Robin Rowe
June 11, 2010


“This year's EditFest hopes to bring the audience into the editing room for an insider’s view of what happens during the post process,” says Manhattan Edit Workshop founder Josh Apter. “What's special about any EditFest is the exposure it provides to the creativity behind such an important part of moviemaking. So few people actually get to learn the craft directly from experienced editors.”


“I got involved with EditFest through the American Cinema Editors,” says The Cove editor Geoffrey Richman, who became a member of ACE a few months ago after winning the Eddie award for best documentary.

“People who are interested in editing in general would learn a lot from the process of documentary film editing,” says Richman. “It’s such a loose medium, where there’s so much random footage to work with. There’s no script. It’s the extreme of how to put a story together.” On Saturday at 10am, Richman and a panel of documentary film editors will reveal how they extract the inherent emotional quality of a story from hundreds of hours of unconnected raw footage.

Richman recently edited the Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko-directed comedy The Virginity Hit, to be released in September by Columbia Pictures. Richman just finished editing a short documentary called The Last Text and a short narrative called Time Freak, both shot using Canon 5D MkII and SD cameras. Richman says the image quality of digital cameras is amazing, if you can work around the video artifacts.


“This is a chance to hear about how Avatar was made from the people who were at the center of the process: the editors,” says Avatar editor Steven Rivkin of the Saturday discussion slated for 3:45pm

“We’re going to talk about how we did Avatar,” says Avatar editor John Refoua. “It’s a very complicated movie. There are a lot of things that had never been done. It was edited in a way that we’d never edited before, just because of the technology and the way Jim [Cameron] wanted to work. We’re going to bring behind-the-scenes and techniques. We’re going to bring footage out of the Avid the way we worked before it became all pretty.”.


“I'd like to touch upon the psychological barriers when problem-solving in the editing room,” says The Blind Side editor Mark Levolsi. “Hopefully, audience members will gain insight into the tools and methods that we use to solve problems.” Moderated by Josh Apter, a panel of editors will discuss their many problem-solving experiences on Saturday at 2:15pm.

“The one that I remember as a superhuman problem, in a wonderful way, was a scene in Raging Bull,” says The Departed editor Thelma Schoonmaker. “It was an incredible improvisation between Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. Because it was so rich and Scorsese could only shoot with one camera, I had coverage on only one actor at a time. It took me almost two months just to cut that one scene. I had to figure out a way to take the best and make it seem they were talking to each other. Now Scorsese whenever he shoots improvisation, always shoots two cameras for that reason.”
Schoonmaker recently edited The Invention of Hugo Cabret, based on a graphic novel and to be released in a month by Sony. Levolsi is currently cutting The Big Year with director David Frankel. “Picture Hitchcock’s The Birds as a comedy, and you're halfway there,” says Levolsi. It stars Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin.


“Usually when I talk, I talk about Network or All That Jazz,” says My Sister’s Keeper editor Alan Heim. “I’m going to be talking about some scenes from Star 80, a very under-appreciated film I did with Bob Fosse a long time ago. When Star 80 came out the critics said it’s basically an unwatchable movie, except that it’s so beautifully made.” On Saturday at noon, Heim will explain how the beautiful complexity of editing can transform a film.

EditFest NY is not only an opportunity to learn about the craft of editing, it’s a chance to find out more about the tools editors use. Of the editors we interviewed, most use Avid. The Cove editor Geoffrey Richman uses Final Cut Pro. The Departed editor Thelma Schoonmaker uses Lightworks.

“I was trained on Lightworks years ago when we did our first digital film, Casino,” says Schoonmaker. “I love the machine because it’s somewhat filmic in its attributes. Instead of having to type on a keyboard you can use a controller that’s very much like the old flatbed editing machines.” Lightworks was acquired by EditShare and is preparing to release an open source version of the Lightworks Windows editor in Q3.

EditFest NY kicks off Friday (tonight) at 7:15pm with the “Opening Night Panel The Lean Forward Moment.” It’s being held at the Director's Guild of America Theater on West 57th Street. Tickets are $349, or $249 for students and members of partner organizations.