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Remembering Norman Hollyn, ACE — Telling Great Stories from the Editing Room

 

With a filmography that spans decades, Editor Norman Hollyn first fell in love with editing while he was a student at Stony Brook University in New York. Early in his career, he found that whenever he was busy editing a movie, time would pass by quickly. Since then, he’s contributed to an impressive array of film projects too numerous to name, including Shot (2017) and Heathers (1988), as well as serving as the music editor of Sophie’s Choice (1982) and Hair (1979).

Shot was particularly challenging to edit because much of the movie uses a split screen to show how two people’s lives—a man who’s been shot and the teenager that shot him—have been changed and impacted by the other. If Hollyn cut 10 frames from one side of the split screen, he needed to look for 10 frames to cut somewhere nearyby on the other side of the split to ensure that the two intertwined storylines unfolded relative to the same timeline.

While Hollyn always felt he could tell stories the best through editing, he added that developing collaborative skills is also extremely important. Regardless of the role he played on the project, his word was not the only word because, as he put it, “good ideas come from everywhere.”

We’ll miss you Norman.

“The more work you do with other people, the better you’ll be at being a positive, creative force in the editing room.”

—Norman Hollyn, editor, Shot, Heathers; music editor, Sophie’s Choice, Hair




Making The Cut: Tim Porter, ACE, Talks Working With Avid on “Game of Thrones”

Avid sponsored the annual ACE EditFest in London this summer and had the chance to sit down with a must-see panel of talented editors. Our new Making The Cut blog series features award–winning editors discussing their craft, their workflows, creative processes and upcoming projects in an exclusive and intimate setting.

 

For someone who admits that he “never wanted to become an editor, I fell into it,” Tim Porter, ACE, has amassed a pretty formidable list of editing credits over the last decade – including long-running TV series Shameless, Doctor Who and, most recently, Game of Thrones.

With 3-5 editors, assistants and many workstations involved, the Game of Thrones production process is certainly extensive – but fortunately, as Porter remarks, “Avid is the leader in big projects”. Footage captured on ARRI Group Alexa cameras is brought to the dailies department, where it is graded, sunk and sent to the editor’s assistants.

“The great thing about working on a project like Game of Thrones is that everybody is on top of their game and everything is Avid, and all the technology has been put into place for editors not to worry about anything else but the editing.”

The benefit of having Avid as an editing platform is its inherent “simplicity”. “It always feels like I’m talking in my second language when I try and use anything [other than Avid] because it’s not as simple,” he says.

Full timeline of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 – Episode 9

Battle scene of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 – Episode 9

Detailed timeline view of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 – Episode 9

“I love the simplicity of Avid’s editing.”

—Tim Porter, ACE, editor of “Game of Thrones”

A big thank you to the team at American Cinema Editors who helped organize the interview at this year’s EditFest London.

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Making the Cut: Lillian Benson, ACE—Drawing on the Intuitive Self

In her impressive career, Lillian Benson, ACE, has amassed a long list of editorial credits, including the medical TV drama series Chicago Med. She also edited All Our Sons: Fallen Heroes of 9/11 (2004), a short documentary film narrated by Alfre Woodard that remembers 12 black firefighters that lost their lives during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

As the first African American female editor selected for membership in American Cinema Editors (ACE), Benson also edited Eyes on the Prize (1987), a historical documentary about the American Civil Rights Movement, for which she received an Emmy nod in 1991. While Benson is currently editing Chicago Med, she has also edited numerous historical and political documentaries.

Regardless of genre, Benson believes good storytelling to be paramount. “People are people, feelings are feelings, and words mean something. If you look at your material in that sense, what you’re working on…doesn’t matter,” she says. “You have to get from A to B.” She encourages people that want to pursue editing to be aware of the technology, know what they liked best in the films they’ve seen, and develop a strong sense of self.

“You always draw on the intuitive self…and if you’re familiar with the tools, and don’t have to think about how you’re working, then …that is the strength of having a system that works with your mind, and you don’t have to overthink how to get it to do what you want it to do.”

