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August 2014
Issue: March 1, 2007

SPECIAL REPORT: THE ART OF CUTTING

By: Daniel Restuccio

BEVERLY HILLS — Both veterans and first-timers came away happy at the 57th American Cinema Editors (A.C.E.) Eddie Awards last month.

Thelma Schoonmaker, A.C.E., took home her fourth Eddie (which is likely to live next to her shiny new Oscar) for the work she did on Martin Scorcese's The Departed. In a historic tie, Schoonmaker shared the honor with first-time winners Stephen Mirrione, A.C.E., and Douglas Crise, who edited the film Babel. A.C.E editor Virginia Katz won her first Eddie for Bill Condon's Dreamgirls in the feature comedy or musical category.

Alan Heim, president of A.C.E., said, "It's a night where editors get a chance to honor their own. Editing is an enormously pragmatic art. Editors have been basically doing the same thing since the beginning of film, which is telling stories. And it takes a particular kind of mind that can tell stories in a concise fashion and entertain audiences."

Describing her recent work on The Departed, Schoonmaker said, "This film was rewritten in the editing room, because we had the problem of combining a thriller which had already existed as the film made in Hong Kong, Infernal Affairs. And we had this wonderful new footage given to us by [Oscar-winning writer] Bill Monahan and Scorsese and the wonderful actors we had, full of character and humor and startling dialogue. So the problem for me was how to keep the film a thriller and still keep as much as I could of that wonderful character material, which was not in the original film."

When I asked Mirrione about his distinctive, tautly edited multi-narrative, storytelling-style he said, "I do my worst work when I think about what I am doing, so I'm always trying to find ways to work off my gut, work off instinct. There's a confidence that comes in forcing yourself to do something and to do it quickly and to not think about it."

Oscar-nominated Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, a presenter at the awards, honored the craft of editing with the words, "To edit a film is to rewrite a film, to reinvent the film. Editors are the sculptors who can discover and reveal the real spirit and form of the stones that the director brings to the editing room."

Virginia Katz said of her work on Dreamgirls, "The film spoke for itself. I know how [Bill Condon] shoots, I know what he's looking for. We worked together from the very beginning and we have a connection. It was great, it was fun and it came together because he shot it that way. I'm going for the story and that's what tells me how to put it together. Even though there was singing, it's about what was happening emotionally, and that's what I cut to."

Eddie- and Emmy-winning A.C.E editor Steve Cohen (Material Girls, Rambling Rose), was presented with the Robert Wise Award for "journalistic illumination of the art of editing." Cohen, reflecting on his profession, said, "One of the rules of my cutting room has always been that nobody knows everything — there are no stupid questions. We all learn from each other, sorting this out together, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

"In the early years," continued Cohen, "we saw the tools of our trade replaced, but now we're facing a world where the very materials we work with are being replaced as well, where the whole workflow — all the way from camera to screen — will soon be nothing but zeros and ones. The only thing that will remain the same will be those flickering images that bring people together to share a story." (To read Cohen's speech in its entirety, visit our Website, www.postmagazine.com.)

Best edited documentary honors went to Jay Cassidy, A.C.E., and Dan Swietlik for the Davis Guggenheim film about Al Gore's global warming crusade, An Inconvenient Truth.

TELEVISION

Television Eddie Awards went to Trevor Waite, Prime Suspect 7: The Final Act, Part One (miniseries or motion picture for non-commercial television); Conrad Gonzalez, A.C.E., Keith Henderson and Stephen Michael for Friday Night Lights: Pilot, (one-hour series for commercial television); Kate Sanford, The Wire: Boys of Summer, (one-hour series for non-commercial television); Dean Holland and David Rogers, The Office: Casino Night, (half-hour series for television); Geoffrey Rowland, A.C.E., Eric Sears, A.C.E., Bryan Horne, David Handman, A.C.E. and Mitchell Danton, The Path To 9/11: Part Two (miniseries or motion picture for commercial television).

OTHER HONORS

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino received the A.C.E. Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year honor, which was presented to him by Daryl Hannah. Editors are important, said Tarantino, because, "they're like the co-writers; you write this script and now you're writing the film [again] when you edit it."

Lifetime Career Achievement Awards went to industry veterans John Soh, A.C.E.,  and Frank Urioste, A.C.E. Their prolific careers were highlighted with clip reels and praise from friends and colleagues during the event.