The craft of the rural cinema operator: improvised exhibition and the Highlands and Islands Film Guild, Scotland (1946-71)

Goode, I. (2020) The craft of the rural cinema operator: improvised exhibition and the Highlands and Islands Film Guild, Scotland (1946-71). In: Mennoti, G. and Crisp, V. (eds.) Practices of Projection: Histories and Technologies. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 36-51. ISBN 9780190934118 (doi: 10.1093/oso/9780190934118.003.0003)

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The UNESCO report of 1949 that surveyed the use of mobile cinema and radio vans in education around the world documents the use of the 16 mm apparatus on a scale that is not reflected by film history, where the substandard gauge is regarded as a useful, essentially secondary cinema to the permanent cinema of 35 mm. This post-war moment of film history captured by the report was, arguably, the apex of the 16 mm gauge and depended on the work of the cinema operator/projectionist to deliver film programmes to audiences in non-theatrical spaces. The report’s references to the UK describe 16 mm exhibition in the British Colonies and to ‘the Western Isles of Scotland where a highly efficient pioneer service, assisted from public funds, has been developed under the Highlands and Islands Film Guild to surmount the barriers of distance of rural isolation’. This chapter outlines the work of the cinema operators in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and considers the significance and specificities of their role in the improvised exhibition spaces of rural cinema-going. It suggests that the non-theatrical space typically shared by the film apparatus and its audience represents one of the distinct features of this overlooked cinema that provided many remote populations with their first experience of film. This intimate, communal spatial formation made possible by the operators is fondly remembered by surviving communities in the Highlands and Islands. The operator’s role is notable for its particular combination of craft and sociability that defined the experience of rural non-theatrical cinema.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Goode, Dr Ian
Authors: Goode, I.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Published Online:01 March 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © Oxford University Press 2020
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
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