Online archive copy of Newsletter 63 which was a printed newsletter:
Royal Weddings on the evening news, a friend’s fiftieth anniversary and a messy divorce in the Sunday paper have combined to make me think about relationships.
The editor/director relationship has sometimes been described as a kind of marriage. When it goes well the collaborative vibe can be exhilarating. A trust develops from sharing the highs and lows of the editing process and experiencing each other’s strengths and weaknesses at close quarters. Gillian Armstrong said to us at last year’s accreditation ceremony “You hold our secrets. You know our worst; you’ve seen it.”
There are some famous and enduring editor/director relationships like Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, Michael Kahn and Steven Spielberg, Roderick Jaynes and the Coen Brothers, Walter Murch and Francis Ford Coppola & Anthony Minghella, but does that make Walter a bigamist?
The marriage analogy can be taken a little further. The shoot has delivered a baby and the director and editor now collaborate to nurture the child until it grows into an independent adult, strong enough to withstand the ’slings and arrows’ of distributors, reviewers and eventually the audience. The editor is one of the proud parents!
We all start out with the best intentions but unfortunately more than half the marriages that take place in Australia end in divorce. There are often complex reasons for the breakdown and more often than not, poor communication is one of them. The editing suite can be a pressure cooker with budgets and deadlines and technical hitches all conspiring to test the relationship. If it does not hold together the breakdown can be extremely painful. Mediation can help but in the end no amount of legislation will fix it.
Parents stick together ’for the sake of the kids’ and tensions in the cutting room are put aside because ’the film comes first’. Ay and there’s the rub. The film does come first. In the current climate everyone is vulnerable and the editor is unlikely to come out on top. You can’t rely on the producer or the broadcaster or the funding body to take a moral stand on your behalf. They are doing it tough too. ’Loyalty’ and ’Ethics’ are nice words but in the real world “you’re only as good as your last job”.
So what’s the point of this letter? It’s a reality check. It’s a very tough world for everyone in the Oz film industry right now. You cannot afford to assume anything, not even the loyal support of your collaborators. Keep the communication lines open and make sure they are as pleased with your work as you think they are!
On a lighter note, Accreditation 2004 is just around the corner. Margaret Pomeranz has agreed to be our keynote speaker and The Basement is booked for Saturday 17th July. Make a note in your diary right now, please.
See you all soon.
Fellow Victorians. How are you all keeping as we enter the final stages of autumn and poise to embrace winter? Yippee! Not that it should bother us during working hours. Anyway, could be worse. Could be winter in Wellington, NZ! I know, I’ve lived there. Doesn’t cramp their film-making style, though.
At this point, perhaps we should congratulate Jamie Selkirk (’James’ on the nite) upon receiving the Academy Award for his work on the final of the ’Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy. BACK TOâ€¦. 1993. I was syncing rushes for ’Heavenly Creatures’ and he was editing on the trusty Steenbeck, when I said to him: “What about the non-linear stuff, Jamie?”
“Na, I’ll keep cutting on film ’till I’m ready to retire, I reckon.” (words to that effect, anyway)
Gotta move with the times Baby!
Ah, to the present
Recently an event was held in conjunction with Soundfirm to showcase the post work on the feature “One Perfect Day” directed by Paul Currie. A good turnout and a fantastic venue, Soundfirm Port Melbourne in the theatrette where the film was mixed. Please refer to Roberta Horslie’s report in this issue for more detail.
There’s a few in the pipeline including a ’Basic Assistant’s course/workshop’. A reasonable amount of planning is required to formulate this one. We’re still working on it.
The participants of Strange Bedfellows have indicated their willingness to host a night, but the event has been held up pending the availability of a print. We really wanted to present the film on the ’Big Screen’, well biggish anyway, to accompany the guest speakers. Keep you posted.
I’m presently workshopping an event for the documentary, “Poker Kings”, which had its premiere at the Popcorn Taxi night at ACMI in Federation Square on Tuesday 11th May. A full house ensured a good reception and a lengthy Q&A which followed. We’re putting together a nite to be hosted by the film’s editor, Cindy Clarkson. Stay tuned for that one.
Incidently, a longer version of the film is airing on SBS on July 15th, so keep an eye out for that. It gets a big ’Thumbs Up’ from me. I found it very entertaining.
There’s several other events on the agenda as well, but have yet to be formulated. Stay tuned, it could be a busy year.
Chairman, ASE VIC committee
The 2004 ASE Accreditation night will this year be held on Saturday July 17th in Sydney’s “The Basement” restaurant. It will be the third occasion that the ASE membership has gathered to award accreditation to the some of the most respected editors in the Australian post-production industry.
ASE accreditation is an acknowledgement of a very strong body of work. It is an acknowledgement of excellence in screen editing. It is an acknowledgement of an editor who has passed on knowledge of the craft of editing. It is an acknowledgement of an editor who has worked to promote good editing and editing practices.
