Thelma Schoonmaker Talks About The Art of Editing and Working With Martin Scorsese
Thelma Schoonmaker is a three-time Oscar winner for best-editing and one of Martin Scorsese‘s life-time collaborator. They met at NYC where Schoonmaker was taking a six weeks class about cinema and Scorsese needed some help to save a movie that had been savaged by a first editor.
Last week I was trying to find out videos about editors talking about their craft and, to my surprise and utter disappointment, discovered that it was almost impossible to find such a thing. Schoonmaker’s 30 minute interview at the Rochester’s Film Festival 360|365 is one of the few exceptions:
‘I knew nothing about film editing when I first met [Martin Scorsese] so my taste is obviously going to be his. He relies heavily on me for a cold eye, a fresh eye. He’s been on the film for so long, conceiving it, co-writing it, story boarding it, shooting it, that he needs me to look at it cold and tell him how I feel it’s going.’
Schoonmaker is very generous despite the short amount of time, and she talks about her work as an editor through three films: Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Aviator, the three films she won an Oscar for.
She also evokes her relationship with Scorsese and her general concerns about the evolution of the craft that emphasises flashy editing and fast pace narratives, to the detriments of building actors performances.
‘There are many aspects of filmmaking an editor has to deal with, one of them is ‘how do you build the narrative, the emotional power of the film, and that’s the hardest part, that’s what you don’t see. That’s why I made that remark that flashy editings get Oscars, I really mean it, there are films who don’t have flashy editings that are very deserving of Oscars.’
Schoonmaker also evokes the collaboration between her and the FX department, the sound department and always emphasizes the collaborative effort that making a film is, and how her job is to serve the movie but also to acknowledge that 200 people worked for months if not years for the footage to reach her editing deck
I loved that she always talked as ‘we’ and seemed to know as much about the shooting phases and work on set than Scorsese himself. Listening to her dissecting a scene she edited three decades earlier is a great way to understand how involved an editor is in the filmmaking process: she (still) knows the camera movement, the sound design, how it was planned and shot etc.
I wish there were much more of those videos, and if you have good links about editors, but also cinematographers, art directors etc. feel free to share them in the comment section or to email me!