October 27, 2017 at 10:11AM
The West London Fantastic Film Society
To Film Fans everywhere,
I started ‘The West London Fantastic Film Society’ in 2003 this came about because there was no such thing. I could never understand why a film society never existed, so I thought I’ll do it myself.
It all began as a desire to see something different than what was being offered at your local multiplex. I remembered the days of how the cinema used to be although I was bit late for double-bills (though friends a couple of years older new them well) I clearly remember the ornate theatre like experience of my local Odeon Cinema. With coloured lighting on the cinema screen curtains. There was also this huge distance between us the audience and the screen, I often wondered if the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz were hiding there and perhaps they were making all this magic happen.
This was where a stage would have been and the organ would surface up from the depths in front of the screen. It was far from my mind then that one day in the future I would actally be running the films.
My early cinema going experiences were films such as Battle Beyond the Stars, The Dark Crystal and Return of the Jedi. Spectacular films for a young boy to see on the screen. The wonderful thing about the cinema too was it’s distinct smell, whatever that smell was it was unique. It must have been a combination of the old carpet, cleaner, orange juice and old cigarette ends. Either way it was glorious!
Years later I started going to many different and now memorable film festivals for those that attended. The Everyman Cinema in Hampstead organised by people I came to know and fans of the cinema too, showed all day festivals of obscure films that hadn’t seen the light of a projector since before I was born. These were great events, not only were the films great but the people who made them and acted in them were attending too!
Little did I know that in 2002 I would have the wonderful opportunity of training as a film projectionist., I had been making films so I must have been in with a good chance of the opportunity. Amazing, one of my all time dreams actually comes true.
It was it hard work. Films came on reels, 2,000 foot reels to be precise, which only ran for 20minutes. Yes folks that’s 2,000 feet of film and no it doesn’t end there the film is split up into 5 to 6 reels or 10 if it’s very long like Visconti’s ‘The Leopard’ (I came to be a big fan of that one!) and guess what you’ve got to carry them up several flights of stairs to get them up to the projection room.
Each reel has to be inspected and prepared before it goes onto the projector and onto the screen. And every 20minutes you’ve got to put another reel of film on before the other projector runs out of film!
The films have to run for 12 hours a day and you have to be fully prepared with every film. The cue dots have to be precisely 12 feet from the end of picture and over 4 frames so that you can see on screen in the blink of an eye when to run the motor of the other machine and thus changeover the reel.
As the years went by I was then introduced to a Film Festival in Manchester, the Festival of Fantastic films and again this was a real inspiration to start the film society. I vividly remember seeing ‘Panic In Year Zero’ a science fiction film set in a time when L.A. has been blown to bits by a nuclear bomb and this guy and his family have to survive the situation. What a great film, a few actors and no sets just L.A. landscapes, desert, dust and rubble what more could you want from a film, oh and a nice jazz music soundtrack to go with it. This film in particular had never been shown on television at least not that I could remember. So how else was one to get the chance to see such films.
All these experiences had been such an inspiration to me. Putting on a film show was far from easy, in fact it is very hard work. In the end though it’s worth it, the pleasure of projecting celluloid film to people and sharing experiences and love of the cinema is the most rewarding thing.
Everyone always see’s something different in a film and takes away with them something different. Some are bored and don’t come again whilst others are dedicated supporters.
It’s great to share this love of the cinema, rather than it being an isolated experience the way forward is a film society and so ‘The West London Fantastic Film Society’ exists!
I have been running the film society now since 2003 mainly genre based, science fiction, fantasy, terror films and the like. We have gone from a church hall, to a proper preview theatre and now a large room in a pub.
Over the years many people have attended and usually because they are drawn to the obscurity of the films and the experience of seeing them in what some may now think of as a rather old fashioned and clunky. Film on reels!
Many people have been dedicated and drawn to attending such as actress Caroline Munro, director Richard Stanley, screenwriter Michel Parry and composer John Scott.
I look forward to seeing you all there again soon,
Darren J. Perry, MBKS
London, England, U.K.
27th October 2017