Tag Archives: film festival

The Theater-Going Experience

Can you believe, this is my 5th year attending film festivals? My first was in 2014 attending TCMFF in Hollywood. Having just returned from Noir City Seattle and getting ready to head out again for TCMFF 2019, it feels like a good time to reflect on why I enjoy spending weeks of my life in movie theaters.

The Visual

When you watch a film (any film) on the big screen, it is a fully immersive experience. Your phone is off and forgotten and for 90 or so minutes, it’s just you and the film. Having the excuse to shut off the outside world and focus on just one experience makes that experience all the more potent and meaningful. Plus, the size of the screen allows you to notice details you would otherwise miss had you watched the film on your TV.

The Audience

Nothing better than a packed house. (Noir City Seattle, 2019)

Don’t get me wrong, I thrill at the thought of a theatre all to myself for a matinee showing. That said, nothing can compare to the exhilaration of being surrounded by appreciative like-minds during a screening. That moment when the whole audience collectively gasps when the leading lady is slapped in the face builds on your emotions and forces you to feel them on a deeper level. Festivals give us a chance to relive a few hours with these films as they were meant to be seen – with others who love them as much as we do.

The History

A major part of festivals is providing funds to support film preservation. In the Hollywood Studio Era, films were looked upon as disposable and once shown in theaters for the first run, there was no plan to rerelease or preserve them. Theater owners ended up with libraries full of film cans as the studios sent a new print to each small town theater upon a film’s opening. This is a god-send to film preservationists today because in forgotten corners of the world, prints of now-rare films still exist in private collections.

The Czar of Noir (and epic hugs)

Nearest and dearest to my heart is the Film Noir Foundation, which fights the battles of film preservation day in and day out. Founded by Eddie Muller in 2005 as a work-around to gain access to rare titles in studio film vaults, the FNF has now chalked up an impressive list of “saved” films. Too Late for Tears, Cry Danger, The Prowler and High Tide have all been restored thanks to FNF (and that’s just the tip of a pinkie finger compared to the full success list). Without these tireless film preservation warriors, our film history would fade away without a whisper, leaving us unaware of the beauty we had missed.

The Technical

Film cans from the Noir City 2018 lineup in Seattle

Each time a 35mm print is shown, that screening must be presided over by a skilled projectionist. They are few in number and getting fewer each year. While we sit in our comfy seats stuffing our faces with popcorn, these unsung heroes are bathing brittle, aged prints in vinegar to make them pliable enough to run through the projector. Or changing reels seamlessly so we don’t notice a hiccup in the run time of the film.

If the picture is slightly out of focus, that’s the film warping with age and not feeding through the projector smoothly. If the sound is off, it’s the projectionist’s job to put it back on track with the visuals. If you see no picture, but hear sound, the film has to be manually rethreaded in the projector. Each screening is a gamble, just for the unpredictability of the film stock itself and that’s part of the fun for me. It adds to the communal experience. We aren’t just watching a film played by a computer (as you are in modern theaters…). A real person is pouring their heart and soul into the screening of this film. It’s a performance – and no two are the same.

Because I understand how much can go wrong in the booth, I have zero tolerance for audience members who get loud when things do go awry on a film-projected screening. Please cut the projectionist some slack if you happen to attend a screening with a hiccup. Or get ready to field a death glare from me when you start whistling!

The Buildings

Film projection equipment isn’t installed in theaters anymore, so to see a screening on film, your options are limited. But those options are so glamorous! Seattle’s Egyptian theater where Noir City is held used to be a Masonic Lodge and retains the solid oak doors with custom door knobs. Hollywood’s Egyptian theater is larger and grander with a spacious forecourt and Egyptian themed murals sprinkled around the walls. Inside, both are decked out with carefully painted moldings on the walls and ceiling. These theaters maintain the charm of the eras in which they were built and add another layer to the experience of transporting the movie-goers into the past.

*All photos in this post are mine. Please do not repost them without my permission.*

Chime in with your favorite reasons for viewing films in theaters below!

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Filed under Classic Movies, Noir

My Art: End of the Line

As you may have already deduced, I graduated from college earlier this year. Graduated! Diploma and all. In order to graduate, I needed to create a Senior Project and display it in a local gallery. This I did and had a great time in the process. You will not be surprised to learn that I used this project as an excuse to sit around and watch classic films as research. So, please have a look! I’m finally ready to share it with you.The project is a marketing campaign for a classic film festival I named End of the Line. It’s a festival of 5 classic Noir films all centering around trains. It took me ages to decide which to choose, but I narrowed it down to:

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Terror By Night (1946)

The Tall Target (1951)

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The campaign consists of a logo, 5 redesigned film posters, 6 ticket designs, a website and a display area for the gallery. In addition, I designed trading cards with my information on them to give to patrons and a teaser poster to advertise my project at the show. We needed to have an artist’s statement/thesis to hang on the wall next to our projects, too.

