Well, the day is here—we knew it would eventually come. The day when an organization loses one of its key members, one who has been there from the beginning, shaping what would follow. What followed was the building and opening of the IU Cinema, in all of its glory. The key member is Manny Knowles, whose last day at Indiana University is today. Manny’s last day as ‘Founding Technical Director,’ though official titles have ebbed and flowed. He leaves us for an amazing opportunity outside of academia, as Director of Operations for a company that installs new motion picture/audio systems in theatres around the country. We wish him well, but …
HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED!
Of course, movie theatres have projectionists, and projectionists come and go. Well, IU Cinema is not just a movie theatre, and Manny Knowles is not just a projectionist (though he is also a projectionist extraordinaire). He is an archivist, film handler, trainer, mentor, team player, administrator, adjunct instructor, engineer (audio, electronic, and digital cinema), installer, scheduler, emergency action planner, cinephile, program contributor, and friend.
Manny arrived about five months before we opened in January of 2011—overseeing the installation of our very complex motion picture and AV systems. His film background was rooted in experience and education. Literally growing up making and projecting films, Manny was given the opportunity to build, run, and maintain projection booths in the Bahamas long before pursuing his film production degree at USC. While in LA, he had many other opportunities that he pursued, including projecting for the DGA. In addition to all of this background and the institutional knowledge he has amassed from being part of IU Cinema’s original install, Manny has finely-tuned our systems, programming, and processes for just about everything technical. He also has a passion for new knowledge and has multiple training courses under his belt with Barco and Crestron—becoming a ‘master’ installer, engineer, and programmer. This has all served the Cinema well.
The following may paint a more complete picture of his contributions and help you appreciate the role that Manny has played behind the scenes over the past six years.
THANK YOU, MANNY, AND GOOD LUCK!
THE NUMBERS (which are likely skewed low):
Below are some numbers that represent just a sampling of Manny’s contributions to Indiana University.
- Was responsible for the technical aspects of over 2000 presentations
- Inspected over 4 Million feet of 35mm or 16mm film
- Trained 10 graduate students to be professional and archival 35mm changeover projectionists
- Received DOZENS of compliments from filmmakers that they had never seen their films look and sound so good (see quotes below)
- Taught 5 undergraduate Sound for Film classes in The Media School and several stand-alone lectures
- Presented film prints from archives in at least 10 different countries
- Inspected (and created inspection reports) for screening materials for over 1000 film titles
- Managed production on at least 12 film events with live orchestra
- Satisfied tens of thousands of patrons each year with exemplary presentation
IU Cinema has earned a reputation as a place for exceptional exhibition and experiences. Manny’s booth, training, and maintenance practices have received praises both locally and from afar.
Ava DuVernay, filmmaker
The best projectionist I know—seriously!
Peter Bogdanovich, filmmaker
I don’t know if I have ever seen my film (The Last Picture Show) look this good.
Penelope Spheeris, filmmaker
Manny, you’re awesome!
Crispin Glover, filmmaker
Thank you for the technical excellence here!
Julie Dash, filmmaker
Best tech ever!
David Anspaugh, filmmaker
We have never seen our film (Hoosiers) look like this. I could not leave knowing that I may never see my film like this again.
Stanley Nelson, filmmaker
My film (Freedom Riders) looked better on screen here than it did at Sundance.
Kris Swanberg, filmmaker
Manny, You’re ‘technically’ awesome!
Christel Schmidt, Library of Congress
IUC is a great venue. Some of the best projection/presentation I’ve seen on the tour… as far as I am concerned, one of the best cinemas in the country.
Anne Wells, Archivist, Chicago Film Archives
Thank you all for facilitating such a great conference. Out of the 3 Orphans I’ve attended, this was definitely the most accommodating AND had the best projection!
Joseph Bernard, filmmaker
This was not only the best screening experience I’ve ever had, but is sure to remain one of the most singular events in my life.
Dan Streible, NYU professor and Orphans founder
I hope that the university and townies soon have that statue of Manny up for all to see.
Angelo Pizzo, filmmaker
Manny, thanks for the beautiful experience!
Mark Hood, Associate Professor, Jacobs School of Music
Your unflinching focus on the quality of what is presented and how it is presented to the audience is a wonderful model for all of these younger lives we influence – people that will be the arts performers, entrepreneurs and presenters for the decades to come.
IU Cinema Patron, Vertigo screening, 2016
We could not stop ourselves from discussing how phenomenal everything was, especially the projection. You are performing a doubtlessly underrated service with such screenings. It couldn’t make people like us happier, and for this we are extremely grateful. Keep up the great work!
The training and mentorship that Manny provided has had a profound impact on so many of the graduate students who have worked with him. Here are some remarks from former and current graduate students who have benefitted from Manny’s teaching and mentorship.
Amanda Keeler, Assistant Professor of Digital Media, Marquette University
Manny taught me everything I know about proper 35mm reel-to-reel projection at the IU Cinema. He was kind and patient with the projectionists as we learned the best ways to navigate the brand new, state of the art audio/video equipment. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with him during the Cinema’s first year of existence.
