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August 2014
Issue: NAB Post+

KEYNOTE: ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING EDITOR THELMA SCHOONMAKER

By: Ken McGorry

NEW YORK - After a thunderous opening video montage cut by her assistant, Thelma Schoonmaker, Oscar-winning film editor and veteran of decades of work as editor on Martin Scorsese movies, took the stage at the Javits Center to keynote the premiere of the new show in town, NAB Post+ (www.nabpostplus.com).

Schoonmaker, who brought home Oscars for Raging Bull (1980) and The Aviator (the former a traditional film edit and the latter cut on Lightworks), shared her pointed views on the art of editing and working closely with a director of the magnitude of Scorsese. Schoonmaker, a proponent of deft story-telling over MTV-style quick cuts and technology-for-its-own-sake, is also a champion of great sound editing (and sound editors) as the companion to a great cut.

Schoonmaker went into detail on the thought processes and artistry involved in intricately cut scenes from Raging Bull (the hero’s final bout with Sugar Ray) and Goodfellas (1990; the “last day as a wise guy” sequence).

Some of the shots in the punishing Raging Bull fight sequence were shot at three different speeds, Schoonmaker says, “so Marty could decide in the editing room which slow-motion speed worked best – particularly in the montage in the final fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, which we worked on a long time. It took six weeks to film all the fights in a studio set. De Niro was incredibly patient with the many shots that had to be taken to create the dazzling fight sequences.” Scorsese had vowed to take the camera inside the ring, “no matter how hard it was,” Schoonmaker says. “To have two fighters and a referee constantly moving in the ring and then inject a camera crew doing elaborate camera moves was extremely challenging.”

Sound is extraordinarily important to Scorsese’s films, she says, and “Marty has a very great gift for putting a piece of music to an image in a movie.” But the rest of a film’s sound is also critically important to Schoonmaker’s work – she is currently editing Scorsese’s The Departed for release next year. At the final mix, she works closely with the mixer and the sound editors: “I pre-mix the film every morning and try to get all the elements in some kind of balance so when Scorsese comes in his time isn’t wasted – he can concentrate on the fine-tuning of the mix.”

Schoonmaker keynoted at NAB on November 16th, with award-winning editors Chris Willingham (Fox’s 24) and Tim Squyers (Ang Lee’s The Hulk) speaking on the 15th and 17th respectively.

The conference, making its debut in New York, offered a slate of over 120 training classes and workshops managed by Future Media Concepts (www.fmctraining.com) and covering in-depth looks at Adobe, Apple and Avid systems, Macromedia and much more, including front-end digital video production. NAB Post+ also offered an extensive show floor with over 75 exhibitors spanning the industry from Autodesk to Zootech.

NAB Post+ already has plans for 2006 in New York – October 24 through 26.