Unreal Nature

April 23, 2015

Electric Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… in those days it was such a sublimely happy time, that it created the muzzle velocity to do what I do.

This is from the interview with Jerry Greenberg found in Selected Takes: Film Editors On Editing by Vincent LoBrutto (1991):

How did you get your first job in film editing?

I was a failed engineering student and a complete cipher ready to be factored up to one. I was an avid moviegoer, but in my upbringing, the movies or any of the popular arts were made almost verboten. I was interested in the theater and while trying to work as a stage manager, I backed into somebody offering me a job at a sound effects editing service. I needed work. I took it and learned how to be a music and sound effects editor. It was valuable training. Work prints would come into our shop, mostly documentaries, industrials, and training films. There were all these splices in the work print. I was interested in the heads and tails — what was not in the film.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] How do you arrive at the portion of those shots to put into a film? It took somebody to make those decisions. I knew then I wanted to be a film editor. It became profound. Why did I really want to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer, when I knew this was in me? My opportunity came to factor zero up to one, to something I wanted. I didn’t realize I would be able to factor it up to infinity, by becoming Dede Allen’s apprentice on Elia Kazan’s America, America. That was truly magic. I won’t diminish it by saying it was only a springboard. It was never didactic. She never taught or imposed her own feelings, rather how she worked and thought. It as inspirational and rewarding.

[ … ]

Do you thing of the sequence [the car chase in The French Connection] as a classic?

There is no denying that the chase scene is talked about in editing circles. The actual shooting techniques have been done many times over. There are more limitations to what we do in film than opportunities. What we’ve learned to do best of all is to work within those limitations to alter and explore the infinite qualities within them. That is what differentiates one chase scene from another; the techniques are pretty much the same.

[ … ]

… Part of what we editors do is to understand everything that has preceded us, the other crafts. People are putting their faith in what we do to preserve what they have already done. Films are a series of details — details within details. It is important that we pay attention to all those other details: story, character development, what the cinematographer wants to see, what the actor is trying to do beyond what he or she is asked to do. All of these things should command the attention of a good editor, and I believe that they do.

[ … ]

Do you feel you are continuing the tradition of the apprenticeship system that you were trained under?

It certainly was the inspirational part of my existence working for Dede Allen and others as well. I think they all should be stated. Carl Lerner, Aram Avakian. [ … ] Their generation’s expectations about what they wished to impart created a kind of chemistry that can never be gotten again. There can be a different kind of chemistry with subsequent generations, but it never can be the same, because times do change and you have to leave it to the historians to objectively see the difference.

I can’t judge that, I’m still too much a part of it, but for me in those days it was such a sublimely happy time, that it created the muzzle velocity to do what I do. I hope to see that in younger people today, but I don’t see that right now. Things tend to be a little more held back. I see a lot of cynicism creeping into the business. Certainly, the commercial aspects of the business have always existed; we’re all prey to those things. Still there was this wonderful dedication and intellectual and political aspects, even though you were working on some dumb exploitation film. The chemistry which was created between the subordinate and the tutor in the cutting room was a very happy and electric time for those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of it.

My previous post from LoBrutto’s book is here.

-Julie

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