—Lillian Benson, ACE, editor, Chicago Med, Eyes on the Prize, All Our Sons: Fallen Heroes of 9/11

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Making the Cut: Virginia Katz, ACE—Hooked on Editing with Avid

Virginia Katz, ACE, has a long, impressive filmography, and is currently best known for editing Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017), Dreamgirls (2006), and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1 and Part 2 (2011/2012). She calls Dreamgirls her absolute favorite movie to cut because she loves musicals.

Katz began her editing career while working with her father, who was an editor in New York. Between college semesters studying psychology, Katz spent time in the cutting room with her father and realized she was hooked on editing. A big part of the appeal for her was the power and versatility of Media Composer as a feature-rich editing system.

Katz liked that Media Composer let her put the whole script up on the monitor, and effortlessly review her edits from one word or place in the script to another. Most of all, she says that while it’s important to work hard, editors should also have a good time doing it.

“The Avid really changed my whole temperament with film because you never lose anything… You have great freedom with sound and picture.”

—Virginia Katz, ACE, editor, Beauty and the Beast, Dreamgirls

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Making the Cut: Edie Ichioka, ACE – Explore the Possibilities

With broad experience in both live action and animation, Edie Ichioka knows that all editors must serve the story and do their best to execute the director’s vision. From her editorial assistant job in 1990 on The Godfather: Part III, to her work on Toy Story 2 and The BoxTrolls, her experience has taught her that collaboration is the key to good editing.

In this video, Edie details her process for animated films, including two rounds of editing that occur in pre-production. The first is a cut of the storyboard to verify the narrative, and the second occurs at the pre-vis (pre-visualization) stage when stills of the scenes are initially staged and blocked. This is where she uses Avid editing tools extensively to explore a variety of creative options.

Edie describes how being able to resize, paint out, and comp shots together is very freeing, allowing her to offer alternative ways of thinking about a scene and better collaborate and creatively explore alongside the director.

You used to physically have to cut celluloid and tape it together, and damage it every time you wanted to try out an idea. And now you can make copies and try out things … just to see what works.

—Edie Ichioka, ACE, editor, The BoxTrolls, Toy Story 2

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Making the Cut: Paul Rubell, ACE—Finding the Drama Between Action Beats

Like many film editors, Paul Rubell learned his craft by physically cutting 35mm film. As the editor of The Fate of the Furious, three Transformer movies, and four Michael Mann movies, he has become an expert on action.

Prior to his latest crop of action films, Paul received two Oscar nominations: one for The Insider starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in 2000, and one for Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in 2005. He also won an Eddie award from the American Cinema Editors for an episode of John Frankenheimer’s 1996 TV mini-series Andersonville.

But, he says, cutting action was an accident. As an English lit major, he was always attracted to character and drama. By contrast, editing highly choreographed action seemed easy. Using Media Composer freed him from the physical requirements of splicing and hanging film, and allowed him to apply his pre-visualization skills to cutting multiple versions in the same amount of time.

“When Avid came around, it was liberating. …It [using Media Composer] was like playing a piano. …Once you learned the moves, it [using Media Composer] was wired into your nervous system. You could put all your concentration on the film.”

—Paul Rubell, ACE, editor, The Fate of the Furious, The Insider, Collateral

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Making the Cut: Robert Leighton — A Rewarding Long-term Collaboration

Robert Leighton’s 40-year editing career includes a 15-film collaboration with Director Rob Reiner, which began with the classic comedy This is Spinal Tap in 1984. While he has worked on many films with many directors—most recently A Dog’s Purpose with Lasse Hallströmhe says it’s remarkable to have worked with a single director so many times.

Leighton points out that since he began working with Reiner, new technology has changed the way films are shot and impacted the editing approach and process.

Now, he says, the tendency is to shoot more footage, including more “from the hip.” When working with physical film, he says, the art of editing was about making refinements to “perfectly tell the story.” In the digital realm, it’s about, “How do we turn all this into a film?” which is a different kind of creativity.

“It’s a very difficult art to talk about the art of editing because it’s not what you see—it’s the things that aren’t there. … People often call it the invisible art.”