25 guild members have been honoured thus far. This year they will be joined by another 10 distinguished editors. We are pleased to announce that Margaret Pomeranz, well known film critic and former host of SBS TV’s The Movie Show. will be our guest speaker this year.
Ticketing details for this year’s ceremony will be available soon, watch the website for details.
ATTENTION All Editors!!
Annual General Meeting & ’Know Thy Pixel’ Seminar
September 18th 2004, 2pm Paddington RSL, Oxford Street
The Annual General Meeting is coming up - although not as quickly as our Accreditation Night - it is equally important, if not moreso - it’s your chance to become involved with the ’business end’ of your guild, and also enjoy a very informative seminar that previous newsletter editor Mr. Webb’s been cooking up...yes, in addition to hobnobbing with your fellow editors, you can learn more about the pleasures of the digital image, with the Know Thy Pixel seminar.
Speaker Piers Goodhew will explain the various important issues surrounding compression, hardware,
software, where when and how things go
wrong - and how to keep things running smoothly. Piers is a multi-skilled precious
gem of a fellow; well versed in all things ’New Media’, and a brilliant writer of applescripts. He troubleshoots systems in his sleep, and really has managed to cram a lot of info into his head. I think it’s fantastic that he’s going to share some information with us, and I want you to know well in advance that an opportunity to learn something, anything, from Piers should not be missed. He also has a rather keen sense of humour, so should be pretty darn good value.
In addition, we are very happy to relay that we shall be joined by Shaun Smith, Chairman of our Victorian Branch. Shaun
is looking forward to joining us in Sydney for the AGM, and we hope you’ll come along and extend a warm welcome to him. For those who know Shaun, here’s a chance for you to participate in Guild business and engage in some post-seminar catching up with him. Shaun’s presence will be a very welcome addition to our annual editors’ pow-wow.
So...apart from your overwhelming desire to help us make quorum and deal with official ASE business, vote yourself President, etc; please come and join us for what promises to be an exceptional seminar and social distraction from life in the cutting room.
YOU'D HATE TO miss out...
Is your membership due for renewal? Been receiving any reminders via email or snail mail? That’s because we don’t want to lose you...
Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but membership upkeep is very important! Your fees help with the operational costs of the Guild, which provides its membership with a variety of services, from seminars to social soirees and -gasp- the newsletter you’re holding right now. If you are having a hard time getting your fees together you can always make special arrangements that allow you to stay involved and benefit from the many joys of membership - like accreditation! I’d hate to miss out on that, wouldn’t you? So contact the ASE office and stay in the loop!
The ASE would like to extend a very warm welcome to our new sponsor, Mike Reed & Partners Post Production. Mike became an accredited member last year, as a result of his outstanding and ongoing support of our editing community. We are very glad to have his company’s support as a sponsor; it really is fantastic to see his committment and enthusiasm for the ASE extended in such a vital way.
The ASE values all of the support and sponsorship we
receive from our professional community. These vital contributions enable us to provide the Guild’s membership with valuable information, services, and cultural events. Many thanks to all of ASE’s sponsors and supporters, as well as the dedicated membership that make it all worthwhile.
For those members with a connection to cyberspace, don’t forget to check out the ASE website at www.screeneditors. com for access to an increasingly rich archive of editing articles, as well as all the latest news about upcoming events and discussion about what is happening in the industry. Being an ASE member will enable you to access the EditSearch forum, in which employers post notices of jobs available for editors and editing assistants.
Recent weeks have seen the emergence of a contingent of Western Australian editors on the website, as well as discussions about wether a career change from I.T. to editing is advisable (and what training is required), discussions about whether the SBS charter discriminates against some editors, and reports about recent events in Sydney and Melbourne.
So if you haven’t taken a look at the website recently, check it out. The more people who participate in the website and its online forums, the more varied and interesting it will become. Who knows, you may even find a job - or read a story that brightens up your day.
ONE PERFECT DAY in one perfect night!
Roberta Horslie ASE reports on the recent Melbourne event.
What else could you ask for. Pizza, a glass of wine and a big screen with, to be expected, perfect Dolby sound! Then hear the film editor, assistant and sound designer talk about their work on the feature film One Perfect Day.
With a great turn out we comfortably filled the Theatre Studio at Melbourne’s Soundfirm, and so were all sitting exactly where the films final mix had happened.
Gary Woodyard (film editor), Amelia Ford (assistant and associate editor) and Paul Pirola (sound designer) took us through various excerpts of the film. Played off DVD, which gave fast access to scenes, and projected on a large screen with full Dolby Digital surround, it made for a great film experience. Apparently the smell of pizza’s in the background were reminiscent of the edit suite, so our speakers felt quite at home!
It was very obvious that this film was made on the basis of a collaboration between all departments, and that the director Paul Currie empowered everyone. He was open to ideas and wanted people not to be afraid to try something different. Paul Pirola said that it meant you just wanted to do your absolute best. This seemed to be the general feeling of all the post personnel.
