Invisible Art/Invisible Artists 2021

June 5, 2021

ACE held its annual get together of Academy Award® editing nominees on April 24, but after two decades as a live event, this year’s Invisible Art/Visible Artists was unavoidably different.

“There is a silver lining to having a virtual event,” said ACE President Kevin Tent, ACE, as he welcomed more than 1,000 viewers from around the world. “Normally we’d have to turn away millions [he joked] of people at the door of the Egyptian Theatre but now we’re able to accommodate everybody. Beyond that, film fans from the around the world have the opportunity to participate.”

The event was dedicated to beloved member Diane Adler, ACE, who for the past two decades spearheaded IAVA. Adler — whose career included editing The Rockford Files and Kojak – died days prior to this event and as this issue of CinemaEditor was getting ready for press. (A complete obituary will appear in the next issue of the magazine.)

In past years, the free-to-attend event has provided an opportunity for the season’s Oscar®-nominated editors to discuss their films, their careers and their craft online and in front of an eager and enthusiastic crowd. This year, the panel format was the same, sans crowd.

“When we first launched the IAVA [event] the original intention was to allow lay people into the Egyptian [Theatre] to see what editors sound like when we come out of our dark rooms,” said ACE past President Alan Heim, ACE, who returned as moderator. “Although we can’t all be together we are honored to have the Academy Award nominees for editing with us.”

Heim invited the nominees to share background on what first intrigued them about the craft. “I started because I was an extra in a film when I was young with my school mates,” said Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, who won the Oscar the following day for his work on Sound of Metal. “I even had lines. We were so eager to see the film and went into the cinema waiting for the moment when I said the lines. But I was not in single frame of the whole movie. My best friend Steve was everywhere. It made me realize that someone is actually making these choices. I probably was a very poor actor but that was an eye-opener and got my attention.”

The Father editor Yorgos Lamprinos said he became addicted to watching Marx brothers classics A Day at the Races and Love Happy on his parents’ VCR.

Chloé Zhao – who wrote, directed, produced and edited Nomadland (and won Oscars for Best Picture and Directing) related – that she started to edit herself because for her two previous pictures to Nomadland (The Rider and Songs My Brothers Taught Me) there was not enough budget for post. “So it became a habit. “I live with a DP (Nomadland’s Oscar-nominated Joshua James Richards) and he always says he is so jealous of the people in the editing room because he feels his fate is in their hands,” Zhao added. “Editors live and breathe storytelling. All editors think about is problem solving and characters which you don’t always experience on set. To be able to do that full time for a living seems an incredible thing to do. I hope I get to do more.

Each nominee shared a clip of their Oscar-nominated work. Frédéric Thoraval, who cut Promising Young Woman, chose the diner sequence where protagonist Cassie (Carey Mulligan) meets up with old school friend.

“There was a biblical element across the film which is thatCassie is an avenging angel. In this scene there’s a low-angle shot with a red light shade over her head like a halo. These are very specific elements in the movie which [director Emerald Fennell] had scripted. This sequence is the first moment where we see her in action. She is moving in on her revenge.

“Usually in a revenge movie you have a traumatic event to grab the audience’s attention but here the story unravels slowly, with new characters in each scene and Cassie is playing new characters. So, you never know where you are going or how the story is evolving.”

Alan Baumgarten, ACE, showed a clip from the central riot scene in The Trial of the Chicago 7 – based on the infamous trial of men charged with inciting the riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. “Often [writer-director] Aaron Sorkin indicated where to cross cut but this section had a different structure where several things were meant to happen simultaneously and we had to find a way to show that.

“The heart and soul of this film is about the ideas and a lot of that happens in the courtroom and the dramatic dialogue sequences. A lot of the film is leading up to this reveal of the events so there’s a lot of thought and care put in to how we deliver as explosive a recreation as possible given the limitations of budget and time.”

Lamprinos said he was proud of The Father because it requires the audience to pay attention. “A lot of the challenges in the editing process have to do with the pace. I felt very early on that my approach here was about following the linear performance and giving subtle clues as to what may be happening to the central character.” The Father is about the effects of Alzheimer’s disease from the point of view of Anthony Hopkins’ lead character, also called Anthony.

“The whole film is about being inside Anthony’s mind,” Lamprinos said. “Pace-wise I needed to reflect that. We use a lot of the production direction of the flat as a vehicle that also represents the mind that goes around and around with little things that change all the time. I wanted to confuse the audience but never cross the line by making it too complex.” The slower pace allowed him to wage war against shorter attention spans, he said. “I love frantic editing and after I did The Father I made a music video to let that side of me out. But every movie is its own case.”

Zhao picked a contemplative dialogue-free clip to illustrate the visual language of Nomadland, which follows Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who, affected by the Great Recession, becomes a van-dwelling nomad. “It’s a road movie so it needs to have a feeling of rhythm and flow. When shooting there were three camera movements. The locked-down wide shots, others with a Ronin gimbal moving with Fern and the Easyrig for a more vérité style. The aim was to find that rhythm in Fern’s emotional journey – when to speed up and when to slow down based on her mood and to incorporate those camera moves so that they felt like part of the same movement. That was the challenge.

Another challenge was to figure out how long to hold on someone’s face before it becomes too long. “Particularly for our non-professional actors who are not driving the plot, I wanted to hold on their faces for as long as possible because the value they can contribute we cannot buy with money and movie stars. The moments when they make a mistake in their speech has authenticity. If we cut too soon we are in danger of losing that.”

Near the beginning of Sound of Metal the main character Ruben (Riz Ahmed) experiences dramatic hearing loss, and throughout the movie, the audience hears the world from Ruben’s point of view and also as it would otherwise sound.

“Director Darius Marder told me he wanted to give a deaf person a whole experience for the first time and that people with hearing should be in the minority,” Nielsen explained. “We had to awaken these senses by showing small elements such as water running on his face or making a smoothie. What do these details sound like? “So in this sequence we are creating a contract between the film and the audience. If we follow those rules, we make you believe you go inside Ruben’s head and also externally then we have that connection. We can play around with information.

How much do I as a storyteller want you to have? If we are consistent, we can make the audience go on a journey with Ruben up to the point where he learns sign language and the audience becomes the observer and you read subtitles. Until that point the movie is closed captioned.” He added, “Sound is such a powerful storytelling tool especially when we take away the only physical element in film. You really feel it wearing headphones or in the cinema – you feel it in your stomach.”

ACE would like to thank Platinum Sponsor Blackmagic Design which also generously donated its software to ACE interns this year. And thanks to our Gold Sponsors: Adobe, American Cinematheque, Avid, Motion Picture Editors Guild, NAB Show and ZOe Productions.

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