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CARE FOR WHAT YOU SHOW by Peter J Knight

 

Peter J Knight

Peter J Knight

The most important thing is the way that a film is screened for the audience. It is, after all, the very last link in a production chain which will have taken a huge amount of money and involved hundreds of talented people – so if it is not presented in the best possible way then all of that effort has been wasted.

I was asked by Wendy to write this article back in 2009 when digital cinema was actually a bit of a way off, although definitely on the horizon – but there were still projectionists working in the box and they were still a very important part of the audience’s enjoyment.

For various reasons the article was started but never finished and, over the intervening years, things have changed at a great speed, which has seen the majority of projectionists lose their jobs. In most large multiplex environments, the technical roles have been taken over by cinema managers. However, I wrote an article about the Art of Projection: http://www.indieplex.org/the-art-of-the-projectionist/ and this article for Network Nine News came back into mind and this article takes a look at some of the history of the projectionist but also why it is still important to put on a good show.

I call myself a projectionist and am likely to do so for a good few more years – sometimes I add AV Technician as well – but I am still a projectionist. I have been a projectionist for nearly 16 years which, compared to many in the industry makes me fairly junior, especially when you consider I’m only part time. However, one of the things I have always found and been told, or had reinforced to me, is that the projectionist is the last link in a massive film-making chain which has evolved through thousands of people, years of work and millions of pounds/dollars – and if you get it wrong at the point of screening, it has all been wasted.

In the early years of cinema, the projectionists were the showmen who entertained audiences, usually in village halls or fairgrounds showing off this latest technology – a sight which many would have been unaccustomed to. Many of these showmen went on to make their own films, people such as William Haggar, who produced many short films in the early 1900’s for his local Welsh audience.

Early cinema shows were often known as ‘cinevariety’, as it wasn’t just the one film which was screened – there would be a news reel, followed by a ‘B’ movie and then the main feature so with all the projectors and stage lighting there could be anything up to five people in the projection room – this went on until the multiplexes came into fashion.

The usual way that a projectionist was recruited was as a young boy (or girl), often replying to a slide advert in the cinema. Like most trades and apprenticeships, projectionists would start at the bottom, learning about cleaning (projection rooms were always kept sparkling clean) then perhaps going on to be a rewind boy.

Projectionists are a weird bunch; they spend the majority of their lives in darkened rooms with their closest friend often the flickering light on the screen. Through history the projectionist has been responsible for the care of the presentation of a film. Written in numerous projectionist manuals is a line to the effect …”The Projectionist is the last link in the filming making chain and it is your responsibility to show that film in the best possible way”. It was this belief and value which was instilled into the projectionist for more than a century. Right from the very beginning, showmanship and presentation was at the heart of the role. Once upon a time the projectionist would have to hand crank the film, working out the best way to make the projector work and to crank the machine at the proper frame rate!

Often the projector and film would be bought without any instructions in the early days, when many ‘bioscopes’ were run and operated by funfair showman. These basic affairs of a tent with a few benches and a screen got more and more ornate as the showmen tried to out-do each other and persuade the audience to visit their film show rather than a rival. There were big fair organs, powered by steam engines, as well as live stage shows. All required a great deal of skill to make it happen. In the USA it was common for small storefronts to be converted into theatres, charging five cents for a show, thus the ubiquitous name ‘nickelodeons’.

A projectionist would have to earn their way to being chief projectionist by learning the requisite skills, starting as a rewind boy and spending all their time cleaning the projection room, often for many months before being allowed anywhere near any film – and it would be a long time before they would be allowed to touch a projector.

This extract from what is obviously a much longer document demonstrates very clearly the care and attention that went into the projectionist’s work – cinema showmanship Late 40′s style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvQWMSZS-Rs. In fact, such was the importance and value given to the projectionist, that there was an ‘Operators Creed’ – this was not written by me but was found in a 1935 Projectionist Diary – but is just as true today as it was then!

