Invisible Art / Visible Artists-2018

The annual Invisible Art/Visible Artists panel featuring the year’s Oscar® nominees for Best Film Editing was held March 3 – the day before the 90th Academy Awards® for a capacity crowd at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre.

The panel included Jonathan Amos, ACE, and Paul Machliss, ACE, nominated editors of Baby Driver; Lee Smith, ACE, for Dunkirk; Tatiana S. Riegel, ACE, for I, Tonya; Sidney Wolinsky, ACE, for The Shape of Water, and Jon Gregory, ACE, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Introduced by ACE President Stephen Rivkin, ACE, and moderated by ACE Vice President Alan Heim, ACE, the event was free and open to the public in the effort to continue educating both students and film fans about the art of editing. Riegel said for I, Tonya, it was challenging to get the tone right, as the story of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding balanced some difficult, as well as comedic, moments. She also revealed that she actually studied political science before beginning her career as an apprentice working with Howard Smith, ACE, on River’s Edge.

The idea of reviving apprenticeships in the edit room received a hearty round of applause from the crowd. “I think an appren- ticeship is just a natural progression into assisting, a natural progression into editing, so yes, bring them back,” said Christopher Nolan’s longtime collaborator Smith, who took home the Oscar the next day. “The more the merrier. We call them PAs now – so why don’t we call them apprentices and then they’re in the union, which would be really good.”

Three Billboards’ Gregory expounded upon the evolved role of the first assistant. “What the assistant does in the technical process depends on the kinds of films you work on budget-wise. So often we don’t have VFX editors and so the assistant is doing everything, sending lists here and there,” said Gregory. “I love to involve my assistant more into the actual film, to hear their opinion.”

Machliss and Amos shared that while filming musical action film Baby Driver began in February of 2016, they had initially begun layering the music for it during 2011. Director Edgar Wright had been selecting songs for the film that Machliss then treated like a DJ might in making sure elements rolled into one another.

“Edgar did a table read,” recalled Machliss, “which I then took with the music and sound effects to basically make a 100-minute radio play of Baby Driver so you could actually listen to the whole thing and imagine the car chases in your head. That of course led to a lot of animatics work between our animatics editor, Evan Schiff, and Edgar. The two of them did a lot of work to cut those original sequences to show a sort of proof of concept and to get Edgar’s vision. It’s so important on films like this to get teams involved, and picture cutting can help to inform so many other departments.”

“The animatics,” Amos added, “were built to show the journey of the car through the streets, but when you film the actors you can’t place them into the animatics so you have the additional character story and that’s where the complexity of the sequence comes in, because it all must be syncopated to the music.

There were certain gags which had to be played at certain points in the music, so we were kind of constrained by this structure, which is unusual because as editors we tend to edit and someone comes in to score. In this instance, we were so tied to the music that compressing the material was the big challenge.” Smith admitted that WWII epic Dunkirk had very little dialogue for a feature, meaning that it was “almost like editing a silent film. Almost from the first frame you’re dropped into the action and there was no backstory or German POV. The ‘enemy’ is all they’re referred to and there’s no cutting to the war office or cutaways to explanatory sequences. You’re just with them. It was a time-bending scenario.

“I remember reading the script thinking, ‘I hope we’re not making a $100 million art film.’ This could have been a film that made no money, but it did do well and I’m so grateful a studio took the chance on this film.”

Career Achievement Honoree Leon Ortiz-Gil

Looking back on the illustrious career of Leon Ortiz-Gil, ACE, the logline could simply read: ‘Hollywood’s hometown boy makes good in post-production.’ The three-time Eddie Award nominee started editing in his teens and knew early on that he wanted to be in the entertainment biz. Over 40 years later, his repertoire includes memorable TV shows like Kojak, Matlock, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Magnum, P.I., 24, Airwolf, the original Battlestar Galactica, and no less than four shows from the popular Law & Order franchise. Now, his peers are honoring him not just for his impressive body of work and commitment to ACE, but for his charm and attitude that have made him a levelheaded craftsman in the editing bay.

Ortiz-Gil started out working for his stepfather, Chris Jenkyns, at his commercial company, JSE. The company mainly did animated commercials. Ortiz-Gil grew up with the company and began working for them as a driver in his teens. Soon after, he segued to being an apprentice editor. He recalls, “Because it was animation, they had me reading tracks. This meant putting a mag track over a synchronizer with a sound head. You would get these paper sheets and you would write down the letters as people spoke. So, you’d get an A, an R and an O, and you would write it down as to where it was on the tracks. They used these sheets to do the animation and animate their mouths so they would be in sync. It was a tedious job, but I was a young kid who wanted to learn and I loved it.

