The basic problem [obviously] seems to be that there's no accountability at the exhibitor level for what happens to a print while it's in their custody. Why couldn't the distributors include a pre-printed form or simple log booklet with every print? The form could be numbered to match the print number. Everything of consequence that happens to that print is entered on that form: The location, the number of showings, start and end run dates there, and the initials of the person(s) responsible for building it up and breaking it down. And of course any mishaps are noted. The form (or log book or whatever it is) follows the print its entire life. The point of this would be to instill some accountability. Obviously if there's no accountability, uncaring film handlers know they will never be held responsible for the damage they've caused, so why should they give a damn?

Is this completely unworkable in the real world? I suppose so. One scenario is you trash the print but don't log it. The next location discovers the damage but no corresponding log entry. Now it's their word against the previous handler. OK, I guess I answered my own question. Never mind.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6539
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 10-27-2002 05:01 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This shit is par for the course in my neck of the woods too.

I make it a point to speak to all of my distributors on the phone, in person, and tell them that I take extra good care of prints and that I don't appreciate the way others send film to me. I even ask their permission to use FilmGuard on their prints if they are not just your average run-of-the-mill movie. (Not ONE person has denied me yet!)

Even though I know there's zero chance of it ever happening, I always extend our distributors the invitation to visit our booth any time we are "open for business". Just the sheer mention of it seems to get the idea across to them that we mean business.

(PS: The same invitation applies to Film-Techers too! )

Given enough time for it to "soak in", FG will erase just about all of the marks you showed in your picture... All except for the ones that go into the emulsion.

If you'll remember, Brad, I e-mailed you once to ask your advice on a print that was caked with dirt so badly that I thought it had been taken out and dragged through the parking lot. Three or four trips through the cleaner and a healthy dose of FG cleared that print right up!

EVERY print that leaves this theatre is in BETTER condition than it was when we got it. BAR NONE!

We are getting to the point, now, that we can talk the distributors into sending us a few of their one-of-a-kind prints that they won't let out to other places. (Again, I alway ask before FilmGuarding these prints... never been denied!)

Almost every single print that we get has something wrong with it! I truly, honestly, think I should get PAID for cleaning up these crappy, fucked-up prints! It's only a small consolation that we can get some prints they won't let others have.

The only "good" thing I can say about getting crapped-up prints is that when you get a good one, it's a breeze! My Work Study student this year wants to become a projectionist in his local theatre when he goes home for the summer. I tell him, "If you stick with me for the rest of the year, by the time you learn how to deal with all the fucked-up prints we get, you'll be able to walk into that theatre (Regal) and put all the other guys to shame right from the get-go!"

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John Hawkinson
Film God

Posts: 2273
From: Cambridge, MA, USA
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 10-27-2002 05:45 PM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
(chorus: of course we see this too...)

I used to think that something along Dave's suggestion would never work, and I suppose I still think that may be the case. But it also seems possible to draw a distinction between "accidental" damage and "pure neglect."

While it's certainly not Film Done Right, when a scratch is added to a print because someone has misthreaded, or there's a burr somewhere that no one knew about, etc., etc., it is extremely unfortunate, but it is still understandable. You can imagine how it happened. Maybe the projectionist wasn't as careful as they should have been, but they haven't totally lost it.

Then there's a whole 'nother category. Leaders double-cut and miss-cut, cues Done Wrong, and the kinds of serious damage that Brad shows above. There's no excuse for that. It's not like someone has made an honest mistake.

With the existing system, of course, the thing to do is to report these problems to the exchange and the studio buyer/booker, and hope that they followup with the previous theatre and make progress. This only works if everybody does it, though. It would be nice to have some sort of form or log or other incentive/inducment to remind projectionists to complain about these problems, since I think many of them get swept under the rug or ignored.

Scott and Brad, there seems to be some confusion about the 1" square of tape. I don't think Scott was suggesting that splices on the print should be broken with scissors, but rather that the paper tape should be cut with a pair of scissors coming off of the roll. But I don't know why Scott would suggest that, there's nothing wrong with tearing tape off of a roll (not splicing tape, of course!). I mean, sure, most people use a piece of technology called a tape dispenser, but there's nothing wrong with doing otherwise.

I see a huge number of prints where the strings on the bands are nonexistant, or are 3" long. The vast majority of our banded reels are that way. Yes, I tape them back on. I do think the paper bands provide a reasonable level of protection, and certainly taping them on does no harm.

Brad, in re your theory #1, it seems to me that there's not much wrong with using paper tape for a leader splice if you make the splice on a splicer. While I don't advocate it and don't do it, I'd certainly much rather get a print taped that way than one that's masking taped, or perhaps even one that's spliced with splicing tape our-of-frame or opaque splicing tape or something else that I have to spend a lot of effort peeling off.

Of course, I fully agree that splicing with paper tape not-on-a-splicer is bad news. (The one case where I do splices with paper tape is when I'm pulling the head/tail leaders off of something, like a short, and leaving the leaders on the original reel/core/whatever; in that case, I use paper tape as it's just a tad bit more convenient, and they are never going to run through a projector that way, much less leave our premises).


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Jack Ondracek
Film God

Posts: 2348
From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2002

 - posted 10-27-2002 05:51 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Here's a method to secure a reel end that I've never (up to a few weeks ago) seen, and I hope never to run into again.
Who to blame would also be the question

Our new print of Tuxedo arrived, and my daughter was building it up on reel for subsequent transfer to platter (Strong).

Having grown up during the carbon arc / changeover days, it never occurred to me that you shouldn't expect that when a reel is finished (re)winding, the end should release from the supply reel, therefore, I never suggested my daughter should expect otherwise. Apparently, someone or something had other ideas.

This is the end of Tuxedo, reel 4.

The end of the film has been taped to the core, winds about 4 inches, then LOOPS into and out of the slot. Yes, it's one of those typically warped TES reels, but that's a well-known issue here.

This picture shows another view of how the film threads around the core, then into and out of the slot.

Here was our shocker...

There is a plastic plug running THROUGH the loop as it threads into the core. It appears to be made of the same kind of material the reel is, and not that of the core. Because of this plug, the film could not release once the winder got to it. It locked the end in place as effectively as if you had held it there with vice grips.

Naturally, the system had to deal with momentum somehow, so the film slid off of its wind and wrapped a turn or two in around the side of the reel, destroying about 2 or 3 feet before she got it turned off.

TES replaced the reel... but it took a few days (and submitting a raft of pictures) to convince the film company we hadn't just goofed.

So, my obvious question is whether the natural process of things can provide an explanation that doesn't involve human error, ignorance or malicious intent???

In other words... who sucks here??

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