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Projectionist’s Perspective for Next Gateway Film Center Gallery

Hope Madden Hope Madden Projectionist’s Perspective for Next Gateway Film Center GalleryPhoto via Gateway Film Center.
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Gateway Film Center projectionist Rachael Barbash brings her work out of the booth and into the open spaces of the film center for her Gallery exhibition Celluloid Shadows, running Friday, July 5 through the end of September.

Barbash has been with GFC since 2007 and has worked as a freelance photographer since 2005. She says the idea to exhibit her work at GFC has been percolating for about two years.

“It’s really exciting that we’re finally able to do it,” she says of the project that allows her to bring her two passions together.

“For the last few years, since we started playing film again, I’ve been taking images of the films we play,” she says of the work. Though Barbash does photography work in film herself, these particular shots are digital. “Sometimes they’re of iconic images and sometimes it’s where the cue dot is, sometimes it’s the leader lady that the patron doesn’t get to see.”

What’s a leader lady?

“Oh, the leader lady is an image that’s printed at the beginning of every film that basically allows you to color grade,” she explains. “It’s for the people actually printing the movie, and then later it allows the projectionist to check if there’s been any color changes in the film. If I get a print that’s 30 years old it might be faded or turning red. It’s called a leader lady because most of the time it’s a model with a color checker.”

So basically, Celluloid Shadows is a love letter from a projectionist to film.

“Just holding film in your hands is still so exciting,” she says, although she admits she’d always wanted to be a projectionist.

“My great grandfather owned a theater in Brooklyn and my grandfather, when he was a kid, was a projectionist there,” she says, discussing a childhood filled with “fun family stories about it. When I was given the opportunity, I just jumped at it.”

And though her art is not always concerned with movies, Barbash says, “the longer I’m in this job the more film-based I tend to get.”

Barbash realizes she’s not alone in her passion for film.

“People like film, it’s a big thing,” she notes. “People like vinyl over an MP3. I think since film movies have been gone for almost a decade now in normal theaters, people are starting to appreciate it. When they see a movie on film they begin to realize why it looks so great. Especially our audience at Gateway, I think people really appreciate the films that we show.”

What makes a movie on film better than digital?

“The color tones are always superior when you have a movie on film,” she explains. “We just played The Last Crusade and it was mind blowing, the skin tones were just perfect. You don’t see that on digital. The movies are just so sharp. I think people can really see that now, having seen digital for so long. And also just being able to handle it physically is really exciting.”

The film Barbash was most excited to be able to handle was Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The images from the films she’s most excited to get to share?

“The leader ladies,” she says. “I love them so much because it’s something that no one ever sees, but it’s on every movie that has ever been printed. I have a leader lady that’s actually a lizard – that was on the front of Batman Versus Superman. There’s a really fun Wonder Woman leader lady, too.”

Check out Celluloid Shadows at its premiere Friday, July 5, 6 p.m. at Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High St.). The opening night reception includes live music and light appetizers. The exhibit runs through the end of September.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly movie review podcast, SCREENING ROOM.

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