February 17, 2012

Doc Films hit with projection problems

Doc Films, the longest continuously-running student film group in the nation, has had an increased number of issues during screenings this quarter, which the RSO’s leaders attribute to a combination of bad luck, projection complications, and reel quality.

The mistakes have included rough reel transitions, missing footage, and sound mix-ups, according to Doc Films co-General Chair and third-year Andrea Nishi.

Some of the errors were due to operator mistakes and miscommunication, Nishi said, but other problems are inherent to the equipment, such as poor film quality and the complexities of changing reels between two projectors.

During showings, the reels are operated by a head projectionist and two apprentices, most of whom are third- and fourth-years with at least two quarters’ experience volunteering at Doc. According to Nishi, all three go through training involving hands-on experience with reels and film.

However, Nishi said, it is impossible for a student-run theater to gain the projection experience of professional theaters, which do not have the same levels of student turnover.

“Every film that we show is projected by volunteers, and we want to make sure that everyone that wants to has an opportunity to learn to use the projection equipment,” she said.

Even with less training than professional projectionists, Doc puts forth 80 movies each quarter—more than many professional theaters do in a year, according to Nishi.

She also said that quality issues sometimes arise when the theater must accept lower quality films to acquire the variety of the movies it shows.

“In order to show the films that we want to show, we have to be willing to project prints that aren’t in ideal condition,” Nishi said. “There is always the increased chance that something could go wrong when you’re screening something that hasn’t been shown in twenty years.”

Students who attended a screening of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums two weeks ago noticed the problems but did not feel it was a regular issue.

“The screen went black, and then someone yelled out saying it would be up again in five minutes. It wasn’t,” first-year Kayla Reinherz said.

“We saw part of the movie that was supposed to come later, and so there were two big elements out of order,” fourth-year Alfredo Perez said. “I saw Mars Attacks! last spring and there were problems then, too, though it isn’t a constant thing.”