Projectionists Draw Projectors

Projectionists draw projectors: an ongoing series.

What is a projectionist? A projectionist, for the purposes of this project, is anyone who knows how to operate any sort of film projector. Some projectionists are professionals. These days, they mostly work at movie theaters, but sometimes they work at more specialized screening rooms like those used for private press screenings or for university film studies classes. Sometimes professional film projectionists are union members – this isn’t the case in Chicago these days (for the most part) but it is in other cities. There are also many amateur projectionists – people who project film as volunteers or as hobbyists. They project film in diverse places: student film societies, their own living rooms and basements, and (once upon a time) classrooms, churches, dentist’s office waiting rooms, and endless other spaces. Traditionally, 16mm and 8mm were the main formats projected by non-professional and amateur projectionists.

What is a projector? A projector, obviously, is a machine that projects film. This includes everything from hulking theatrical 35mm (or 70mm!) projectors to the dinky little Super 8 projector your dad used to show home movies on.

Why this project? Partly because we know a lot of projectionists and it’s fun to have them draw things when you’re all waiting for food at the diner after the show. More seriously – because we want to record some sense of how projectionists relate to the machines that they’ve operated. And because the future of the medium is particularly uncertain these days, we’d also like to record a sense of the skill and affection involved in every level of the trade, and a sense of the extent to which film projection – of all types – permeated cultural life during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

If you have projected film at any time during your life and would like to contribute a drawing to the project, please mail it to the Chicago Film Society, 1635 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615 or just bring it to us at one of our screenings.

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