Paul Currie had approached Gary Woodyard some five years earlier, with an idea for his feature while they had been doing a Reach youth documentary. So Gary and Amelia became quite involved at an early stage. They would meet up with Paul Currie and work on ideas for the film, developing the script. Subsequently, they went through12 drafts of the script. With the usual rule of thumb that each page of a script is approximately a minute’s screen time, the final draught ended up at 120 pages, but once cut on film ran at 200 mins.
Scenes like the concerts and raves were only half a page on paper but in reality ran 6-8 minutes on screen. Also good performances meant that Gary and Paul Currie wanted to hold on to them for longer. However, it needed to be cut down in length so after cutting scenes and some characters out, the final film now runs106 mins. Amelia and Gary mentioned that as there were a number of subplots. This made it tricky to drop characters and scenes. For example, Gary would have to cut around say a character that had been dropped, but was still in a scene that had to stay. Interestingly, when the film was running at 115 minutes, the script writer wrote up the cut and it was 74 pages (74 mins.) long, which they would never have been able to sell as a feature length film.
Originally the edit time was scheduled for 6 weeks during the shoot and then another 6 months in post. However, the edit ran out to 15 months! In that time they had explored 30 totally different cuts. The film had not been sold when they started cutting, so there were promos made to raise money. They also did a number of test screenings, with Amelia driving down to St.Kilda, picking up an audience of backpackers from various nations. As the film was cut at Tide Edit, of which Gary is a partner, they had access to a number of edit suites. So consequently, they would run the film simultaneously in all the suites and fill them with backpackers and anyone else they dragged in who had nothing to do with the film. Screenings were also run out of Soundfirm.
They found the test screenings to be very beneficial as the film seemed to be able to take on different directions with different cuts. For example, at one point the film was becoming quite dark and some of the female feedback reflected this. Then it became too light. They found that you could feel the audience’s sense of a character or lack of.
Of course the old question is, when is the cut finished? Gary felt this was always a hard one. As they were cutting at Tide, at one point they had the opportunity to put the film aside for a month while Paul Currie was trying to sell it overseas. When he got back, the time away gave them a chance to take a fresh look at it, which proved to be beneficial. Gary always felt that there was something more in there, and having this chance to continue without a harsh deadline, meant he could explore this.
As mentioned earlier there was a lot of collaboration between departments. Paul Pirola had also been involved at a very early stage pre shooting. During the picture editing, Paul would often pop down the road to Gary’s edit suite after his days work at Soundfirm, no matter how late it was, and just sit and watch. The sound was a very big part of the film and so Paul was doing a lot of sound work during the picture edit. Gary was cutting to temp tracks and although the beatline to the rave music was interchangeable, they still had to re-edit and work around all the new tracks that Paul Currie was sourcing from around the world. Paul Pirola would come in and suggest audio ideas which would lead Gary to another idea, or a different way of cutting a scene. Often Gary would give Paul a scene and then Paul would send it back with audio he had layed up at Soundfirm. So the post production became a very organic process.
Paul had a number of layers of sound he was working with. Classical music, real world sounds and electronic techno, that all combined to create an amazing soundscape with a great moving beat. Beautiful sounds like a cello that sounded like a train slowing down that was then mixed in with the real sounds.
Paul also talked about the sounds that would be part of Tommy’s mind (the main character of the film) which they called Tommy Time. Gary would cut the scene with rough visual effects then hand it to Tide’s flame department, then give it to Paul Pirola to add sound and then it would come back to Gary who may then do changes to suit what the sound was doing. There were also scenes to be shot that relied on playback music and effects, so Paul had to prepare and construct music and sound for the playback on set.
An interesting story was that Paul Currie had shot a scene based on a sample of sound he had heard of crickets being slowdowned. Paul
Pirola was trying to get his hands on the sample for the scene, but no one seemed to be able to find this mysterious piece of sound. No one seemed to believe Paul Currie’s story. So one day Paul Pirola was mucking around in the studio and grabbed some cricket effects, slowed them down and was amazed that what Paul Currie had heard was true: that crickets slowdown sounded like a hymn.
The raves became somewhat troublesome to shoot as they were organised gigs that people came to for a good time. So to try and stop the rave music for the shoot (even though the production organised the rave) meant the risk of loosing the crowd. A number of scenes were shot in and amongst the rave, hoping that the party goers behaved themselves in the background during a dialogue scene. Gary and Amelia were heavily involved in the raves as they basically took a camera & DP into the thick of the crowd picking up shots that they knew would be handy later. The producers felt there was too much footage shot at the raves, but Gary explained that they used practically every shot, with hardly anything left over.
