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Millennial Hoopla

The owner of Charlottetown's City Cinema shares his insights

by Derek Martin

While I'm more than happy to have made it to the odometer rollover that is New Year's 2000, I think I share the feeling of a lot of people that it is not as significant as media and advertisers would have us believe. History as taught in high school would be a lot easier if important events stuck to round numbered years, but they don't. What happened in 1900? 1950? I bet they celebrated, but Great World Parties were not seen as a necessary subject at MRHS. My biggest Y2K concern now is the stack of unused cheques in the drawer with _____19___ printed on them.

There hasn't been a lot of millennial hoopla in the movie business, maybe because hoopla is business as usual for Hollywood, or perhaps because nobody was organized enough in time. I am sure it's not because anyone was being smart, rational, or restrained on purpose. We have seen an article or two on where film might be headed in the twenty-hundreds, but they've been based on current trends, and seemed to be more about filling column inches than offering real insight.

I do have real insight to offer, because I work face to face with the movie-going public, and I know the questions that people really ask. I don't need research companies and focus groups. So instead of a lot of speculative nonsense, here are the answers people really want-the City Cinema F.A.Q.

Where do you get your movies?

They're usually booked from distributors in Toronto and shipped by bus from a depot in St. John.

How do you pick them?

I read dozens of reviews in magazines, newspapers and online, consider what kinds of films people have responded well to in the past, and try and make sure every month has lots of variety.

What's in that popcorn topping?

It's a tasty, healthy 50/50 mix of real butter and margarine.

Those are big reels! (Not really a question, but it is an invitation to talk).

Yes, we splice the film that comes on small twenty-minute reels onto one big one that will run through our projector uninterrupted.

Are you getting that movie?

Maybe.

Are you getting that movie back?

Maybe.

I forgot my card. Do I have to pay full price?

Yep.

What do you do with your posters?

I archive them. Video stores are your best bet for used posters, though policies differ. Downtown Convenience have been selling theirs for ninety-nine cents.

What's the phone number for the Charlottetown Mall Cinemas?

892-0943

Is that movie subtitled?

You got a problem with that?

Do you like the Victorian Christmas light display?

It's okay, but I would have preferred a monorail.

I was expecting a recording.

This must be the only business where some people prefer listening to a machine. However, I do answer the phone when I'm in, and love to talk about movies, so don't be shy!

Is that it? (After hearing what's playing).

Yes.

Do you like the Victorian Christmas light display?

It's okay, but I would have preferred a monorail.

What kind of movies do you show?

Good ones.

A big thanks to all our moviegoers for their support and encouragement so far, and Happy New Year!

Chairman of the Board

Profile: Scott Purdy

by Derek MartinScott Purdy

Scott Purdy's name is one that you'll see if you stay for the credits at the movies, As a re-recording mixer, he's one of the last people to work on a film before it gets printed and handed over to the theatre. He's just received his second Genie nomination, for his work on Lilies (the first was for Johnny Mnemonic). I had called him last winter for some sound advice, and he took a couple of hours out of a recent trip home from Toronto to drop by City Cinema and chat.

After graduating from the Trebas Institute of Recording Arts in Toronto in the early eighties he got a job at Eastern Sound (a recording studio), starting in shipping and becoming a studio assistant. He compares a his time there, which included albums by Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot as well as work with Bob Dylan, to being a nurse at an operation, assisting the engineers technically. He also got hands-on experience, bringing friends in for their own projects after-hours.

Scott felt he was being held back at Eastern, and reluctantly left to go to Film House, a Toronto post-production facility now known as Deluxe Toronto. As his skills developed, so did his understanding of the politics of a business where huge talents mix freely with huge egos and insecurities. Scott describes his work as being twenty-five per cent technical skills and seventy-five per cent people skills.

A turning point for Scott was the day he put his job on the line in a confrontation with Sonny Grosso, the real-life cop from the French Connection, who had become a producer. Scott had mixed the first episode of Top Cops for him, but Sonny's advisors had it redone. Appalled when he saw it on TV, he said so when Sonny, with his entourage of eighteen people, began taking apart the second show. He fully expected to be fired, but won his argument. Sonny worked exclusively with Scott for the next three years, until Scott made the move to feature films.

Since then, Scott has mixed several dozen films, including Camilla, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and Stargate, for which he received a Golden Reel nomination. Most recently, Maximum Risk was released, and Scott talked about what goes into a big budget sound mix.

For Maximum Risk he started with 48 tracks of atmospheres, 96 tracks of specific effects, 8 tracks of dialogue, 2 tracks of crowd noises, 12 tracks of music, and 32 tracks of foley (studio recorded sounds like footsteps). He first boiled these down to a six-channel premix, with 4 tracks of background, 8 specific effects, 1 of dialogue recorded while shooting (sync sound), 1 of dialogue recorded afterwards (ADR or looped sound), 2 of crowd sounds (1 general and 1 specific), and 2 tracks of foley. The final stage, called stem recording, involved mixing all this down to 6 channels of dialogue, music, and effects, and 4 of foley. These 22 tracks are then mastered onto the 6 tracks needed for digital surround sound - left, right, centre, left and right surrounds, and subwoofer. In the case of Maximum Risk, this was accomplisehed working with director Ringo Lam, a Hong Kong star making his first Hollywood film, who had never worked in anything but mono sound!

I asked Scott if he ever used his own voice when he was stuck, and he said that he's somewhere in every film he's done, filling in something they forgot to record, like Bruce Willis drawing on his cigarettes in In Country. He also commented that his philosophy is that less is more-you can only do so much, and that mixing is about creating space. Scott says his best compliment came from his father, Island artist Henry Purdy, who told him that what he did wasn't too different from what Henry does, but he paints with sound.

Lilies, which he describes as the neatest thing he's ever done, will be playing at City Cinema.

Derek Martin is the owner and operator of City Cinema in Charlottetown.

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