“In those days, the little film companies had their own director, which was my stepfather, and editor, who was Dick Elliott. He taught me how to assist and a little later on how to edit. It was very basic.” Ortiz-Gil continues, “I learned everything from the bottom. I didn’t go to film school. I studied theater arts at Los Angeles City College.”

At 19, he went on to a bigger commercial house, John Urie & Associates. “They would let the young guys work on commercials that were free-form. No script, but a narration track and beautiful scenery. They were usually beer commercials and the like,” he recalls.

He even encountered his first true celebrity. “I got to meet the original Colonel Sanders. He was a southern gentleman. There was no Hollywood in him. He came to the studios dressed as The Colonel in that white suit.”

After serving as an assistant for six months, Ortiz-Gil moved up to editor for a year and a half before heading off to a place that would become somewhat of second home for him.

Ortiz-Gil imported his short-form editing game to the world of TV trailers at 21, when he began working for Universal under the aegis of Chuck Silvers who ran the post trailer department.
It wasn’t long before the opportunity arose to enter long-form.

One of the producers of the show, Night Gallery, a Twilight Zone-esque drama with Rod Serling, wanted him to cut some episodes of the show. At the time, there was an 8-year rule for editors: four years as an apprentice, four years as an assistant, before you could move up to full-fledged editor. However, there was a minority program to boost diversity at the studios. The government came in and said if there was a minority capable of moving up, the studio could not hold them back. As a Latino, Ortiz-Gil fit the bill and was allowed to cut his first show. After cutting a couple of episodes, he returned to feature main titles until Kojak came knocking at the door. From that point on, Ortiz-Gil rarely hungered for work.

One major note about Ortiz-Gil’s career is that he’s had a few blessings in disguise that helped propel him forward. In the late ‘70s, the industry was convulsing with joy over the runaway success of Star Wars. TV wanted to tap into that wave and one of those attempts was Battlestar Galactica. “It was a three-hour pilot,” he says. “Nobody wanted to do that show because they knew it would be really tough and it had an aggressive deadline. It went first to their top editors and they all turned it down. It eventually went to Robert Kimble, ACE, who I’d worked with on Kojak, and he came to me after failing to recruit other more seasoned editors.

“I was thrilled to do it. It was state of the art. We used ILM [Industrial Light & Magic]. It was a very tough show – seven days a week for nine months. Eventually we had to hire another editor, Larry Strong.”

The hard work and long hours didn’t go unnoticed, though. Ortiz-Gil earned his first Eddie nomination for the pilot, which he shared with Kimble and Strong. Perhaps even more significant was his introduction to future frequent collaborator Don Bellisario.

Bellisario was a supervising producer and writer on Galactica and he’d also written briefly for Kojak. In addition to working on Buck Rogers and Matlock, Ortiz-Gil spent much of the ‘80s working for Belisarius Productions on shows like Magnum, P.I.; Tales of the Gold Monkey and Airwolf. It was working for Bellisario that Ortiz-Gil had arguably his most diva of moments.

He recalls Bellisario saying about a particular scene in Airwolf, “I need to see the scene where the girl dances. I’m a little worried about it and I wanna see it.” Ortiz-Gil continues, “So, I run it for him and there’s this silent pause. He says, ‘Leon, I don’t know how to tell you this but every cut is wrong.’ I look at him and steam must have been coming out of my ears. I said, ‘Okay. I don’t want to hurt your show, Don, so I quit.’ I got up and walked out. As I’m walking out, Don yells, ‘Leon! Leon! No! Come back!’ I said, ‘Look, if every cut’s wrong, you have to get another editor. So, we sat down and ran it again and he made three changes. So sometimes you have to stick up for yourself. Or if you’re way off the page, the best thing to do is quit. He was in a bad mood and wanted to take it out on somebody.”

By the time Ortiz-Gil was working on Matlock, he and the field that he loves had evolved. “I had been working long hours prior to Matlock and now I was on a show working a normal schedule, sometimes four or five hours on a given day. It was fantastic. I was married with two kids so it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. I stayed on Matlock for nine years.”

Editing was undergoing a sea change around this time, too. Luckily, Matlock used ILM’s EditDroid. “We were one of the first to use it. I knew it was the future. Matlock was set up like a film on digital. For post, it was like running a new Ferrari. They would shoot the show very simply, a master, a couple of overs and a close-up. It was very easy to edit. To think, I used to have a callus on my thumb from smoothing out tape splices to remove the bubbles.”

