Keeping the Movie Magic alive
Kevin Lewis has been working with film for the last 40 years and his passion extends beyond what you see on screen. For Kevin his passion is as much in the nuts, bolts and water cooled appature ring as it is in the moving pictures. For the last 15 years he has been rebuilding the 50 year old projector that now brings the prints at the Jersey Outdoor Film Festival to life. And despite telling me it is finished, he still finds himself tweeking, playing and cleaning it every day. The projector in question is a Westar, is 50 years old and is one of the last to be made in Britain. However, after being rebuilt over the last 15 years from spare parts and with the passion of a dedicated enthusiast it bares only a passing resemblance to the one originally built during the hey day of British cinema. Originally built to play films in a cinema, the 35mm projector is now built into an old television outside broadcast truck called ‘OB2′ – Kevin wanted ‘OB1′ but two was in better condition. And the truck itself, brought from a now defunct ITV franchise holder in the UK, gets the same level of care and attention as the project it carries around. The ‘truck’ has now become a trailer, partly because having big metal bars makes it easier to ‘level’ when playing a film and partly because it makes it more portable. It has been the centre piece of one of Jersey’s ‘hidden gem’ summer events. OK so it is a bit of a stretch to call something attended by over 3,000 people ‘hidden’ but you won’t find it in the high profile brochures or promoted in shop windows around town. Every year Kevin brings out the ‘pearl screen’, the projector and makes use of his contacts as a former cinema owner to get the prints – so that thousands of islanders and tourists alike can enjoy a film under the stars. Despite being watched by thousands and appreciated by all, even those asking for the big grey truck to be moved, the event’s future is regularly in doubt due to problems finding a sponsor. Kevin payed for it himself for the first four years, got a grant from Tourism after that and recently has found himself begging for sponsorship to keep the event going. It would be a shame to see this great summer tradition come to an end over money. Even more so for the projector and truck that work so hard to keep its audience enthraled. And the projector, the truck, and the screen – those vital ingredient in playing a film – they just sit there working away. Despite technology that is nearly 50 years old they manage to keep the young, the old and everyone in between wrapped in the grip of the magic of the movies year in, year out.