Friday, 3 December 2010

How to Become a Projectionist: Episode II

I am on time for my second interview.

I am also sober.

If they liked me when I was pissed, wait'll they get a load of me with a straight head.

But what if they only liked me because I was pissed?

The interview is in a pub next to the site where the cinema will be. I wonder if this will afford me the opportunity to get drunk during the interview, but I doubt it.

The cinema itself is currently little more than a concrete shell, built and then discarded by the company responsible due to its undesirable location. They wanted to build another site out of town, where people could actually park their cars instead of having to trudge through the city centre. Council said no.

I am directed upstairs to where the interview will take place. There are tables dotted around, and a few of my fellow interviewees are already seated. They all seem to be young, attractive, student-type girls, and are deep in conversation. Presumably about hip new music and sweatbands and hair-straighteners or summat.

I sit at a table on my own.

Eventually, the cinema people come and take us to individual tables for some one-on-one hot interview action.

The little dark-haired woman from my first interview talks to me. Usual interview stuff, developing on things mentioned in part one. The only question I remember is "where do you see yourself in five years time?". I talk about wanting to make films and write and all that aspirational bollocks but, knowing that they are unlikely to employ someone who is going to just float away to dreamland like a balloon full of buoyant hope-gas, I dismiss those ambitions as hobbies and tell her I really want to be a projectionist.

She seems interested.

She tells me that they are looking for an extra hand in projection. I worry that, having two, I may be over-qualified.

She says she will mention my interest to the prospective cinema manager. I like the sound of that.

The interview goes pretty well and I eventually trundle off about my business.

I get the call. I get the job. There is some popcorn-jockeying scheduled in my immediate future. We have a couple of days induction at the hotel where the first interview took place, then I think a couple of weeks experience at another site and then we're off and running.

At the induction, I have to raise my game. I have to shift gear into Sociable-Performance Mode and act like I'm not a misanthropic junior Victor Meldrew for a while.

We are all seated around a big table (or some small tables pushed together, like a furniture megazord) and we have to do the typical, inane, getting to know you exercises, like asking some prepared questions of the person to your right and then announcing their personal information to the rest of the group in as entertaining a manner as possible.

The person to my right is a young gentleman who tells me its his birthday today. I think he's eighteen. Naturally, I therefore lead a room of strangers in a chorus of Happy Birthday. I think he wants to kill me. It gets worse when, later in the day, one of the managers who arrived late has the same idea and unknowingly humiliates him for the second time.

We are united in our fumbling attempts to familiarise ourselves with each other, forgetting names, cracking obvious jokes just to remove the tension, pretending to be interested in people's opinions. We sow the seeds of relationships yet-to-come in these induction days, relationships that, though often short-lived, would impact on us all in some way.

Future lovers meet, crushes develop, friendships are forged and prospective enemies size each other up; all of us wondering how we are going to get along, day in, day out, with this disparate band of people.

I think it's during the second day when the manager asks me to step out of the room for a moment. I have memories of being asked to leave the classroom at school, and start to wonder if some off-colour joke I made went too far. Am I to be fired before I even start the job?

Turns out he just wants to check if I'm still interested in being a projectionist. I say I am.


We are scheduled for a popcorn training day the following morning. I am to go along and learn what I can, and then the next day I am to join the two-man projection team at another site and see how I get on.

I'm pretty sure the idea is to train me in both disciplines, alternating projection and popcorn days, just in case they can't find another experienced projectionist in time for the opening of the cinema. I will take that and run with it.

We set off in a mini-bus the next morning, heading for a cinema a few towns away and feeling like kids on a school trip. I spend the day cleaning screens, sweeping popcorn up, pouring half-finished drinks into a bucket and listening to the end credits songs of "Cars" and "Nacho Libre" over and over again.

Putting some rubbish in the massive bins out the back of the building, one of the girls I'm working with tells me that her and her boyfriend were transferred from the cinema in Sheffield to work at the new cinema. Her man is the projection manager. I am to meet him the next morning.

Over four years later, the cinema we are training at will be the site of the meetings which sound the death knell on projectionism as I will come to know it.

I would never work another day as a "Guest Assistant". My career as a popcorn-jockey would last for that one single shift, but my career as a projectionist was about to begin...



  1. "furniture megazord"

    Pure Grade A Genius.

  2., seriously, I just dabbed a tear.

    As if you doubted your direction, you silly boy. One step at a time, yeah?

  3. I can't wait to hear if your extra hand makes you over qualified.

  4. It boggles my mind that you can make absolutely EVERYTHING into an interesting and hilariously written story.

  5. Aw, you people are sweet.

    Thanks for commenting! And stay tuned for part three!

  6. You've inspired me to write my own 'How I became a Projectionist' tale on my blog. Hope you don't mind me pinching your idea?? Mine's not as good as yours though.... so unfair.

  7. You really should be a writer - I'm starting to believe that Lady Luck may be steering you towards your new profession. Why else would the Gods allow projectionist obsoletus to happen?

  8. I love you too.

    Oh right! You weren't talking to me.

    P.S. I love you too.

  9. Anonymous? Are you that guy who writes all those poems? I love your work...and I love you more.

  10. Matt: Just make the cheque out to UnwashedMass Ltd.

    Anon: Cheers, but I think the Gods have no more need for us than the rest of the world.

    Tommy: Stop flirting with Anon. You don't know where it's been. Or who it is, obviously.

  11. Anonymous crashed Mastercard. Don't piss Anonymous off.