“The Last Projectionist”: Interview with the film’s Director, Thomas Lawes – 11/26/2011

Posted: December 3, 2011 in Uncategorized
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BA I want to talk with you about The Projectionist and the film festival.
TL – My film’s called The Last Projectionist.  It’s about the history of my cinema [Electric Cinema], which is the oldest cinema in the UK.  And it’s also the story about how independent cinemas have survived.  How the big multiplex cinemas have taken over, especially in the UK.  There was a time in the 1980’s when cinema really suffered and nearly all of them were shut down.  In the last few years there’s been a revival in independent films.  So the film talks about that and the end of film and the beginning of digital. 
BAIt’s interesting, ’cause I didn’t realize that films are being shot on digital.  So all these major films are shot on digital, they are not shot on film anymore?
TL – Well it does not make any difference if a film is shot on digital or 35 mill.  2011 is the most important year in cimema since 1927 with the advent of sound, because this is the year when more films will been shown digitally then on 35 millimeter.  They stopped manufactering film cameras.  You can’t buy them anymore.  They are not going to be selling 35 millimeter projectors anymore, it’s all going digital.  And now the trade of a hundred years of projectionists is now obsolete.  They will have to learn how to use digital and it’s a different skill set, but it’s very easy.  When we train someone to use 35 mil it would take two weeks, but you can train someone to use digital in about an hour.
BA It’s the purpose of this film to show people where film started and where it’s going?
TL – The original purpose of it was to [do this], because the cimema was reaching a hundred years old.  I went out and did an interview with my step-grandmother who had been there in 1917.  And I did that to show it marking  a hundred years.  And the BBC got hold of it and showed it on BBC online and I got a call from a friend in Vegas that it was the 4th most watched item in the world.   So I said that I got to make a film about this .  Then I realized that it tied in with the end of 35 mill film.  So I tied it in and kind of made a love letter to independent cinema.
BA How did you get involved with this independent film festival?
TL – When we finished the film this past summer we just submitted it to various festivals. There was a website called  withoutabox.com.  And the festivals are registered with them.  You get information of which festivals are interested in them.
BA  – Tell us your definition of Electric Cinema.
TL – Electric was a word that was used when electricity was used the way digital is used now.
BA What was the first film you saw in the theaters?
TL The Rescuers, a cartoon, was the first film I ever saw.  Then I remember queuing when I was six years old to see Star Wars in 1977.  The first movie I ever saw that I realized was a film and wasn’t just something on the television was The Sound Of Music.
BA You started out doing music before making films.
TL – I started off when I was 16 in the late 1980’s with a guy called David Kazworth and Nikki Sudden in the Jakerbites.  I then picked up a camera and started making  films and then started writing music for films.  And then set up my own company and bought this run-down cinema and restored it and made a film about it.

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