We are keeping a diary of the project as we go along so you can get a flavour of what we are up to.
The team have been hard at work editing the film and, after a group editorial meeting and some testing with projectionists, the rough cut of the film has been fine tuned and is ready to go. Great work from everyone involved. The film will be premiered on Tuesday 5th July at The British Film Institute and the whole team plus all interviewees will be invited. After this launch the film will be available to watch on this website.
We were extremely sad to hear the news that Ron Pearce passed away a few weeks after being interviewed for this project. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the project and we are very grateful that he gave his time to come along to share stories from his long working life as a film projectionist in London.
Born in 1943 in Hammersmith his love of film began as a child when he bought a pack of chewing gum and found contained within it four 35mm frames from the film "Knights of the Round Table". He took this home and shone his bicycle light through the film and projected his very first film on his fireplace. His mother bought him a second hand projector and he bagan renting films to project from a shop on Goldhawk Road before the proprieter gave him a job repairing the films in return for free rental. He worked all night and was late for school and an understanding teacher, rather than castigating him, asked him to come and talk about his interest to his class in a scene that reminded me of the famous scene in the film Kes. In 1958 he got a job as a trainee projectionist in the ABC Acton. His long career took him to the News Cinema on Baker Street, the Classic on Praed Street, Isoldo Cinemas and to the Odeon on Haymarket then St Martins Lane. He finally left the business in 1988 to try different work. He will feature in the upcoming documentary and you can hear his wonderful interview, brimming with stories and detail, on the interviews page of this website. We send our condolences to his friends and family.
The group interviewed Andrew Woodyatt and Peter Howden about their work. Peter was not only a projectionist, he also managed cinemas and trained many young projectionists up and has been credited with saving some of London's independent cinemas. Peter is well known for his work at the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road from 1968 to 1980 when it became the major rep cinema in London. He then went on to work at the Everyman before moving to The Rio with some deviations along the way. Andrew began work in 1989 working for Showcase and UCI cinemas. He then moved on to Rio Dalston.
These were fascinating personal histories and we are looking forward to putting the full interviews from these and more on the interviews page of this website for you to listen to.
We managed to do a further 19 interviews at the BFI over four days with some disruption caused by Covid. We interviewed four staff who actually work at the BFI otherwise it was projectionists who have worked across London who came along. Their working lives ranged from the multiples to the independents, from the Streatham Odeon to Leicester Square and we counted that together they had worked in around 64 cinemas. We are currently busy editing the interviews and looking for archive footage and photographs. We are going to watch the rough edit with the group in December. A huge thank-you to everyone who gave up their time to come and be interviewed.
After several COVID enforced delays we are finally under way. We've been busy making contact with projectionists who worked in London and we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have got in touch offering to share the histories of their working lives for the project. We have now booked in twenty-two interviews which will take place mainly at the BFI, Southbank, but also at the Rio Dalsten and elsewhere. Their experiences range from the big chains such as Odeon, ABC, Essoldo and more, but also the rep scene with interviews with people who worked at The Electric, The Rio and The Scala. The projected films range from the big blockbusters, through Bollywood, fringe screenings, 16mm, 35mm and then the introduction of digital projectors.
We have also recruited twelve volunteers aged from 17 to 84, some complete beginners to oral history, others with some experience. This is a really interesting group with film makers, ex-dock workers, students and more. We are very much looking forward to working with the team.