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Friday, June 14, 2019

Meet the Projection Team That Keeps BAMcinemaFest Rolling

Mike Katz, Head Projectionist

By Sam Polcer

The film festival The New Yorker called “The city’s best independent showcase” is in full swing, which makes Mike Katz, who has been the Head Projectionist here at BAM since the cinemas opened in 1998, along with Jesse Green, our Cinema Technical Manager, currently two of the busiest men in show business. We thought we’d make their day even more complicated by sneaking into their submarine-like lair to ask them a couple questions about the unique challenges posed by such a unique cinema experience. (You’re welcome, guys.)

So, what makes a film festival challenging for a projectionist?

Mike: You have to hold a lot of hands. Jesse's very good at doing that. Basically, with festivals, it’s like having a family with lots of different children. You try and give them everything they need, you want to be able to sit down at the table at the same time for dinner or go to bed at the same time—and with a festival like this, everybody is the most important baby. Our job is to get it on screen, with the problems they might have: file work, actual cinematography problems, audio issues, and the like, and help them beforehand to get it to where it's a good show. We may not be responsible for content, but there's a lot of extracurricular work and stress getting things delivered on time, and at the end of the day when you get it all together, it’s just another show that has to be done right.

Jesse: Specifically with BAMcinemaFest, it’s a lot of up-and-coming filmmakers who don’t have the resources of a studio with lots of money, so we do what we can to help them get onscreen in the best way possible, whether it’s with them stopping by to look at a couple of versions of their movie, or by receiving final versions a day before the festival starts. I'm not going to say no when they had to make some changes and send us a new version.

Jesse Green, Cinema Technical Manager

Is the complexity fun and appealing... or is it a pain?

Mike: All of the above. It's stressful, but also rewarding. With the stress, when you pull it all off and everything comes together, and you actually helped somebody and they come back and recognize that, it’s very rewarding.

Jesse: One of my favorite things is seeing filmmakers experience their movie in the cinema for the first time. Whether that's with an audience, or whether it's in the afternoon when I'm just running their movie or something, that pure joy and excitement, after a journey that could have been 2 or 10 years long, is the greatest. It's so nice to see.

Mike: It’s a cool feeling, when they’re standing around in the back, looking around at people's faces, you realize they’ve been working with this on a monitor, after struggling with different people, actors, locations, finances, etc., with the ultimate goal to get it onscreen where people can see it. Whether it's to get it bought, to proliferate their career, whether it's a love song they had to get out. And I was a part of it, even if I was just showing a movie.

BAMcinemaFest runs Jun 12—23.

Photographs by Sam Polcer
© 2019, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.


  1. Thanks very much Sam for the heads-up

  2. Thank you very much Sam for this like this can you please also write about any musician like piano teacher. I think their life is also challenging.