olesya surina
photo: matvey paramoshin

Secrets of a projectionist

The work of a projectionist always stays in the shade, however if it wasn`t for them, no one would ever watch anything. In the Vulkanny village, Yelizovsky District of Kamchatka, the unique cinematic equipment from the USSR has been preserved. Nikolay Yakovlevich Frolov still shows movies on it.
In the «Galaxy» cultural centre there used to be a club of a military unit №14086. The chairs and the screen were changed in time. Today the hall can fit 450 people, which is more than enough for the village with the population of 1529 people.

Here, under the stage, is a film storage. Here all the treasures are kept — the films reels from the Soviet times that were saved. The keeper of those antiques is a projector Nikolay Yakovlevich Frolov.

Nikolay Yakovlevich is from Milkovsky region of Kamchatka. He`s been working in the cultural centre since 2007. He graduated from Movie College in Nakhodka, and later got transferred into Elizovsky district in 1975.

— To be honest, I`ve been working in the industry for more than 50 years. I`ve been repairing the equipment, teaching the projectionists, installing the new equipment in cinemas, cultural centres and schools. Those times we had 25 local cinema facilities. We brought movies to Termalny, Sokoch, Malky, Dalny and other villages...

"When the film storage of a local department of a film distribution office was closing, they needed the storage empty. There were thousands of film copies. It all went into garbage. The reels on these shelves is all that we managed to save during that short time. We took as much as we could. Most of the movies we took were for kids. Also a lot of soviet classics, mainly from 1970s. There`s «White sun of the desert», «Kidnapping, Caucasian style», «The needle», «The sandpit generals»… Also some foreign movies, like «Queen of the Chantecler» (1962). It`s a spanish melodrama, sort of a progenitor of musical films. Awesome. Very scenic!"
"These days the movies are being sent to the cinemas for the time of the screening, then they are to be returned to the distributor. Back in the day the film reels were sent to us for good. The movies were on 35mm film. A movie takes from 2 to 15 reels approximately. We have more than 160 movies."
Let`s look into the library for a minute
— Here`s a museum piece — «Ukraine» film projector. It was considered narrow-film (for 16 mm), a mobile one. «Ukraine» was taken to the field, to schools, court proceedings.
"We had that machine on our projector, when we were on regular service. We sailed to the Indian ocean. Our trips were long and we didn`t have that many movies, that`s why to the end of our journey we`ve seen the whole repetoir numerous times… We had no chance of exchanging movies with other ships. Usually seamen did it when they met in the sea,"- remembers the head of Vulkanny settlement - Vladimir Smolin.

— The "film case" would fit 600-meter reels. Each one weight 1,5 kg, and if the movie had 10 parts, it was 20 something kg.

And here`s the booth!
There are two stationary machines in the projecting room. The projectionists call it «the first and the second post». The equipment can even project a modern movie, recorded on film. But the sound will be far from perfect, of course.
— 23KPK-2 — is our most reliable projector from our soviet production — believes Nikolay Frolov. — It was produced by «LOMO» (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Association').
Since middle 1970`s most of our cinemas had these projectors. A lot of them are still working.
— A projectionist`s work starts with preparing the movie. Let`s say, we got a movie. Every copy has a technical passport. It says how many parts of the movie is there, what`s the target audience, its production company. We had to define the category of the film and perforation. So, the projectionist sits and starts preparing the movie — rewinding and checking the film, checking the defects: scratches, torn perforation, stops.
«Here`s a special table with pedals for projectionists. We used to have manual rewind. Just imagine, to rewind a 300 meter film... And films could be up to 600 meters long. You need a certain skill for that, cause one can hurt himself if he`s not skilled enough.»
«If the film tears, it was glued together with a speacial machine with an ordinary tape. By the way, we, projectionists, had the tape before it went into mass distribution».
— Loading the machine is something you get used to do quickly with time. There`s actually even a scheme of how to do that on the machine. A projectionist can install a projector blindfolded. The speed is important. A film can tear. And people in the cinema hall until you reinstall the machine. — shares Nikolay Yakovlevich.
"Two stationery projectors are always working. For example, the first part of the movie — 300 meters of film — lasts for 8 minutes, when it ends, you have to turn on the second one (the other projector), it`s already loaded with the other part of the copy. And you immediately gotta reload the first machine with the third part of the movie and etc. We got it much easier when 600-meter reels came along. Then one part of the movie would last for 20 minutes. It was easier to work with it: less turns to change the film were needed".

— A projectionist always watches the picture on screen. That little window has been designed for us. Moreover, how can you not? We need time to get to the second machine to change the film. I`m gonna share a little professional secret with you, there are these special markers - red dots - on the right side of the film that help you to be on time. Nobody notices it, but the projectionist always sees it. It`s a sign that tells you to go to another machine,— tells Nikolay Yakovlevich.
The view from the projectionist booth
To make us truly feel the atmosphere of soviet cinema, Nikolay Yakovlevich turned on the movie «Kidnapping. Caucasian style».
The projector is chattering, the light goes off, and we take our places in the cinema hall. And it doesn`t even matter that the colors of the film is slightly faded, but the sensation is magical...
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