Dr. Mark Benedetti, Professor of English and Communications, Blackburn College
I’ll tell you two favorite Manny memories:
- The first time I projected a fairly recent 35mm print with multiple soundtracks, Manny spent the first hour of the show teaching me about the history of sound formats in a kind of offhand way, through casual conversation more than any kind of intentional, planned lesson. I always loved how he incorporated lessons into everything without even making the situation seem pressure-filled or lecture-y. I suppose he knew anyone taking that job probably wanted to know all that stuff, so it seemed like he saw those little teaching moments as part of his job.
- Projecting Shoah as a tag team, all 31 reels/8+ hours, was a real treat. We roughly planned a way to give each other breaks, but Manny never really took his–he hung out in the booth, watched bits of the film, inspected prints, etc. When I slightly mistimed a couple changeovers, he was, as always, relaxed and ready to advise and teach rather than blame or scold. I remain amazed at how rarely Manny seemed to be actively upset by anything going on in the theater, even when we were having a real equipment crisis or I thoroughly botched a print inspection.
Jenifer Berry, PhD candidate, Indiana University
I will forever think of the movie Snow Day differently. I learned how to make beautiful and seamless change overs while watching a childhood fave film for many. I could not have gained such a talent or skill from any other expert besides Manny. His attention to detail and precision demanded the same of me; I believed I achieved close to perfection on many nights in the booth.
Manny created a rich learning experience for his graduate student projectionists and was a pleasure to work for. He didn’t just teach us how to operate the equipment, but provided historical context for the different screening formats. In particular, Manny is very knowledgeable about sound technologies, and I learned so much about the history of sound in cinema exhibition while working with him. He’s a top-notch projectionist, and I’ll miss seeing him at the Cinema!
Sarah Mitchell, PhD candidate, Indiana University
Manny, you’ve been such a great boss and teacher over these past few years, I’m not quite sure how to thank you for all the time and knowledge you’ve imparted. My favorite moments were the long conversations we would have about film history and technology–you were always willing to answer my many questions. Thank you for introducing me to backstage-world of film projection and I wish you all the luck in the world on this new chapter in your life!
Seth Mitter, Collection Manager, Canyon Cinema Foundation
By the time of the industry shift away from film to digital projection (ca. 2010) I thought my long-cherished hopes of someday learning bona fide 35mm film projection were lost. In 2014 the IU Cinema granted my reprieve, and over the course of three semesters Manny Knowles was my teacher, initiating me into the great traditions and craft of professional film exhibition. In training new projectionists Manny instilled an almost militant degree of fastidiousness and discipline in handling and presenting films, insisting that we always strive for unqualified perfection.
Manny taught us to appreciate the privilege and to have reverence for the increasingly rare experience of projecting and viewing good 35mm prints. At the same time Manny is refreshingly immune to any fetishism or nostalgia for film – insisting that the whole viewing experience of a movie (especially sound!) is ultimately more important than technologies. Having gone on to continue working with film distribution and exhibition, as well as training students newly learning to work with film, I’m proud to continue applying lessons and craft learned from Manny.
Landon Palmer, PhD candidate, Indiana University
Manny has many useful work mottos, but two of my favorites are “This is why we rehearse” and “Trust the equipment, but not too much.” Manny has been a fantastic technical director, and his deep knowledge of cinema technologies and thorough approach to training have made me far more comfortable working the booth than I would otherwise be. But these two pieces of advice are essential, as they add up to saying, “Be prepared for the unexpected” — a worldview that goes beyond knowing how to thread a reel. Cinema projection on various formats can bring forth its fair share of high-pressure situations, and I can’t think of a more fitting attitude for this dynamic environment. Manny’s positive take on problem-solving is something I will carry past his move, and it’s a pretty good perspective for life outside of a Cinema as well.
Zeynep Yasar, PhD candidate, Indiana University
Having Manny as a supervisor for the last five months has been a wonderful experience. His impressive ability to provide us graduate student projectionists with the most thorough training one could have imagined while remaining very patient, generous, and fun in the process is something I have felt very thankful for during our time together. Not only did I learn so much from Manny’s mentorship in just a semester, but I’ve also truly enjoyed our conversations in the booth. I will greatly miss working with him, our chats, his sense of humor, and his love for coffee. Best wishes for an exciting new adventure in Dallas!
Jordan Green, graduate student, Indiana University
I learned a great deal about being a projectionist, but the greater lesson I will take away is how to present myself and act as a professional. He can be instructive, dictative, and endearing in the same breath. I can’t imagine learning as much as I have and enjoying the cinema as much as I have if it wasn’t Manny who had patiently and warmly indoctrinated me into the correct way of doing things.
GOOD LUCK, MANNY!
We all know that you will thrive in this next stage of your career. We will miss you!
Manny Knowles will introduce tonight’s 9:30 p.m. screening of Joe Dante’s Gremlins.
Jon Vickers is the Founding Director of IU Cinema. He has been ‘building community’ through film experiences since the early 1990s, having opened and built programs for three thriving art cinemas in the Midwest. Favorite film: Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995).