Tuesday, 22 June 2010

"Handyman, Earl. We are Handy Men."

How many projectionists does it take to change a lightbulb?

This is a question that has been much on my mind today. Projectionism is not, as some seem to think, a vicariously glamourous role on the fringe of the Hollywood lifestyle, far removed from the menial work of the usher or the box-office attendant, where a semi-skilled individual can sit and watch movies to his/her heart's content. No, our duties are as diverse, lowly and occasionally degrading as any within the cinema's walls.

Unless your cinema has a technician on site (and, apparently, few do these days) your projectionist must take on the role of Handyman; Cack at all trades. In my nearly four-year tenure as a film-weaver, I have unblocked drains, conducted basic joinery, fixed toilets, fitted carpets and changed an endless array of lightbulbs.

Now, changing lightbulbs is supposed to be easy, hence the "how many _____ does it take..." joke, but legend has it that the cinema I work at is THE most complicated franchise in the country when it comes to the lighting plan. Pretty much every area in the place has a different light-fitting set-up, leading to endless journeys to and from the bulb-cupboard, various types of screwdriver or allen key (why are allen keys called allen keys? Why not Dave keys or Jeffrey keys?), much precarious step-ladder balancing and, in my case, many minor lacerations of the hands and a few small electric shocks.

"Oh, stop your bitching!" I hear you cry, and I take your point. But my problem isn't so much the having to change bulbs, so much as the rampant design flaws which hamper what should be a jocularly simple task.

Today, I had to change a couple of tube lights in the kitchen area behind the concession stand; no big deal. I toddled down there, assuming they would be the standard strips that we have elsewhere in the building - a simple clip-on/off system where you can ping the casing off the fitting with ease before simply twisting the bulbs out of their cradles - and I would be done in a matter of minutes. After about an hour's worth of fannying about with them, I realised I had been wrong.

These light fittings were designed by that bloke from "Saw".

I swear, there were bolts, chains, fucking razor-sharp blades; I kept expecting a little screen to light up with that fucking puppet on it. It was as if someone decided "Y'know, changing a lightbulb is too easy. Let's make things a bit more interesting!"

In order to gain access to the bulbs, you had to unscrew six bolts on the casing - which caused the entire fitting to swing down on two chains in an attempt to smash you in the face - then go into the newly revealed top of the casing and FORCE the entire fitting out. No pingy catches or snaps here, just heaving and grunting at immalleable metal.

After the fitting came free, there was just one more challenge to complete: Each of the two bulbs were nestled into what was apparently some kind of reflective metallic cradle, but seemed more like a pair of elongated razor-blades positioned at just the right angle to punish the unwary bulb-raider. Changing awkward light-bulbs goes from annoying to downright macabre when you're smearing bloody fingerprints all over the place.

So, rather than "How many projectionists does it take to change a lightbulb?" the question becomes "How long does it take one projectionist to change a lightbulb when said lightbulb is like a friggin Lament Configuration complete with chains and hooks and slicey things lurking in wait for those who figure it out?"


  1. Is it wrong that I can kind of relate to theperson thinking Let's mkae changing a lightbulb more interesting" Sorry but that post was really funny - so you definiately succeeded!

    Kate x

  2. Cheers Kate! Nice to have you back!

  3. so this is unrelated, but i went into a projection booth for the first time today and holyshitohmygod how do you not constantly fear for your life in there?! or at least that you will swing your arm wrong and bam, there goes the reel, no more toy story? *shudders* you are a brave man (also it is loud as hell)

  4. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

  5. Allen key is named after the Allen Wrench (Hex socket key) from Allen Manufacturing Company.