THE OPERATOR’S CREED

  • Remember yours is one of the most highly skilled jobs in this modern wonder age and technical developments succeed one another with bewildering rapidity.
  • Concentrated within the spool-box is the consummate artistry of playwrights, actors, producers and camera-men. You are the last and the most important link in a great chain.
  • According to your diligence and craftsmanship, so has this artistry, this anxious care, this enormous expense been wasted or justified.
  • Yours is the task of taking thousands of your fellow men and women away from the cares of an often drab and colourless existence, transporting them on your magic carpet to a land of make-believe and sending them away refreshed to tackle the world of reality with renewed zest and high courage.
  • To achieve this you have to master a formidable list of highly technical subjects, you have to be resourceful in emergency, calm in danger and unremitting in sacrificing your time and, if need be, your person in the interests of the public you serve.
  • A noble and inspiring calling that is surely, if slowly, receiving the recognition it deserves.

However, slowly and over time, cinema chains have decided that it is no longer necessary to have curtains, masking or lighting adjustments in the auditoria. Audiences now walk into a cinema with a big, white, blank screen – and some of the awe that had once filled the auditorium was inexorably and finally lost. With the advent of Digital Projection it is possible for the presentation of an entire cinema circuit to be controlled from a room, anywhere in the world, by only one person. For the majority of cinemas, a single uniform presentation style began to be implemented. Only a very few independent venues still have a projectionist because of their desire to continue to do some theatrical presentation.

Cinema has become more complicated with all the different formats, aspect ratios, sound systems and other requirements from content makers. This film which shows the number of different aspect ratios which have appeared over the years helps demonstrates some of this: http://vimeo.com/68830569.

While the everyday films can often be run by low-paid, non-skilled workers who have no sense of whether the film is being shown in the best possible way, or whether all the speakers are working properly, or if the lighting source lamp is aligned correctly, or if the 3D filter is in its proper place – and so many other questions that most of these amateur ‘projectionists’ don’t even know to ask. This work is often delegated to concession workers, assistant managers, or anyone who just happens to be available when something needs to be done in the booth – or if, heaven forbid, something goes wrong during a screening.

The new digital technology has convinced cinema owners that the projectionist can go the way of the lighthouse keeper or the steam train stoker. Where once there may have been five or more projectionists in the box, now there will be nothing but blinking lights and whirring fans as servers and other digital equipment which replace the showmen of yesteryear. Like all technology, it is great when it works but it is when it is misbehaving, or when there is something unusual and technically tricky to screen – that you need the hands, eyes and experience of the expert projectionist.

THE FUTURE

Even in modern cinema with all the latest technology, there is still the need for a projectionist, or at least a technical person in the box. While the everyday requirements of making up and running a film may have been reduced in their overall complexity, a projectionist is still a useful person to have around. Digital projectors still need maintenance, still need someone to reboot them when something goes wrong – but that is the easy part. Cinemas are looking to making use of this new technology through hiring the venue for alternative content which is where a technical person is of most value – there are now more formats and aspect ratios and ways of connecting equipment than ever before – and someone who knows how to get the best from the equipment and wants to put on a good show should still be an essential part of the cinema experience.

It doesn’t matter what your role is or where you work, the most important thing is the way that a film is screened for the audience. It is, after all, the very last link in a production chain which will have taken a huge amount of money and involved hundreds of talented people – so if it is not presented in the best possible way then all of that effort has been wasted. It should not matter whether it is a big blockbuster, a low budget, or a short – people have spent their time and money to make that dream come true – so is vital that the film is shown in the best way possible.

