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Short Friday: The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist

Door Roland Lamers op 7 december 2016

A brief yet inventive 16mm short highlights our hero’s journey into the cinema screen in order to save the starlet he loves.

A rather pedestrian, though accurate title, obscures a remarkably fun and original film from young German filmmaker Max Sacker. Shot on 16mm, the film is a unique ode to cinematic history, as a young projectionist falls for an onscreen starlet and is pulled into the celluloid to protect and rescue her across different films of different genres. This is no simple throwback though, a uniquely modern twist awaits our young romantic, one that Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. did not have to face.

The concept of The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist, is solid, but the charm is in its execution. The particular looks of the films being homaged—Lang’s Metropolis, technicolor sword and sandal epics, and gritty, high contrast, film noir—are meticulously recreated, as are  some of the almost-forgotten special effect techniques of those periods. Max Sacker does not simply want to mime these filmic precedents for the sake of story, it is apparent that he has a deep reverence for them and the craft in which they were created.

The casting of Nikolai Kinski, son of the legendary Klaus, in the lead role, has not been enough to lift the film out of relative anonymity though; the film has played at just a smattering of film festivals and its online views are nothing to write home about. This lack of exposure could be because of the project’s origin—a submission to www.filmaka.com’s regular feature film competition, which likely disqualified the film from many festivals. Sadly festivals are still the primary promotional tool of the short film market, though the internet is rife with success stories. With luck this film may experience a similar story arc, and in the meantime the film has received exposure in Super 8 and 16mm film communities.

Either way, as internet viewers this comparative lack of success is our gain, as the filmmakers have now carpet bombed the internet with content. The film is hosted on numerous video sites accompanied by “making of” footage, as well as an alternate ending. Ironically though, running at a svelte 3:30, The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist is one of those few shorts that ends far too quickly and therefore would have been easy for elite festival programming directors to find space for.

Cost maybe another consideration as to why the film has not played at more prestigious venues. It does cost money to send shorts off to festivals, and The Secret Adventures of the Projectionist has the kind of backstory punctuated by thrift, that should by all rights make it legendary in the true indie community. With a total budget of 8000 euros, the film crew was able to shoot on 16mm by salvaging left over bits of stock and other odds and ends. The cameras were classic Soviet models found for a steal on ebay, and processing of the film was done in large part in a Lomo home tub. The whole process, from concept to final product, was pulled off in one month, in order to meet the deadline of the competition, in which the film ultimately finished as a runner-up. Many of the details surrounding production are detailed at Max Sacker’s personal web site, which makes for interesting reading if you end up as taken by the film as I am.

Short but remarkable, this short film definitely deserves your time, so go watch.

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