—Robert Leighton, editor, This is Spinal Tap, Misery

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Making the Cut: Chris McCaleb—Cracking the Code

Since 2014, editor Chris McCaleb has received multiple Emmy and Eddie (American Cinema Editors) nominations for Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad. But he first made a name for himself by earning back-to-back Emmy nominations for Sam Has 7 Friends (2006) and Prom Queen (2007).

When picking a project, McCaleb says, it’s important to have a good feeling about the people with whom you’ll be spending lots of time working. He also says that an open mind is an important attribute for an editor. For example, while working on the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire, he saw that a particular scene simply wasn’t working.

To fix it, McCaleb dove deep into Media Composer’s toolset. As a result, he was able to turn a two-person scene with dialogue into a one-person scene with no dialogue by using Media Composer’s Animatte feature to completely remove the actor. While not as written, focusing only on the actions of the remaining character allowed him to rework the scene in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without an open mind and robust toolset.

“Yeah. This is it! We sort of cracked the code on that. And we couldn’t have done that without an editorial exploration and all of the tools that we have in the Avid.”

—Chris McCaleb, editor, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul

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Making the Cut: Lynne Willingham, ACE—Crafting the Editor’s Vision

Lynne Willingham, ACE, is best known for editing Breaking Bad (2008/2009), for which she won two Primetime Emmys for “Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series,” two Eddie Awards from American Cinema Editors (ACE), and an HPA Award from the Hollywood Post Alliance.

Willingham was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy and an Eddie for outstanding editing on The X Files (1993). Her other credits include numerous episodes of over two dozen TV series and mini-series, including True Blood (2010-2012), Ray Donovan (2013-2017), Without a Trace (2005-2007), Body of Proof (2011-2013), Revenge (2013-2014), and Empire (2005.

In her experience, Willingham has found that the craft of editing requires both artistry and diplomacy to tell a story that reflects the creative visions of both the writer and director. If they’re not on the same page, as is often the case, the challenge becomes finding a way to make both people happy, while serving the needs of the story. In this way, she says, the editor becomes the third part of the storytelling triangle, and must often ease the director and writer into liking yet a third creative vision, the editor’s point of view.

“The glorious thing about [digital editing] is that you can make as many mistakes as you want practicing, and no one’s going to know it. For young editors… that want to move up, you have got to practice…editing hundreds of hours of film and making thousands of mistakes. That’s the beauty of digital editing.”

—Lynne Willingham, ACE, editor, Breaking Bad, True Blood, The X Files

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Making the Cut: Terilyn A. Shropshire, ACE—The Editing Journey is an Adventure

Terilyn A. Shropshire, ACE, began editing short films and blossomed into a career editing feature films, including Eve’s Bayou (1997), Love & Basketball (2000),The Secret Life of Bees (2008), Jumping the Broom (2011),  Beyond the Lights (2017) and episodes of the Shots Fired TV limited series (2017).

American Cinema Editors (ACE) awarded Shropshire an Eddie for her editing of the TV crime drama mini-series Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story (2004). In 2002, Shropshire was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy for outstanding editing of video packages for The 74th Annual Academy Awards.

When Shropshire embarks on any film editing project, she begins by “watching the script,” and visualizing how she would want to see it as an audience member. She asks herself, “Is this a story that interests me? Are the characters something I can relate to? Is it a journey I want to go on?” To serve the film properly, she also reviews all of the media at hand so that she is prepared to discuss the creative possibilities with the director.

Shropshire has come to believe that the tools and skills she masters on one film are usually the resources that prove useful to the next journey. She discusses the editor’s role in greater detail as a contributing writer for “Think Point Shoot: Media Ethics, Technology and Global Change,” a new book by Focal Press.

“The challenges that come up on a film, and the tools I use to overcome those challenges [are things I usually] end up using on the next film. So I say embrace those challenges, learn as much of the tools that can make your life easier…You’re getting ready for your next adventure.”

——Terilyn A. Shropshire, ACE, editor, The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball, Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story

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Accelerate storytelling with the tools embraced by top movie, television, and broadcast editors. And power through HD and high-res editing faster and easier than ever.