On a technical level: Gary and Amelia were on 2 Avids that shared a raid drive system, so they could both access the same footage. The film was shot at 24fps (approx 220,000 feet of 35mm) transferred in telecine at 25fps and the Avid film composer slows it back down to 24. They had 460 gigs of storage, so that everything was digitised into the
system. Amelia sunk all the rushes in the Avid (which was a major feat considering that at the raves, the slates were practically inaudible) but it also meant that everything was in sync and accurate for the sound department (as there are variants in timecode slate delays, from 1 - 8 frames, this makes it a bit harder to be spot on every time when syncing in telecine and if there is no code or slates, then telecine leaves these slates to be manually done by the assistant). The film was originally going to be finished in the traditional way in the lab, but as the film started being transferred, Digital Pictures Melbourne became interested in doing it digitally. This meant that Tide, who were doing all the special effects shots, could now do more effects if required and gain more opportunities they would otherwise not have had, had they gone the traditional route. So having gone from originally quoting on doing 24 effects, they ended up doing 65 effects.
In finishing this article there were many interesting stories from all three speakers, and to add them all here would fill the newsletter. So for those of you who missed the night we shot it all on mini DV. Of course being a group of editors, we will have it ready for viewing somewhere in the very near future! Promise! Oh, if you have missed the film in the cinema get it out on DVD, it is worth seeing and hearing!!!
Many thanks to Paul P, Gary and Amelia for giving up their time to talk to us and to Soundfirm Melbourne for their facilities. RH
IN CASE you asked
by Dominic Case
Q: My doco was shot on
video at 25fps and then telecined to film for cinema distribution. Will it run longer (and with the audio lower in pitch), because of film running at 24fps - or is some whiz-bang technique used to compensate for this, by dropping a frame every second? “Speedy” Gonzalez
A: Not so fast, Speedy! (Couldn’t resist that.) It wouldn’t be telecine. That’s for film to tape, not tape to film. Of course you knew that, didn’t you. Didn’t you? What you have in mind is “tape to film transfer” - or “kine” for the classical scholars among us.
But to your question. Yes, it’s normal to transfer frame-for-frame, so that
the duration will be extended by one
twentyfifth, or four per cent. Some people argue that you normally cut a little faster for the small screen, so the slight slow-down in action is actually an improvement for the big screen. Others say the show would be better improved if it ran faster, not slower – and they could get home earlier. In fact, in the silent era, when cameras ran at about 16 fps, films were often projected at 20 fps or more for just that reason.
Going the other way, of course, theatrical films shot at 24fps are always transferred to video (on a telecine, yes, that’s right) at 25fps, so they run faster than normal. Contractual obligations aside, that already gives you two and a half minutes every hour freed up for commercials.
As for the sound, yes again: your TV show will play two thirds of a semitone flat in the cinema. If that offends you, it’s possible to re-pitch the soundtrack with a digital thingumibob. Mostly people don’t bother. The last time I told someone that two thirds of a semitone wasn’t enough to be bothered about, they turned out to be a professor of music. Oops! They didn’t know what a telecine was though.
Q: Why is it so hard to hear the dialogue in features and high-end drama on TV these days? Are the sound designers mixing the audio for home theaters with Dolby 5.1 surround sound rather than my 20 year old Philips TV with its tiny mono speaker?
J Bogie Laird
A: Have you considered a hearing aid?
No, of course not. Far better to blame digital technology. (Everyone else does). As far as cinema sound is concerned, the significant things about digital sound are one, you can record it louder, and two, you get much, much better separation between left, right, surrounds etc. Now the mixers (let’s blame them too) don’t mix everything louder: that would be a bad thing to do. We all know how loud people talk, so dialogue is always mixed at that level. But now that there’s good separation between channels, they can heap a load more effects in, as loud as you please (well, as loud as they please), but put it all - the traffic noise, crunching leaves, gunfire, kitchen noises, and passing tanks - in the surrounds. Humans have binaural hearing, and can distinguish sounds from different directions, so you can still hear the dialogue distinctly even at its natural level. Provided you are in a cinema playing 5.1 sound (yours at home, or a real one). Oh! - and provided the manager hasn’t turned the sound down because the matinee audience don’t like noisy films.
Unfortunately your 20-year-old single speaker TV can’t separate the centre- channel dialogue from the surrounding music and effects. May be time to get a new one. Or you could make a real feature of that TV. Invite friends around to watch re-runs of Dynasty. Dressed for the period of course, in their padded shoulders and Boy George haircuts. Turn the sound right up and have a party.
20-04-1927 – 19-04-2004
Australia has lost one of its greatest and most courageous filmmakers in Tim Burstall, who died in April. Burstall, who defied the prevailing ethos that Australians wouldn’t go to see Australian features, made 15 of them during a career spanning four decades. Many, such as Stork and Petersen were great successes, with Alvin Purple being the first Australian film to have worldwide distribution (due, in part, to a young Alan Finney’s involvement), making over a million dollars. Before Schepisi, before Beresford and before Weir, Tim was hocking his Arthur Boyd paintings to finance such films as 2,000 Weeks which, despite being unsuccessful, did not deter him from his iconoclastic vision of creating Australian characters and stories.