When the mid ‘90s rolled around, Ortiz-Gil was already a seasoned professional on the hunt for new employment after nearly a decade on Matlock. He had his first experience working for Dick Wolf on The Wright Verdicts. He had an ‘in’ on the show thanks to his friendship with producer Arthur W. Forney whom he’d met when Forney was an assistant editor at Universal. They later worked together on Magnum, P.I. and were notorious for pulling pranks on fellow editors on the lot. They often had lunch together and developed a professional camaraderie that lasts to this day. Ortiz-Gil sees Forney as quite a success story. The one-time assistant editor is now an executive producer on various Wolf Films shows.

However, before Ortiz-Gil officially became a part of the Wolf pack, he had two very significant dalliances that added to the depth of his career. Walker, Texas Ranger was an unexpected creative surprise. It had already been on the air two years before Ortiz-Gil came on board.

“I was told twice – on Matlock and on Walker – it was going to be the end of my career and both were the exact opposite,” he exclaims. “Usually, when you go on a new show, you’re super careful and you follow all of the instructions, but on Walker I felt differently.”

Unsure about his place on the show, he felt that he had nothing to lose with flexing a little creative muscle. “I made some risky moves with effects and editing on my first show that could lift the material up a bit. The stories were visually boring. I knew adding music and some montages to what they had shot, including these long masters, would work really great when you sped them up so you can see everything. It was very rudimentary, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it needed some transitional work.

Ortiz-Gil continues, “When I showed my cut to the writers and producers on the show, there was that initial silence, like the one Don gave me back on Airwolf. Then, the writers got up and exclaimed, ‘This is not our show! This doesn’t work!’ Aaron Norris, Chuck’s brother, had come on board and he asked to speak with me privately. We went into another room. I felt like a little kid about to be scolded. Instead, Aaron says, “We need a new look for the show. And what you just showed me is our new look. I want you to be the supervising editor. I’m sending it to Chuck for approval. I want these effects.’ I ran the post department and stayed on for four years.”

After Ortiz-Gil confidently weathered the technological storm that revolutionized filmmaking at the end of the 20th century to great success, it felt as if he was only getting started. The series, 24, saw him continue on this action-oriented wave that he started back on Galactica and perfected on Airwolf and Walker. The results earned him two additional Eddie nominations for his efforts.

Despite this success, the howl of Wolf Films came calling and Ortiz-Gil returned to Universal. He explains, “[Wolf Films] is a really good place for editors. Arthur has an editing background so he looks out for us. He thinks of things most people don’t think of from ideas on story to processes. I left 24 early just to be on Law & Order. We called it the mothership because it spawned so many others. I edited the very last episode on it. To work with Arthur and Dick Wolf was too great an allure for me not to leave. No ego. No games. No weird politics. It’s just about making the show better and enjoying what you do.”

Looking back on it all, he recollects, “When I started, editors wore sport coats or suits and ties. It felt a little industrial. You clocked in and out. The supervising editor would tell you what jobs you would get. The producers didn’t go to the editors; they went to the supervising editor. There was a lot of favoritism. Now, you walk in with jeans and a t-shirt or shorts and there is no supervising editor per se. We have to meet the deadlines and you find your own jobs.

“To stay in this business as long as I have, you have to be likable. You have to have people want you in,” he admits. “Equally important is your assistant. I’ve always felt that your best friend in the editing room is your assistant. They’re there to help you. If they want to be proactive, all the better. I’ll give them a couple of scenes to do and if they’re good, I’ll show it to a producer. Sometimes when I leave a show, the producers will pick my assistant to take over, which I encourage. I have the deepest respect for assistants.”

It’s true. Ortiz-Gil is well respected in the industry. ACE board member Lillian Benson, ACE, shares, “While I have had the pleasure of knowing Leon over the years, I didn’t really get to know him until we worked together on the hallway at Wolf Films. Leon is a talented artist who shares his editing knowledge with everyone. He is generous with the assistants, allowing them to practice on scenes and giving them feedback on what they’ve done. He also sets a professional example, which they can model. When he asks his editor colleagues like me, ‘How are things going?’ he’s not just paying lip service; he genuinely wants  to know. Leon is more than his illustrious resume – he is a  great, supportive person.”

