Longform

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"For while movie fans have not lost their taste for the artistic and noncommercial, theaters are not always willing to risk showing those films," Turan writes.

As good as it is for independent filmmakers to get the word out about the projects they have nurtured like babies, rampant film-festival infestation brings about some difficulties for planners. Like, what if a poor filmmaker is sitting in his squalid Brooklyn editing room/studio apartment with only one print to send to a single festival at a time for competition? Yikes. One film print to send them all, one film print to win them? It happens. "You play the shell game," FLIFF's Von Hausch says. "Sometimes, if they have two prints, it's a luxury." The one-copy rule is generally a problem only for traditional 35mm entries, though. An increasing number of them (900 entries came in this year, Von Hausch says) arrive in other formats, and at Cinema Paradiso, for example, the theater's technology can accommodate 35mm, 16mm, Digi-Beta, Beta SP, DVD, VHS, and DV-Cam.

That's a lot of new technology. What do the folks who keep the show running, the film projectionists, think about film festivals? In a computer-driven field, where opportunities for the click-and-rewind technicians are decreasing, at least it's work, right? Well, maybe not. "Projectionists usually run away because it means they'll have filmmakers in their booths," he says. "Some of the filmmakers are a pain in the ass. They're like rap musicians. They want the volume turned way up."

Dan Milosz, a real live projectionist who has been in the business since 1974 and who, with his Lantana-based company, Cinema Sight and Sound, now spends his hours setting up projection systems for megaplexes throughout the United States and Europe, agrees.

"Yeah, it gets a little bit hairy. They get really uptight," Milosz says of filmmakers in the booth. There's the matter of different projector lenses that can crop out frames in ways auteurs just hate or the nonstandardized sound levels -- all of which drive back-seat-driving future Tarantinos crazy.

Mostly, Milosz says, projectionists work nowadays at older theaters, the romantic throwbacks with just one big screen. There aren't too many of them anymore. Of course, when Milosz started his career in the '70s, it was different. "Back then, it took a single person to run the film. But with equipment being automated, there are fewer and fewer projectionists."



Milosz started his career during a critical transition period for the commercial film industry, as it was evolving from running two projectors -- which required a projectionist to stay in the room to change reels -- to adopting the technological innovation known ominously as "the platter." The platter contains an entire film on a single reel sent directly from a film distributor and, once connected to a projector by anyone with a tiny bit of training, leaves nothing else to do for the duration of the film. If you can operate your car's cassette player, it's a safe bet you're ready for a career with Regal Cinemas running ten movies at a time.

Compare that with Milosz's career in the early 1970s, when he trained for several years as an apprentice. "Back when you had two projectors to run, it was almost like being a prisoner in the room," he says. "You weren't really allowed to leave the booth. Guys would set them up like living quarters. They spent 12 hours there at a time."

Some of us like to think that up there behind us in the projection booth is somebody like Tyler Durden (the Brad Pitt character in The Fight Club) planning the next grappling exhibition while splicing porno into the family film. Most likely, there's nobody there, just a computer run by a kid. What does this mean when considering the film festival? Not too much. But it's cool to know that somewhere out there, real projectionists may be camped out.


For FLIFF's schedules and locations, go to www.fliff.com. In case you're interested in some of the extra-special events, here's a short list:

Friday, October 14: The Opening Night Film and Party. Screening of The Matador at Cinema Paradiso with a party at the Las Olas Art Center.

Saturday, October 15: Luna Fest. Ten shorts circling the female zone in a benefit for the nonprofit Cure Breast Cancer.

Monday and Tuesday, October 17 and 18: The Arthur Penn Film Tribute. Penn's films include Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man.

Monday, October 31: The First Annual Boo-Tacular on Las Olas Boulevard, with Casper and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Once again, there's that transgender theme.

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Dave Amber