On Friday 30th April around 300 friends, relatives and film-lovers all but filled ACMI Cinema 2 at Federation Square to hear Ross Dimsey, Alan Finney, Jack Thompson, David Williamson, Jacki Weaver, John Waters and cameraman,
Rob Copping, amongst others pay tribute to Tim. True to Tim’s nature, the mood was celebratory rather than mournful. John Waters’ evocation of the rabid passion Tim displayed; with wild hair and eyes like a man possessed, yelling directions - even in intimate scenes - was particularly amusing. Others reminded the gathering, which included ex-wife and La Mama Theatre founder, Betty, just how argumentative and belligerent Tim could be. But all agreed, he was the master, and all deferred to his ’sheer force of intellect’, as biographer and close friend, Roland Perry put it.
After the initial successes of Alvin Purple and Australia’s first million-dollar budgeted film, Eliza Fraser, Tim went on to make Kangaroo, Attack Force Z with recent NIDA graduate, Mel Gibson, High Rolling (with Judy Davis) and one of my favourites, The Last of the Knucklemen. He also wrote and directed the mini- series, Great Expectations, The Untold Story, a number of other television productions, and no less than 35 short films.
In a way, Tim had turned full circle when he had a massive stroke during a retrospective of his work at Eltham. His journey took him from England as a child to Geelong Grammar, Melbourne University, the US, where he studied script-writing, back to Australia and Eltham, where he built a mud-brick house and raised a family. His two sons, Tom and Dan, both have successful film careers. Just three weeks prior to his death Tim was in Sydney, conducting (some suggested, writing!) interviews with stars and collaborators on many of his films for the inevitable DVD releases. One of the participants, Stork’s Bruce Spence, remarked that he was eagerly looking forward to meeting up with Tim again in Melbourne three weeks on, but as he put it, ’Not like this’. It is unlikely Australia will be again be blessed with another like him.
The writer’s parents were friends of the Bustalls during the early seventies
Walter McIntosh reports on a recent “Conversations With Editors” event - Editors Working Outside The Cutting Room - featuring Denise Haslem ASE and Andrea Lang.
Recently two ASE past presidents have been involved with projects that have seen them spend considerable time outside as well as inside the cutting room. Andrea Lang and Denise Haslem ASE, both very experienced documentary editors, have combined their editing skills with other key roles in the production. Denise cut as well as produced the hour-long ABC documentary Lonely Boy Richard, and Andrea was editor, sound-recordist and co-producer for the four episode ABC series Our Boys. They each found the experience to be very intense, but ultimately were rewarded by the increased level of involvement that multiple roles in the production gave them.
On Thursday, 11th of March the ASE held its first Conversations with Editors event for the year. In the comfortable environment of the Paddington RSL, Denise and Andrea showed clips from both programs and addressed some of the pitfalls and joys they experienced by taking on multiple roles. The aim of the event was also to look at a trend in the industry, especially in documentaries, for filmmakers to take on multiple roles. Increasingly picture editors are being asked to do more than just edit the picture. Is it tighter budgets and faster turnaround times that are leading editors to having to sound edit and often online their own material? Or is it also a creative choice, where easier to use technology means that boundaries of demarcation between production roles can be less defined?
Denise Haslem had combined producing and editing roles for Lonely Boy Richard’s director Trevor Graham before, on the award-winning Mabo: Life Of An Island Man. After many years as an editor, her desire to produce came out of a feeling of wanting to get out of the cutting room and have more engagement with the characters and shooting situation of the documentary. For the filming of Lonely Boy Richard, Denise and Trevor lived for ten months among an aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Denise brought an AVID with her and did
much of the editing during the shoot period. This was particularly useful to enable the community to trust the filmmakers, and have the mechanics of the filmmaking process open and accessible to them. Denise would show footage to people in the film who were able to come and go from the editing room as she was cutting. Denise found one of the most difficult things was trying to balance the work of cutting during the day with completing the producer’s tasks in the evening – doing budgets, cost reports, getting release forms signed etc.
On Lonely Boy Richard, Denise and Trevor had the unsettling experience of losing the story for their documentary right at the beginning of shooting. They had set out to make a film that examined the issue of mandatory sentencing for certain crimes in the Northern Territory. However, this legal regulation was overturned just before they arrived at their location. Therefore they had to find a new subject around which to structure their film.
The process took a long time, and editing the material was an important part of this. Thus it was valuable to have Denise involved in the project during the shoot so that she could work with the material that Trevor was filming and give him feedback. The two of them could discuss the direction in which the documentary was heading as Trevor found the character of Richard and followed how his alcoholism was leading him into trouble with the law.
Both Andrea and Denise commented on the difference that being present on the shoot made to their perspective when cutting. There was the danger of deciding against using characters who might be fine on the screen, but who they didn’t like because of some personal interaction they had with them on the shoot. Andrea found that because she had been on the shoot she was already familiar with the lives and nuances of the characters when she started editing. This was a big time-saver – especially as she had 250 hours of rushes to work with.
However this could also be a disadvantage because it meant that she did not have a fresh “editors eye” when sitting down to edit. This meant that you could lose stuff – important details that needed to be put in the set-up – by having the editor already very familiar with the backstory rather than approaching it from the point of view of the viewer. Andrea also feels, however, that having been on the shoot led her to be more confident when editing the material, manipulating and trying different things because she had been a part of the situation when it was filmed.