Two of his former assistants can attest to how much he has meant to them personally and professionally. Ash Steele shares, “I’ve been so lucky to experience 10 years of Leon Ortiz-Gil’s friendship and mentorship. From my start as a wet-eared post PA to sharing co-editing credits on a two-hour Law & Order: Special Victims Unit/Chicago P.D. crossover event, Leon used a chunk of his career to nurture mine. He and I stuffed a ton of laughs  into those 3,000 days and l couldn’t be happier for this, Leon’s greatest career honor.”

Oscar Rene Lozoya adds, “When I was a PA learning Avid, Leon would stay after work on his own time and show me not only how to use the program, but the artistry of storytelling and pacing that goes along with editing. He is a huge inspiration and is always willing to go out of his way to help others.”

In the late ‘70s, Ortiz-Gil taught editing for two years at the Sherwood Oaks Film Academy. Back then, he felt sorry for the students because he felt they wouldn’t have a real chance to get into the business. None of them had any connections and this was before you could really film anything on your own and get it in festivals. To his surprise, at least one did. Editor Mark Goldblatt, ACE, came up to him at an ACE event shortly after it was announced that Ortiz-Gil would be receiving the Career Achievement Award.

Goldblatt shared, “I took your class back at Sherwood and it inspired me to go into film editing. I was thinking about  going into production but after that class you taught, I wanted
to go into editing.”

It’s interesting to think that Ortiz-Gil could be inspiring even under circumstances where he felt futile. In essence, that’s certainly why people like having him around. No matter what the show, the time, the technology, the person, it all comes down to how you deal with what you are given. Leon Ortiz-Gil has been giving back a lot to the entertainment industry so it’s befitting that it give him a little something back.

Career Achievement Honoree Mark Goldblatt

Few of us know what we want to do in life before we hit puberty. Even fewer of us actually accomplish it. Editor Mark Goldblatt, ACE, is one of those rare individuals whose objectives were defined since childhood. While his target may have been somewhat clear, his path to Hollywood was not a straight line.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Goldblatt developed a love for cinema from the moment he saw his first film, Pinocchio. He loved all kinds of film but had a penchant for sci-fi, horror and fantasy that stays with him to this day. “I watched a lot of movies on TV,” he reminisces. “I had a cheap 8mm projector. You could buy 8mm versions of Abbott and Costello, Nosferatu, Battleship Potemkin and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I had a battery-operated 8mm camera too. I would make these little weird movies with cheap special effects. I used a simple editing viewer and splicer to cement splices together that didn’t stay on very well or for very long. Later on, Kodak came out with little Mylar press tapes for 8mm. I was teaching myself how to edit by hand.”

The film buff decided to study philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, where he would write film reviews for the college newspaper and program 35mm films for the Wisconsin Student Union. After graduation, London came calling. Goldblatt shares, “I saved up some money and moved to London, and then applied to the London Film School. Fortunately, I was accepted. There were a lot of professional DPs, editors and directors who were teaching because the MGM-Borehamwood Studio had just shut down. My course director was Mike Leigh. Clive Donner was one of my instructors. My editing instructor and mentor was Frank Clarke. He had been a contract editor for MGM and edited Blow-Up. It was amazing. I thank my parents so much for supporting me through my journey.”

By the end of his education in London, Goldblatt was beginning to realize he was gravitating toward editing with an eye toward directing. The tougher choice would be where to set up shop. If he was going to leave and go to Hollywood, he had to leave now or get his papers together to be able to continue working in the U.K.

His first night in Los Angeles was spent at the Holiday Inn in Santa Monica, and he couch surfed for a while thereafter. While he was getting situated, he sent out numerous letters and hunted the studios hoping to get a foot in the door somewhere. Goldblatt found a small gig at the Sherwood Oaks Film Academy which also allowed him to sit in on any classes for free. Coincidentally enough, he sat in on a class taught by ACE’s other 2018 Career Achievement honoree, Leon Ortiz-Gil, ACE. OrtizGil had been working on the Universal lot at the time and was able to get Goldblatt access to observe Alfred Hitchcock direct what would be his last film, Family Plot.

Around this time, Goldblatt went to see the grindhouse flick, Death Race 2000, directed by Paul Bartel and briskly edited by Tina Hirsch, ACE, which turned out to be a catalyst for his career. The dystopian action-adventure about a cross-country car race with fatal consequences for the losers starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. The visceral experience inspired Goldblatt to walk into New World Pictures, Roger Corman’s production company that produced and distributed the movie, to inquireabout work. He was referred to Jon Davison, the head of advertising at New World, who was about to produce his first movie. Davison offered Goldblatt a job as a PA without pay. He leapt at the opportunity. He and Davison immediately took to each other, as they were East Coast boys, film nerds and eclectic horror movie lovers.