About the author: Peter J. Knight, otherwise known has The Mad Cornish Projectionist (www.madcornishprojectionist.co.uk), has been involved in the cinema exhibition industry since 1997, when he was started as an assistant projectionist at Flix – Loughborough Student Cinema. Later becoming head projectionist and actively involved with the overall running of the organization. After graduation Peter moved to London where he has freelanced as a Projectionist/AV Technician since in a variety of different venues from arts centres to preview theatres and even at the Glastonbury Music Festival. Peter is chairman of the Projected Picture Trust (www.ppttrust.org), an organization interested in the preservation of cinema technology equipment, and is also the vice-chairman of the BKSTS Cinema Technology Committee, an organization which is interested in the education of the current day cinema technical worker and cinema technological development. Peter also writes extensively about all areas of the cinema industry and the technical elements of projection. He has also recently just launched We Can Still Show Film (www.wecanstillshowfilm.com) a free international website which is aimed at recording all the people, venues and companies still able to handle film.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Cinema Projection

 

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THE PRODUCER OF ADVERTISING FOR MARKETING FILM AND TELEVISION DISTRIBUTION

 

Jan Bursey in her Los Angeles office!

In the last decade, the means by which independent films, documentaries and screenplays are financed, advertised, marketed and sold has undergone tremendous change – which has developed the need for a new approach – Jan Bursey, President of USA-based Winter Palace Films

FILM AND FILMMAKER REPRESENTATION
In the last decade, the means by which independent films, documentaries, and screenplays are financed, advertised, marketed and sold has undergone tremendous change.  With more than 20,000 films being produced annually competing for distribution deals independent filmmakers’ opportunities to have their scripts produced or films released into the marketplace are almost unrealistic and “great expectations”.

Independent films, documentaries, and screenplays usually do not have the luxury of being backed by studios, mini-majors, or large production companies with an internal infrastructure of creative, production, financing, advertising, public relations, and marketing executives and staff, and are benefitting from the delegation and compartmentalization of these necessary producing functions.  When often times, filmmakers’ films and screenwriters’ screenplays needing representation to garner success are deemed unsolicited projects hindering their production and distribution or eliminating them entirely from the film market these functions, now more than ever before, filmmakers need to reflect in their film’s production budget. 

So, what are the filmmaker’s options for representation in today’s film market?  There are the various agents who represent seasoned filmmakers, and there are agencies searching for viable projects for packaging.  There are film sales agents who usually handle multiple projects where little advertising and marketing is applied.  There are producers’ representatives who offer more consultatory services than sales agents.  There are producers of marketing and distribution (PMDs) who market filmmakers’ projects to distributors.  And there is another entity, a full service advertising and marketing representation company geared toward gaining distribution for film and television through exploitation.  This entity is referred to as a Producer of Advertising for Marketing for Film and Television Distribution, or in acronym is referred to as a PAMFTD and pronounced PAM-F-T-D, also shortened by popular demand to PAMD, PAM-D or sometimes called “The Pammy”.

One may ask, what is the difference in advertising and marketing?  Isn’t it the same thing?  The answer is they are different tasks.  Marketing is the provision of goods or services to meet customer or consumer needs while Advertising is the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business by creating materials for paid or unpaid announcements in print, broadcast, or electronic media.  So in effect, one is the offering of the product and the other is creating the desire or recognition for the need of the product.

A PAMFTD may also be considered in certain circumstances an Executive Producer for the film project by supplying a major portion of the film’s funding either before production, during completion, or after completion on films with deferred payment arrangements and investors expecting returns.

WHEN DO YOU NEED A PAMFD?
Let’s say you’ve just finished your screenplay and now face the daunting task of finding financing, or arranging for production, or want to get it sold, or let’s say you’re prepping your film, or you’re shooting your film, or you’ve completed it and have investors or deferred payments to crew needing their return or payment… and, you want your film seen!  But, have you really done everything…or have you done anything needed to ensure its eventual success beyond the creative aspect?  Do you have representation, or do you have the right representation to introduce your screenplay or film to its audience?  Do you know how to market your finished masterpiece or who would buy it, or which contests, festivals, film markets, sales agents or distributors are most appropriate for it?  Do you know how to present a budget or a business plan?  Do you have all of the required distribution deliverables and documentation?  Do you have the right images for key art?  Do you know anything about funding and distribution options?  Do you know how to package your film? You may need a PAMFTD as soon as you complete your script for either sales representation, financing or packaging for production as they will guide you through the processes of advertising it in various media platforms as well as funding options, sales, budgeting, development and business plan development.