Andrea and the director Kerry Brewster had worked together on a documentary called Demons At Drivetime before making Our Boys and had become friends, which was one reason Andrea felt she could commit to taking on multiple roles on a project that stretched over 18 months. She had been a sound recordist early in her career and enjoyed the process of re-learning to use the sound gear and taking it on the shoot. Another reason for Andrea performing multiple roles was to make it financially viable for her to be involved in the project for such a long term. The terms of her salary on the project was presented as a package – this much money if you do all these roles.
During the question and answer session at the end of the evening, an important ethical issue was raised - by editors working outside the cutting room are they taking jobs from experienced professionals in other craft areas?
Andrea and Denise acknowledged that this was an important issue that the ASE would have to think about in the future. It was pointed out however, that with technology making filmmaking equipment easier to use, it seems likely that boundaries between craft areas would become increasingly blurred. Filmmakers will be asked, and may even want to take on roles in other areas in the future. Andrea would readily admit that her sound recording ability would not be as skilled as someone who had many years experience in doing it, and her producer Kerry would acknowledge that her work with the camera is not as good as someone who has long experience of being a professional cinematographer. However, they both feel that for the type of long-term observational project they were doing, their approach to getting out there and doing it themselves was the correct one.
The important point has to be made that it was a compromise, however, and ease of using the technology should not be seen by film and TV funding bodies as making it okay to cut program budgets to the point where a director has to do everything themselves.
In conclusion, it seems likely that technology will make filmmaking equipment more accessible and easier to use. The industry experiences of most editors give them a good knowledge of more areas of film making than just what happens in the edit room, and Denise and Andrea found their experiences taking on multiple roles on these two documentary projects to be intense but rewarding.
“Being out on the shoot is a real pump!” Andrea says, “But if you’re going to go into it, work out for yourself exactly what it is you want to do, and what you’re going to get out of it.” Denise agrees, “I would love to produce and edit again – but only if the project was right.”
Fantastic new technology unlocks massive potential
of Quantel next-generation systems
Soho, UK,: version2 for generationQ has hit the road running very fast – and has been universally acclaimed. version2 is a platform-wide upgrade for all generationQ systems that adds many new tools and capabilities and takes teamworking and connectivity to a new level. The stunning array of new tools and capabilities includes the world’s first multi-view compositor, combining blender, camera, schematic process and DVE axis views; unlimited layer compositing with unlimited processes on every layer; embedded plug-ins; and direct access custom transitions in the editor. Together they enable users to complete jobs faster and more creatively, and significantly expand the range of work that can be undertaken on generationQ systems.
Already featuring one of the most powerful and flexible NLE toolsets on the market, V2 brings generationQ users a wealth of improvements that have been driven by its customers in the most demanding environments worldwide. Including:
- Complex trim
- Custom transitions and transition maker
- Audio rubberbanding
- Save and restore audio equalisation settings
- Audio compression and limiter
- New simplified Qscribe user interface
- Significantly faster editing of rolls and crawls
- Text on a spline
- Regional support for Indic, Hebrew & Arabic
- New Bezier tools
– Colour picker paint pots and image picker
“We are enormously excited about the version2 release and the competitive edge it gives our customers,” says Nigel Turner, Quantel Marketing Director. “It enables them not only to do more but to do more faster, and we look forward to working closely with them in the future to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”
This and all Quantel press information can be found at www.quantel.com
In 1993 ASE member Michelle
Barta (along with Film Studies students Joe Siedler and Tim Bergfelder) interviewed renowned editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Gangs of New York, Raging Bull)
On tour to promote “Million Dollar Movie”, the second volume in the autobiography of her husband, Michael Powell, Thelma Schoonmaker Powell agreed to talk to three University of East Anglia Film Studies students about her experiences with Powell and her work as Martin Scorseses’s film editor. Her most recent work is The Age of Innocence which stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, but most of us with an interest in film will know her Academy award winning work in the 1980 Scorsese film, Raging Bull.
How did you come to meet Michael Powell and what were your first impressions?
Marty (Scorsese) had rescued Michael from oblivion. He brought him to the USA for film festivals and also entered
Peeping Tom in the New York Festival. I had spoken to Michael often during the cutting of Raging Bull and soon after he came for dinner.
When Marty introduced us face to face, the minute I saw him I fell in love. He was quite an extraordinary man, full of life, like a slap in the face. He was so interesting, refreshing, and fascinating. Things began to develop, much to Marty’s horror, because he was used to being able to work with me any time he wanted. Then he started thinking of Michael, who he adored and he became slightly less demanding.
Can you describe your collaboration with Michael on his autobiography?
It was wonderful to share the book (Million-Dollar Movie) with him. He would dictate and I would transcribe and we would edit it together. After he died, it kept me from going mad, knowing I had
to finish it for him. It is a book about life and love, films and social history and it pulled me through a very bad time.
