We asked Kevin Douglas about cinema, workplace drama and life as a long-serving Eden Court projectionist…
Kevin Douglas in the Eden Court projection booth (photo by David Rothnie)
Hi Kevin! How did you become a projectionist?
I got into projection in the summer of 2008. I was working front of house at the time when a position came up for a part time projectionist. After a fairly informal interview, I got the position and spent the next few weeks being shown the ropes. I was eventually let loose on my own with a 35mm print of Enter The Dragon. Thankfully I projected it the right way up and it went without a hitch if I remember rightly!
Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon (1973)
Do you have memories of the old La Scala cinema in Inverness?
I saw the first film I can remember seeing at the old La Scala. It was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I also remember being taken to see Jurassic Park there and being scared out of my wits at the scene where the T-Rex attacks the kids in the jeep.
What kind of dramas occur in the projection booth?
The projection booth is usually the least dramatic place in the theatre, but every now and again something goes down. Very early on in my position we were showing a run of old Russian Shakespeare film adaptations. The 35mm prints were very old, brittle and long - a perfect storm for disaster. Around halfway through King Lear the film snapped so I had to quickly stick it back together in the dark and lace it back through the projector while the audience waited. A few minutes later it snapped again. I ended up having to repair the film nearly ten times before it finally finished. A very stressful night for an inexperienced projectionist but a true baptism of fire!
Arianna Richards and Martin Ferrero in Jurassic Park (1993)
Tell us about one of your favourite moments on the job?
Projecting a 35mm print of Predator, one of my childhood favourites.
Do you have an all-time favourite film?
I'd have to say Blade Runner. For me it's the perfect example of a film and its soundtrack working together perfectly to create an unforgettable atmosphere. I can watch it and give it my full attention, or just have it on in the background like a kind of cinematic lava lamp!
'I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...' Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner (1982)
What would you say are the character traits a good projectionist needs?
A keen eye for small details and patience, especially when making up 35mm film prints as you need to keep an eye out for any anomalies in the print. You also need to be ok with spending long periods of time alone in the dark. And of course love film.
Eden Court still screens a healthy amount of film prints. Do you enjoy projecting 35mm?
Yes - it's so much more hands-on than digital and you feel much more involved in the whole process as it requires you to physically build the film from its separate reels and lace it through the projector. Considering the fact that film print projection is becoming more and more rare, I feel very lucky to be involved in screening actual film. I think it's really important to retain that part of cinema technology as it's the medium we most associate with the cinema experience. Whether it's the characteristic sound of the projectors themselves, or the unique visual quality of film, it has a romantic character that would be a shame to lose.
So are you an advocate for the analogue viewing experience as opposed to the digital?
I think 35mm and digital both have their place and there are of course pros and cons to both. I'd say digital is at its best when you want to show things like documentaries. It's high definition, razor-sharp images are best suited to this kind of thing. When it comes to drama and emotional storytelling, you can't beat the warmth and softness 35mm brings.
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