You may discover you need an embedded PAMFTD to monitor your film’s overall advertising, marketing and distribution strategy, and working as a fulltime producer during the film’s production to manage the micro aspects of the film’s distribution ‘rollout.’  This requires usually a three-month commitment to the PAMFTD from the film’s production budget, and is only in place during production with the possibility of continued contractual representation after post-production or until a distribution deal is struck.

You may decide on a more a la carte representation for your film’s advertising and marketing distribution strategy where the advertising elements are supplied to the PAMFTD who will create and release periodic media announcements both in visual media, print and on the Internet.  An a la carte representation can be month-to-month during production, and may be contracted for a longer term after film completion up until its distribution.

You may decide to hire a PAMFTD after your film is completed for the purpose of advertising and marketing to gain distribution.  This would entail creating a customized and strategic advertising plan for marketing your film to the various distribution platforms. A PAMFTD’s top priority is to develop, implement and continually refine a customized and concrete strategy, which should be based upon the following criteria:  the filmmaker’s specific goal (career launch, generating revenue, reaching the widest possible audience or social affect); available resources (size of the marketing and distribution budget); desired timetable and current stage of the filmmaking process (development, production, post-production or completed film).

The PAMFTD or PAMD is responsible for laying the groundwork and managing all “social media” and web outposts for your film project or screenplay such as its Facebook Fan Page, Twitter stream(s), and updating discussion and comment streams on any blogs, making use of auto-posting sites like Posterous or LinkedIn for a broader sweep and reaching out into the community for external link sharing and SEO optimization of your site and its content such as Google search.

They are responsible for creating DVD Bonus Features by capturing snippets of material related to the film, though not necessarily included in the film, for later addition to your film’s “behind-the-scenes” material.

The PAMFTD begins weighing different distribution options and coordinates your film’s DVD production/authoring once post-production is completed.They recommend film distribution platforms geared toward your film project by examining investing potential within distribution channels for either a classic distribution model, a DIY, or something in between known as a hybridized distribution approach.

The PAMFTD organizes all necessary paperwork and chain-of-title documents for your film’s key distributor or sales agent pitch meetings before, during, and/or after your film festival or screening premiere: is responsible for coordinating all efforts related to your project’s film market or festival run: researching which markets/festivals are best suited for your film or sometimes screenplay, submitting all needed forms, fees, DVD screeners, plus all supporting documentation to a festival selection committee in a timely manner.  They handle all media requests during the market/festival while attending to all media inquiries and phone calls on behalf of the filmmaker or producer/director.  The PAMFTD is the public face of the film during film markets and festivals.

The PAMFTD is your film project’s media representation by establishing contact with all on and offline media channels for updates and news releases starting with the production, casting, on to the completion, premier, and the film’s cast and crew interviews during the exploitation of your film.  If your film or documentary requires live events and cross-partnerships they would arrange creative representation at all live (themed) theatrical events or park screenings, screening horror films in graveyards, and whatever else may be required to market your film.  They would arrange for your booth representation at comic book conventions and other fan related events.  In short, the PAMFTD takes point on the film’s overall public relations efforts allowing you to focus exclusively on your film’s creative quality.

Along with your film’s distribution strategy, the PAMFTD may offer up Transmedia Producer services, a specialty field garnering credit for producing content in additional platforms.  This allows for the stretching of your film’s narrative reach by extending your story’s plot into other media platforms or channels.  With a film, it could be broken down into smaller pieces fitting a webisodic format.  They might consider designing a mobile or iPad app for your film.  What about the creation of a graphic novel to further distribute your film or screenplay?

