This is a very long short story / novella that I am writing.
Currently (as of February 5, 2002), this story has 22,000+ words and can only be viewed as a Word document. All material within the story is copyright 2002 by yours truly.
Set some twelve years in the future, this first-person perspective story is about a Nashvillian projectionist who is on vacation with his friends in San Francisco. While there, he and his buddies happen to witness a major accident which was caused by a high-ranking local gang member. They inadvertently get caught up in a serious mess wherein the gang wants revenge on the main character for testifying against their thug friend, the CIA wants to use the four guys (one of whom is a CIA agent himself) as pawns in their "war" against the gang and the media news services of San Fran, who have turned them into high-profile local heroes, hound them mercilessly. All they want to do is go home, get back to their normal lives and stay in one piece.
But due to one freak incident where they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, their lives may never be the same again.
Action, adventure and sci-fi. Gotta love it.
The relevant excerpt from the story:
(Please keep in mind that this is an excerpt from a story)
"Working as a film projectionist is easier than people might think. It is so simple that a kid could do it (and many a pimply-faced teen has come through our hallowed doors over the years). The basic nuts and bolts of it relies less on actual knowledge of how projectors work and more on knowing how to thread up a projector. Here's how it works:
"Since the mid-nineteen-seventies movies come to theaters in octagonal metal cans. Within these cans are usually three or four reels of the film, in a numbered sequence. The longer the movie is, the more cans a theater receives. For instance, a movie that is supposed to last two hours will have about eight reels, or three cans. Each reel represents about fifteen to twenty minutes of movie time- that’s roughly 21,600 - 32,000 frames of film in a single reel. These reels are spliced together into one giant reel of film that spans anywhere from 3 to 4 feet across. When the reels are "built" up into the single big print, they are moved over to the projector of choice and laid upon something called a "platter." The platter is nothing more than a big wheel that lays on its side, like a giant plate. There are typically three platters next to any given projector- top, middle and bottom- and they are attached to something called a "tree," which stands about five feet to the left of the actual projector. At the center of each platter is a motor that makes the platter spin. Also at the center of the platter is placed a thing we call a "brain." The brain is nothing more than a mechanism of spools and a gauge that regulates how fast or slow the platter should spin. The "head" of the movie film is threaded through the brain. From there it goes to the tree, where the film head is run first up, then down, then up again to the very top of the tree. The next destination of the film head is then the projector, the mechanism that makes it all happen.
"The film head runs from the tree’s top to the very top of the projector and is threaded through the "exciter," which reads the soundtrack. The soundtrack is actually grafted onto the left side of the film’s tape and runs exactly 24 frames behind the frames it corresponds to. The reason the soundtrack is set 24 frames behind the images is because it takes a second for any given frame to traverse the space between the exciter and the aperture plate (a projector works at 24 frames per second). The exciter processes the soundtrack and sends the signals directly to the auditorium’s sound system at pretty much the speed of light. It is interesting to note that the soundtrack looks like a bunch of squiggly lines, like the waveforms of an oscilloscope. Also attached to the exciter assembly is something called a "reader." The reader reads the cues that are attached to the film, which dictates whether the lights in the auditorium should be at full, mid or low range. The cues also tell the projector whether the film is going to be in scope (widescreen) or flat ("this film has been modified to fit your TV" is analogous to the concept of "flat"). The film head is then run through a series of spools and pulleys that lead down to the aperture plate. The aperture plate is where the movie is projected from. Within the projector itself is a very powerful and bright light bulb, which burns so brightly and hot that it could melt your hand if touched. The film is pretty dark without light shining through it, but it’s made just so that light can peep through with no trouble at all. The aperture plate sort of focuses the light right onto each and every frame of the film as it passes in front of it. The image projected is shone onto the projector’s lens, where it is expanded and spews forth across the ether of air onto the movie screen. Then the film head goes down to the secondary reader, which handles special cues not normally used. The secondary reader checks for DTS (Digital Theater Sound) cues, usually. By this time the film head has reached the bottom of the main projector mechanism, right through the tension guage, which makes sure that there isn't too much slack in the tape. If there is too much slack, then the projector shuts down automatically. After that, the film is run back to the bottom of the platter tree, where it is spooled up onto an empty platter and winds back into the big film reel.
"One might think that threading a projector is a complicated, convoluted process. In actuality, it takes all of three minutes to do and if you’re really good at it, you can thread a projector in just under a minute. Not all projectors are exactly alike, mind you. Some of them are configured differently, some are bigger, some are smaller, some are faster, some are less efficient. The thing to remember is that the process itself is pretty much identical. There are a myriad different projector manufacturers, but not a one of them has really moved far from the basics of projection. Some companies like to tout their machine as the best on the lot, but all they ever really do is "build a better mouse trap." A cog spool might be in a different place on one projector or the exciter might be located at a different spot, but they all do the same thing. Once it’s all said and done, they all have a start button and from there it’s monkey business as usual.
"And that’s what I do for a living. A person with even a relatively low IQ could do it, but it does help to know the anatomy of the machines you’re working with. Why? Well, all kinds of things can go wrong with them. The film might be "out of frame" over the aperture plate (easily fixed by twisting a knob). The cues might be fouled up (manual override fixes this- standard on any modern projector). The flat/scope switch might be out of whack (yet another manual override- or you can physically adjust the lens if necessary). The platters might not spin at the right speed (hard on the arms if you have to spin them manually- doable, bitch that it is). The brain might not regulate properly (which can cause what we in the business call a "brain wrap" and is usually remedied by a shutdown, splice and restart). The exciter might be dirty (shutdown, clean and restart).
"You see it really does help to know the machines. Any monkey can thread a projector with about fifteen minutes of training, but it takes a certain amount of skill and troubleshooting to know why something might be wrong and how to fix it. Granted, it's not rocket science, but if you’re not careful you can end up losing a finger in one of those monstrosities. Hence the projectionist's union- except in the south. A mangled, wrecked hand is not a pretty thing. I’ve seen one guy get his neck put into traction for a month because his necktie got caught up in the cogs while the machine was running and it jerked his head right into the projector’s case. The necktie snapped or was chewed up beyond hope, but the incident nearly broke his neck in half. If that tie hadn’t been released... I shudder to think of what might have happened to the poor sap."