Working on projectors is not necessarily a new skill for Travis Bird, co-founder and technical director of Shotgun Cinema, but it is always a skill that brings new challenges and contemplations. Whether the projection calls for DCP, 35mm, 70mm, 16mm, or 8mm, he’s rebuilt, cleaned, adjusted, tested, and possibly even cursed at the machine.
Shotgun Cinema has recently launched their Full Aperture Series, and with that series comes the Eastman 25. It’s a 16mm projector, and the Eastman 25 is as much a centerpiece as the beautiful 16mm films it lights up and projects before the audience. But, we all know that with that much beauty there’s bound to be some maintenance.
There are the typical worries about bulbs bursting, the 16mm print breaking, or the machine just deciding to stop, and no one knows why. While gathered around the projector, we had a discussion of what makes Travis Bird, Angela Catalano (co-founder and programmer of Shotgun Cinema) and the Eastman 25 tick.
What is a unique challenge of working with film (projector and stock) in New Orleans…in the summer?
Travis: We actually want to keep all challenges away from the gear and the film, so we have a limited set of venues to use that can keep those things comfortable. There are so many beautiful warehouses and other rooms in town that we don’t use because they’re not stable enough for the gear, which is also why we generally avoid showing outdoors. The New Orleans Photo Alliance gallery is great for that reason – it’s super comfortable in summer, but cozy at the same time. The extreme amount of sweat during setup doesn’t go away though.
What’s an image from one of the films you’re showing on Saturday, July 16 that has gotten stuck in your mind?
Angela: The still we’ve been using from Oskar Fischinger’s Circles is such a captivating image and indicative of the work he created over his vast career. Much of his animation work is movement of geometric shapes, and Circles is the first in color. We’ve been particularly interested in his work and life since seeing An Optical Poem at the Nitrate Picture Show this past April, and we’ve been reading about how he created his animated pieces. He devised a wax slicing machine for more efficient animating, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that works.
What part of the Eastman 25 needs the most amount of tenderness?
Travis: Installing the lamp is definitely the part that requires the most care. Everyone has heard stories about exploding projector bulbs. We try to be careful while moving the heavy bits too. But the Eastman treats film with extreme gentleness, so once you thread up correctly, it’s a real pleasure.
For anyone who has attended one of the Full Aperture screenings knows that the pleasure Travis refers to is one not easily described. There is something about seeing images with colors that no longer exist while the iconic sound of film threaded and pulled through a projector resonates in the background that puts the viewer in a trance.
To be part of this hypnotic state, you can check out the Full Aperture series at the New Orleans Photo Alliance, this Saturday, July 16, at 8:00 P.M. (the last screening sold out, so get there early). For full details about the screening this Saturday, you can check out their website.
Future screenings (variety of formats) include:
August 20: A newly restored 16mm print of Jack Smith’s proto-queer film Flaming Creatures
September 17: An evening of films from lo-fi auteur George Kuchar
September 9-11: True Orleans Film Festival at the Broad Theater, which will feature new documentaries, radio work, and panels exploring all-things nonfiction
October 22: New work from emerging filmmaker Ana Vaz