Newsletter – October 2016
Dear friends, colleagues and supporters,
With this edition of our newsletter, the Projection Project invites you to raise a symbolic glass of the drink of your choice with us to toast the completion of principle photography on our feature Out of the Interior: Survival of the Small Town Cinema in British Columbia. For just under two years, we’ve had the privilege of travelling through the Southern Interior working on this documentary, from the rolling hills of Boundary Country to the winding roads through the Monashees Pass and across the smooth waters of Kootenay Lake (on a ferry that is still miraculously free and will serve you some of the best scrambled eggs you’ll ever have on a boat), we saw how fitting the provincial license plate slogan really is: “Beautiful British Columbia,” indeed. While exploring the province, we also explored its classic movie theatres and met the dedicated, passionate people who run them.
Our first day of shooting was in Revelstoke, October 2014. We began by capturing b-roll footage of cars coming off the bridge and entering the Columbia Valley town. Later that afternoon, we conducted the movie’s first interview when we met Carl Rankin, the then-owner of the Roxy Theatre. It was a quiet, straightforward start – but we knew we were on our way.
Our last day of shooting was on the first day of autumn, 2016. We taped a sequence that didn’t require any synchronized sound: our narrator character (played by Curtis as himself, more or less!) does some research on local cinemas at the Museum & Archives in Vernon. The movie’s executive producer Wayne Emde makes his cameo in this sequence. There wasn’t any fanfare when we called our last “cut!” (which we rarely do, actually…it’s more like “ok, that was great, thanks!”).
In all, we took five footage-gathering trips from Vancouver to the Interior. These were true working holidays in which we discovered several absolute gem-like destinations we would probably not have visited at any length otherwise; places like Grand Forks (we recommend the Borscht Bowl downtown), Trail (the Colander Restaurant lived up to the prideful hype of locals), Rossland, Rock Creek, Christina Lake, Oliver, Invermere and more.
The last two trips were made even more special by the company of our infant son. He makes his big-screen debut in Out of the Interior…at least in an off-camera way: his giggles and happy screams were, despite our efforts, occasionally picked up by our lav microphones during interviews.
The Projection Project is indebted to the hardworking and cheerful staff of museums and archives throughout the region, including those in Vernon, Golden, Revelstoke, Summerland and Osoyoos. We were surprised and pleased when we dropped by the latter two places, as they had all of the materials we requested (photos, old ticket stubs and theatre programmes) laid out for us, ready to peruse and photograph. And at the former, Curtis recalled his time in 5th grade in which the head archivist, Barbara Bell, had given some members of his class a tour of the museum. Over thirty years later, Barbara is still sparking interest in local history. She also graciously put up with the intrusion of our cameras, lights and extras (including our friend Stephen Christiansen, who appears as a diligent researcher in the scene) in the archives room at the Vernon Museum for the better part of the afternoon.
We are also grateful for time granted us by cinema owners and managers, who all, without fail, let us into their auditoriums, concessions and projection rooms and trusted us with their stories. From Maureen and Marius in Grand Forks, to Paul and Brian at Enderby’s Starlight Drive-in to Stuart and Trish in Golden, we were always offered free popcorn and free tickets if we decided to stay for the movie . For the record, we turned down a number of chances to see either Get Hard or Sausage Party, but we did say yes to Mad Max: Fury Road (twice in the same week). If we tried to refuse the popcorn, it was invariably handed over anyway – “just take it to go,” they’d say.
We’d like to offer thanks to Gerry Sellars of the Towne Cinema in Vernon. He made time for us on three separate occasions over this year: first for an extensive interview in his office, the second was a b-roll shoot with extras in the concession area eight months later; and on this last trip, he duly agreed to haul heavy film cans around and load up his working 35mm projector for the benefit of our camera. Not only was he always willing to talk about the exhibition business and share stories of the Towne’s history (most notably how long-ago former manager Ellard Williamson would stroll the aisles, occasionally smacking a talkative moviegoer on the forearm with the piece of rubber hose he kept concealed up his sleeve!), but Gerry was also extremely supportive of our documentary and gave us invaluable advice on distribution options.
Special thanks is also due Bonnie Geddes, owner of Creston’s Tivoli Theatre. On our first visit, she took Silmara and I out for a drink after the shoot. On our second visit, she took us out for lunch – even after we held up her husband and daughter’s trip to Calgary that weekend just so we could get those last few shots of the whole family at the theatre, working together.
We were similarly appreciative of Lisa Milne’s offer of a room at her own family’s home during our stay in Trail to document the Royal Theatre, which she runs with her husband. Only a first-week-back-to-school spread of cold and illness amongst her children kept us from taking her up on the offer…next time, though!
Most of these communities are barely older than their first theatres. The changes in the buildings themselves and in public entertainment in general over the subsequent decades mirror the changes observed in economy and society; from lean years to affluence and back again. Silmara and I discovered that delving into the history of the local cinema, whether closed long ago or still thriving, is an engaging, alternative path into the history of the town itself.
We’ve also seen how in the increasingly isolating entertainment sphere of the digital age (in which many people watch a wide range of moving images on their tiny smartphones and expect instant and free access to these images), the local cinema remains an important and beloved institution in small-town British Columbia; one that is appreciated and supported by the community.
We’ve recently come across the beautiful work of Benita Van Winkle, a photographer from North Carolina who has spent the past thirty years documenting classic theatres across the USA. On her website, Benita provides a quote from Kevin Lynch’s What Time Is This Place that suggests the importance of moving and still photography in the preservation of not just the physical buildings that house vintage cinemas, but in the equally vital preservation of the idea of community and our attitudes towards it: “One danger in the preservation of environment lies in its very power to encapsulate some image of the past; an image that may in time prove to be mythical or irrelevant. For preservation is not simply the saving of old things but the maintaining of a response to those things.”
You can see her work at her website: www.busybstudio.com
Please follow our progress as we begin the long editing process on the movie, both on our website and through the newsletter. We’ve ‘refreshed’ our super 8 trailer, and you can watch it here:
One more announcement: our ebook, A Life with the Movies: Cinematic Change & Adaptation, which gives an overview of movie exhibition history alongside the story of the Powell River’s historic Patricia Theatre, is nearing completion. We hope to have it available by the end of the year. Stand by!
In the meantime, we wish you all the best for the Thanksgiving & Hallowe’en season. We’ll be in touch again soon.
Curtis & Silmara