Training for Non-Technical Cinema Employees

Artistic Intent…Protecting the Dream

Let’s look at a very basic concept –

“Why do we care about our customers’ experience, especially about our auditorium’s sound and picture.”

Someone had an idea for a story to tell. Somehow that story met a producer and director who found the money to be able to tell that story as a movie. That is the intention – to communicate something to a bunch of people. For much of the cinema business there is also the additional element of telling the story to a bunch of people in a room with a bunch of other people.

How this story gets told is sometimes called Artistic Intent. Because it is the Director who is hired to carry the vision and purpose forward, it is often called the Director’s Intent.

The Director and Producer hire the Cinematographer team. These are the people who can cleverly make a camera capture the light reflecting off the scenes and reflecting off the actors into the lenses. Audio people and many others are hired to capture the sounds and make the scenery and perform clever stunts. They hire Post Production teams to manipulate and edit and balance the sound and pictures. After much labor, a distribution group puts the finished movie onto hard disks or satellites. And after all that work, the finished movie somehow gets it into the equipment of the cinema facility.

The major concerns in cinema maintenance.

In a different Lesson, we explain how Engineering is the Art of Compromise. Actually, we find out that The Art of Compromise is everywhere. There is only so much time, only so much money. The technology and the people can only do so much. Eventually the movie has to meet a delivery date.

After all that work, there it is, the final lens at the front of the projector. Just in front of that is a little piece of glass in the back wall of the theater – the Port Window. The movie shines through them both, into the room and onto the screen and through the speakers. The Director’s Intent wasn’t to spend money for technique or tools at a clever production set, or in post-production room. The Director’s Intent wasn’t to keep a lot of people employed or to make the camera sales people happy. The Director’s Intent wasn’t to sell a lot of popcorn, even though all these things happen and are important to a lot of people.

The Director’s Intent is to create an effect upon your mutual audience. It your job is to help create that effect. You participate in the Artistic Intent by making certain that your tools are operating at the optimum level possible.

Of course, the bubble of the Art of Compromise surrounds the cinema sound and picture projection equipment. It surrounds the auditoriums with their design, their screens and their seats.

Movies want to be shown in a perfectly dark room, but safety requires that there are exit lights and illumination on the stairs and walkways. Movies want the screen and speakers to be perfect, but speaker parts get older and less flexible every day, and screens get a little darker. How often are they changed, or adjusted? Speakers and screens (and seats and air conditioning and, and, and…) all cost money, so they get replaced when they reach some compromise level…not perfect, not horrible.

Nobody ever says, “I think I am going to present ‘Horrible’ today.” Unfortunately, the opposite: “I think I will present ‘Perfect’ today,” is unrealistic and is not going to happen no matter how hard we try.

Perhaps the best description might be “Appropriate Compromise”. “I’ll project the best I can with what is available.” Who decides what “Appropriate” is? Some might say it is the big boss of the cinema who balances the requirements and dreams and ability of the audience to pay.

Some might say it is the audience who is the boss, who the big boss has to respond to, but most will agree that the audience can’t define perfect or acceptable. They expect us to be the experts, to know what to look and listen for. The audience will figure out what is irritating and – if you are lucky – they may care enough to find you and tell you. If you are very lucky, they may even know how to describe the problem well.

If they are very lucky, you will understand it enough to be able to communicate it efficiently to someone who has the job of fixing the problem. Either way, it is your responsibility to deliver the best you can with the assets and policies that the big boss has given you. We all like the idea, “Deliver more than you promise”, so go for that if you can. People seem to appreciate that.

What you certainly want to do is remember – You are part of the Artistic Intent.

The purpose of all these lessons is to give you the training and the tools to help you find problems in your auditoriums before the audience finds irritation.

Or – if an audience member does find a problem – you want to know enough so that when they describe it to you can make them feel comfortable that you understood them and will pass on the information to get it taken care of.

And that is our job in these Lessons and Checklists and other tools – to give you tools and information so you can do these things easily and well.

Let us know what we can do for you, so when that magic day arrives when a director or cinematographer or sound editor comes up to you and says, “Thanks, that was just right”, you know that you did something to make it that way. Now, when someone asks what your job is, what do you say? I help create a better experience of audience members. I am the last person in the chain that delivers the Director’s Intent. Maybe we need a t-shirt contest for this.

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