THESIS

In the creation of a marketing campaign for a five film festival of classic Noir drams, I highlight fresh aspects of the films presented. With the intent of piquing the interest of young adults, I have rebranded the films with vintage inspired graphics and factual interpretations of the plots. The common thread tying all five films together is the fact that each plot centers around a train journey gone awry.

The supporting promotional materials serve both a functional and commemorative purpose in the campaign. Intended for use in small theatres across the country, the campaign would be available for owners to purchase and host at their discretion.

THE POSTERS

One of the reasons I decided to pursue this project was the frustration I felt attempting to explain the incredible world of classic movies to people my age. I have actually talked with people who refused to watch a classic film “because it’s black and white.” I remember the conversation well, probably because that comment was akin to The Hulk punching me in the face. Before that, I naively believed everyone would be excited to hear about this wonderful cinematic world I had discovered.

Armed with this knowledge of general oafishness, I set out to reveal the stylish, fascinating and wholly worthy nature of classic movies in a way the younger generations could appreciate. I soon realized the most important piece of this mission would be the redesigned posters. Clean, bold and easy to understand at a glance were my goals. I wanted to depict the films truthfully and in a visually appealing way without giving away any plot points, but at the same time hold the interest of diehard fans.

THE TICKETS

The tickets were the easiest piece to design, but the hardest to get printed successfully. If you look closely, you can see every one of them is perforated so the stub can be separated from the ticket. The festival pass even has 5 perforations on the same ticket. You can imagine how a printer handled this. They printed the tickets (all 350 of them…) and forgot to perforate them. I nearly died when the man called and told me that the day before the show opened. I’m not a pushy person at all, but I told him in no uncertain terms he better get them fixed and fast. Thankfully, they were.

Anyway, for these tickets I wanted to combine the idea of movie tickets and train tickets with the integration of a vintage railroad hole puncher. Every ticket has a white circle on the back to be punched at the time you enter the theatre. It’s a purely commemorative gesture, but I felt it was an important touch to lend a train journey feel to the promotional materials. This punch was a lucky Etsy find – it creates a bee wing shape!

THE WEBSITE

eotlff.com – This little site made me so happy when it was finished. I wrote the code for every single thing you see there. All the hovers, all the links, every image you see. I typed out every single character that makes this site work. I even bought a domain and uploaded the whole tidy little package to the server. Be sure to take a peek at the Films page. That was my favorite part to code. (I’m told it doesn’t look to full advantage in Internet Explorer, though…)

THE DISPLAY

Apologies for the subpar photos – no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a decent photo in this space! It looked marvelous in person, I promise. The black backdrop is a 6′ by 8′ vinyl banner I designed. See those map dots? Those are the actual departure and destination cities in each of the movies, arranged with mild geographical accuracy. (I fretted over the fact it wasn’t geographically correct for months. Eventually, I realized it didn’t matter all that much.) The vintage suitcases were an almost-last-minute revelation that helped bring the whole project together. I tied the stacks with jute rope and thick wire to prevent anyone walking off with them. It worked well!

The incredible sample suitcase served as a holder for the tickets and trading cards. Visitors to the show were allowed to take those as souvenirs. I had to take this suitcase to a metal shop and have a piece of metal cut to fit so it would stay open. The man who helped me figure out the fix was the nicest guy. He made the problem of transforming this suitcase into a display piece a fun adventure, instead of the headache I was anticipating.

THE TEASER POSTER

About a month before the show opened in the main gallery, a smaller gallery hosted a show of the teaser posters my class created. The design above was one of my original ideas, but I couldn’t find a way to make it work with one of the movies. It turned out to be the perfect solution for this poster. The blue circle contains a block of text we absolutely had to have on our posters (mandate from the college’s marketing department). It contained the name of our college and the exact place of the main show. I’ve changed it to gibberish now, but you get the idea. At the time, the QR code in the lower right corner created a reminder for the event in your phone if you scanned it. It now leads straight back here to my blog.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Even though this was the only project I’ve ever worked on that brought me close to tears, it’s my favorite. I’m proud of it, even after looking at it for the first time since it was completed back in April. (I have a policy of putting away all my finished work and taking it out again months later to reassess it. When you are in the thick of an idea, it’s difficult to see it with critical eyes.) That said, I’m really interested in your opinions. In fact, the whole time I worked on this, I kept considering what you guys would think. Did I do the films justice? Are the posters appealing to people who know all about the films? You tell me.

I’ve finally summoned up enough courage to share this here, so please don’t be shy with your thoughts!

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Filed under Classic Movies, My Art, Noir