Peeping Tom effectively destroyed Michael’s career. How did he react?
He could not understand what the hell had happened. As you know it has since become an enormous cult film. He was just too far ahead of his time. One of the themes of The Red Shoes is that you have to be prepared to die for your art and in a way, Michael did. He made Peeping Tom and his career was shattered.
It is something you have to face if you are going to go out on a limb. Michael never became bitter, though, despite all the terrible things that happened to him. He always wanted the inscription on his gravestone to read: “Film director and Optimist”. He went on dreaming about films until the day he died.
Is it significant that both Powell and Scorsese employed a number of international artists in the making of their films?
Michael always felt that film making should be international and appeal to a world market. He began in the days of silent films, then you did not have to worry about the language. When sound came in all of a
sudden everyone became very nationalistic and he thought that was a great loss. He would often introduce Blimp (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) by saying, “This is a typically English film. It was written by an Hungarian, it was filmed by a Frenchman, the costume designer was German and the composer was a Czech”. By then the audience were in roars of laughter. Michael’s films were European rather than being insularly British. He felt very strongly about that. Scorsese also works with cosmopolitan technicians. He seeks out great craftsmen whose films he admires. He has an enormous respect for older filmmakers and what they can teach him.
How did you become a film editor?
By accident, I was supposed to become a diplomat, but the State Department thought differently. I saw an add in the New York Times, someone wanted to train an assistant editor. I got the job, I worked for a terrible old man who was butchering the films of Antonioni, Fellini, and Truffaut for late night television. He would take a reel out of a film if it was too long and didn’t fit into the 2:00am – 4:00am timeslot. It was horrifying! In 1964 I signed up for a six-week course at New York University. This was when I first met Scorsese. Someone had ruined his film (What’s A Nice Girl Like You) by cutting it incorrectly and I was the only one who knew how to fix it. Marty taught me everything I know, but I couldn’t work with him for ten years because I was not in the Union. On Raging Bull he got me into the Union and I have done everything else with him since.
Why have you maintained your collaboration for so long?
It is the best job in the world. He is the best director in the world.
Could you elaborate?
He is an editor’s director and that is why I love working for him. He has an incredible mastery over film craft. His films have tremendous style, they are always refreshing and new. He is a highly emotional person, he gives you so much
and you are so proud of the work when it is finished. He has a mind very similar to that of my husband, very unique, sparks fly out of it all the time. It is wonderful to be around him and to share the torment of getting a film made. A lot of filmmakers tell you what to think, but Marty never does. He forces you to engage with the film. It is never black and white. He likes to play with these areas in human behaviour. He never talks down to an audience, he thinks they should be able to handle what he dishes out. I think people respond to that.
Since editing is subjective what happens if you and Scorsese have different views of a scene?
If we have disagreements we work them out. We screen the film his way, then mine and even friends of ours give advice. We have worked together for so long now
I almost know what he likes more than he does. While he is shooting, I assemble the film in a very complicated way from his and my reaction to the dailies. We decide what we think it should be, he then goes away for three or four hours while I do it. He returns and we refine it together. This continues for the entire editing process. A lot of editor/director relationships are battles, it is not that way with us.
Could you describe your experiences on Raging Bull?
I think it is a remarkable film, I do not think a film like that is made very often, It had a style and a power that will stand the test of time. One of the most interesting things was the improvisation between Pesci and De Niro because there was so much humor that came out of those moments.
What was your reaction to winning the Oscar for Raging Bull?
Very exited, although it really belonged to Marty. It was the powerful way that he designed the shots in the fight scenes, which I think won me the Oscar. They were so carefully thought out by him. Each one is different, he even used a different sized ring for every fight scene. It was like having pure gold to work with. Certainly Marty also deserved an Oscar so it was tinged with a bit of regret.
Raging Bull, like many of Scorsese’s films is a brutal and brutalising exploration of masculine identity. How do you respond to the criticism that Scorsese is a “male” director, at the expense of his female characters?
I think that is ridiculous. Look at Vicky La Motta in Raging Bull, Karen in Goodfellas. Because he portrays what is real life, people hit him. He is not a politically correct filmmaker, and he never will be.
Are there many women editors working in Hollywood?
In the early days, as editing evolved, women were mostly found as they as they came from jobs such as winding film in the labs. As cutting entered the lexicon they just progressed to the editing jobs. Many won Oscars. Then men took over, now women seem to be making a comeback.
Have there been any influential editors in the development of your style?
Well Dede Allen changed the face of editing. I learned a lot from watching films from the French New Wave, because of their daring. Much of that daring came from economic necessity. There is a difference in the approaches of Hollywood
editors as compared to Marty and myself. They prefer the unseen approach. We enjoy shocking people and making them
feel uncomfortable with editing. Carol Littleton who is big Hollywood editor hates being complemented as she feels her editing should be invisible. I have the opposite reaction.
Have you, or do you intend to work using a video computer system?