The PAMFTD is a distributor, media and audience engagement specialist.  They position your film or screenplay in the film market and create a loyal following using the media and distribution, generating buzz for your next film project and your next thus creating a leverage as you advance your career.

So how much should the independent film producer allocate to the PAMFTD?  The allocation is inversely proportional to how inherently commercial the film is, at home and abroad, or put another way…how important is it to give your investors’ a financial return or make their money back?

THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PAMFTD
Before launching Winter Palace Films, I had over a 20 year run at being the behind-the-scenes, diehard gal who just happened to become an expert in film and television advertising for marketing and distribution along the way.  My exposure to various film and television disciplines gave me a broad perspective of the entertainment industry and an intimate understanding of independent filmmakers’ needs, inspiring and motivating me to develop a company such as Winter Palace Films.  Consequently, it allowed me a more hands-on position to mentor and support the independent film industry.  Bringing Winter Palace Films specialty services to fruition is my passion and a challenge, but then my favorite quote is, “If it were easy…we’d all be doing it!”

During my various studio advancements I landed a position at Lifetime Television, Los Angeles where under the direction of their New York headquarters I oversaw their network business.  My three years employ allowed participation in a large machine where acquisitioned movies totalled 61 films from Orion Pictures, including ‘Bull Durham’ and ‘Married to the Mob’, ‘Dances with Wolves’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ten films from Warner Bros. including ‘The Accidental Tourist’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’.  Also acquired were the ‘China Beach’ series from Warner Bros. and the rights to the 85-episode series, ‘thirtysomething’ from MGM.

It was in what I entitled “The Glorious Goldwyn Days,” when I really developed my passion for independent filmmakers and specialty films.  During those four years, I was part of the creative team for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, producing advertising, collaborating with acquisitions, and participating in both domestic and international distribution thus positioning feature films, specialty films and television in their respective markets.  While there, over 61 films were produced and distributed for domestic and international sales including ‘Big Night’, ‘The Perez Family’, ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’ and award winners ‘The Madness of King George’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’; also 4 television series were developed and produced including the ‘New Adventures of Flipper’ and ‘Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House’.

After Goldwyn for over a decade, I held a key executive spot collaborating on the organization, development, and programming of an award winning motorsports commercial and television production company, WATV Productions, where over 1,000 episodes of vehicle enthusiast programming were produced and distributed.  Here contract deals for independent producer hires inspired the idea for an independent filmmakers’ advertised and marketed, representation package and I returned to my passion of advertising, marketing and distributing independent films.

WHY HIRE A PAMFTD FOR YOUR FILM?
We do essentially the same job as a sales agent but with more hands-on consultatory, advertising, and media campaign involvement for filmmakers and screenwriters who are too unknown or inexperienced to attract agency representation.  In addition to marketing and distribution sales tasks, we exploit a film for financial profit and filmmaker attention prior to or during and after production depending upon the needs of the film project and the arrangement with the filmmaker. We arrange and handle contract negotiations for International and Domestic Distribution across all platforms.  We arrange film financing for films in development, production and post-production, and create unique packages to make your film attractive to International and Domestic Financing outlets.
 
Our clients are directed through the packaging stages of their projects creating a presentation in a format pleasing to finance, acquisitions or development executives and distributors allowing the opportunity to make a best first impression.  This practice allows concentration aimed at an effective pitch and negotiation for closing a deal. If we see the film project is viable and can be packaged appropriately we make an offer for our services to be engaged.  We are retained upfront much like an advertising agency or an attorney and receive a percentage of the gross film sale like a sales agent. 

Winter Palace Films, as a filmmaker’s Producer of Advertising for Marketing Film and Television Distribution, is that of  a producer who joins the film prior to pre-production to craft the advertising for marketing gaining distribution, from concept until long after post-production.  We then remain behind growing a dedicated following for their film and increasing interest with distributors.  We are the missing puzzle piece filmmakers have been looking for in their film project.

Winter Palace Films is located in the USA
http://www.winterpalacefilms.com/

 

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