Well it is breathing down my neck I am afraid. As far as I am concerned it is more expensive and does not save time. The reason people love it is that less experienced film directors need to have six or seven versions of a scene. Marty and I do not need that. He is very decisive. I am not sure that these systems will work for us, but I am going to have to learn.
Do you teach your skills now?
I have used Raging Bull as a textbook. I show people how it was shot and edited. I have also used some of my husband’s films in the same way. The audiences have been very young and I am so grateful for that. It means his films are living on and appealing to a whole new generation fifty years after they were made. What a great tribute. He was lucky to see it happen. Emeric Pressburger did not live to see this. Not many artists get that chance, usually it happens two hundred years after they died.
What differences do you see in Scorsese’s films, as compared to most contemporary cinema? Have other filmmakers influenced him?
Contemporary Hollywood tends to concentrate on a slick finished approach. Marty learns mostly from old films. He studies them obsessively. He goes home every night, threads up his 16-mm projector, and watches one or two films a night. Once you have seen enough films, you realise everyone has done it before. The Searchers, Einsenstein, Griffith, the early Italian silent films. I strongly advise all of you to go back and look at the history of film making. You will learn so much and you will be humbled. You will never regret it. If Marty ever stops making films, I think he will be one of the all-time great film teachers. He is so enthusiastic. He really turns you on.
Many thanks to Michelle Barta for sharing this wonderful interview with us.
Are there questions you would like to ask an experienced editor in your field?
ASE now has a Mentor Scheme up and running. We have senior editors willing to be mentors in both Melbourne and Sydney. They are skilled in features, commercials, TV drama and documentaries.
The scheme involves a minimum of three meetings over the course of 3 months to a year. It will not include work experience, attachments or job offers, but could be helpful in guiding your career and giving you a bit of confidence for the next step.
If you are interested in applying for a mentor, e-mail your CV, (Word doc., RTF or PDF) and a few lines explaining:
a) what you are doing now,
b) why you feel a mentor would be beneficial to you
c) some of your goals and aspirations for the future.
You need to be a financial full or student member of ASE
Send your e-mail & CV either to Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org or Emma Hay at email@example.com
What are you waiting for?
From the EDITOR....
Hello hello! Iʼve not edited this newsletter before, so if Iʼve made a total mess of it...well, I suppose Iʼll just shift the blame onto Walter, who will probably smile quietly and plot my untimely demise...But that wonʼt happen, cuz were doinʼ a great job, right? Um, Right??? Hey, if you donʼt write in, weʼll never know! Speaking of which, if you donʼt write in about what you are doing, your guild will never know! And we WANT to know what youʼre up to! The whole idea of this newsletter is to give you a voice - Iʼve already got a big darn voice, anybodyʼll tell ya. So keep us in mind if you ever have something amazing, or terrible, or darn boring happen - even boring can be funny. Heck, Iʼm funny, and Iʼm very boring. Or maybe Iʼm just bored? Hmm. But in any case, keep us in mind, as weʼd love to hear from you about your work. Because regardless of what you do, and how insanely pedestrian you think your work may or may not be, darn it, itʼs interesting for those of us who arenʼt doing it. We all have different areas of work and expertise, and we ought to share that with each other. Otherwise Iʼll be filling out these pages with dot-to-dot schematics of a standards converter.
Submit all rantings to firstname.lastname@example.org - we’ll be very happy to hear from you!!
now an editor of another kind 🙂
"Listen to that little voice "
Sometimes you get this tiny feeling, like the hint of a twinge of a feeling that something is off with a scene or a storyline. Listen to it. Mull it over.
There may be some issue that wouldn’t surface for months, if ever. Other people aren’t going to tell you everything. The film is counting on you to search for the right answer.
U.S. editor Tom McArdle
(“The Station Agent”)
Australian Screen Editors Guild:
ASE NEW SOUTH WALES
Tel (02) 9380 6945
Fax: (02) 9380 6946
Australian Screen Editors Guild Inc PO Box 150, Paddington NSW, 2021 Australia
email: nswoffice at screeneditors.com ASE
New South Wales Committee
Sara Bennett (President)
Michael Webb (Vice-President)
Emma Hay ASE (Secretary)
Philippa Rowlands (Treasurer)
Peter Whitmore ASE
Tel (03) 9686 6955
Australian Screen Editors Guild Inc PO Box 513, South Melbourne VIC, 3205 Australia
email: vicoffice at screeneditors.com ASE Victorian Committee
Shaun Smith (Chair)
Trevor Holcomb (Secretary)
Roberta Horslie ASE
NEWSLETTER ISSUE 63
Editors: Rachel Walls,
Layout & Design: Sally Goodfellow
Art Force Ph: 02 9453 3057
Contributors: Michelle Barta,
Sara Bennett, Leon Burgher,
Dominic Case, Roberta Horslie,
Shaun Smith,Walter McIntosh &
Contibutions and readers letters welcome: newsletter at screeneditors.com
Deadline for next issue:
10 August 2004
ASE acknowledges the generous support of the following organisations:
ATLAB Australia SONY Australia
Mike Reed & Partners Post Production