The movie was Hollywood Boulevard and it would prove heavily impactful on the rest of Goldblatt’s career. Joe Dante and Allan Arkush were set to direct and edit the picture on a $60,000 budget with a 10-day shooting schedule. Usually, they had fulltime jobs in the New World editing room as trailer editors when they weren’t directing. The schedule felt like they were working seven days a week and 18-hour days. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was showbiz. “It was amazing,” Goldblatt gushes. “The passion for filmmaking by these young untested directors was at a high level. Of course, I was walking into lampposts and stuff because you don’t sleep, but I was inspired.”

Dante hired Goldblatt as his assistant editor for his next feature editing assignment, Grand Theft Auto, Ron Howard’s directorial debut. This time the position was paid and Dante gave him an Associate Editor credit. His tenacity paid off. Yet, the ever-ambitious Goldblatt had a major side hurdle: getting into the union. “In those days, you couldn’t get into the union unless you were on the roster, but you couldn’t get on the roster unless you were in the union. It was a catch-22,” he recalls. “At the same time I was working for New World Pictures, I had another life. I worked as an assistant editor on The American Short Story, [a PBS anthology series]” assisting editors such as Bob Estrin and John Link. There he learned how to edit on a KEM and had more formal training. Goldblatt had again merged the passion project with the practical project.

It was at PBS that Goldblatt came across his own version of insider trading. “I found out that they were going to expand the roster and take video editors into the union. Basically, a lot of people who had been steadily working in the L.A. area were not being accepted to the roster because they had only worked on video. “They didn’t announce it but I heard it through the grapevine and found out how to get on the roster. This was information that I readily shared with my colleagues.

Life was completely different as a union assistant. I was able to work as a staff assistant for Warner Bros. Television and assisted a number of very talented editors, some of whom would let me edit small scenes on my own time.” All of this was happening interspersed with work at New World Pictures where Goldblatt continued his collaboration with Joe Dante and Jon Davison on 1978’s Piranha, which was well received and very successful.

During this time he struck up a friendship with Roger Corman’s assistant, Gale Anne Hurd, who noticed all of his hard work being done on the horror picture, Humanoids from the Deep. Hurd had met a fellow named James Cameron in the art department, and was impressed with his creativity and work ethic. “She recommended me to Jim when she was preparing to produce a script that she and Jim had developed called The Terminator. When I met with Jim, we discussed being enthralled with George Miller and the Mad Max movies. Jim had high hopes to create a world-class movie on a shoestring budget.”

When The Terminator premiered in 1984, it was a bona fide blockbuster and everyone’s career got a shot in the arm. Goldblatt followed it with big-budget action flicks like Rambo: First Blood Part II, Commando and Predator 2. He was actually getting to select his projects, but this time his eye toward directing demanded to be satiated, too. Goldblatt directed two features in the late ‘80s: Dead Heat and The Punisher. Just before these, however, he was able to do some second-unit directing for Paul Verhoeven and producer Jon Davision on the sci-fi classic, RoboCop. He was a huge fan of Verhoeven’s work in Europe and jumped at the chance to help with his American debut. Goldblatt’s Verhoeven experience would not end there.

Goldblatt’s professional expansion coincided with his personal life expansion. By the late ‘80s, he was already married with a young son. Balancing life and craft would be a delicate tightrope for the next two decades. This was especially true when James Cameron came calling again for the sequel to the hit that put them both on everyone’s radar in Hollywood. Terminator 2: Judgment Day would not have the tight budget of its predecessor. Instead, it would push the special-effects envelope and be the visionary scifi spectacle envisioned in the screenplay. This time, the amount of work called for some additional hands so Goldblatt joined Conrad Buff, ACE, and eventually Richard A. Harris joined them as well to split the duties. “Jim was a great captain at the helm and expertly navigated through cutting-edge technical innovations. He shoots judiciously. The material comes together like butter and he gives you lots of choices. Working with Conrad and Richard was a highlight of my career.”

However, it was on True Lies where Goldblatt’s commitment to his craft and his future were tested. “Jim called and said, ‘I would love for you to come on board, but we’re gonna cut this on Avids. I already bought the machines and you’d need to learn how to use them.’ My initial reaction was, I can’t be left at the wayside. I’d be crazy not to learn it. A world-class director is asking me to work on a project where they’re willing to let me learn first. All that in my head took about five seconds.” Plus, it was a chance to reunite with Conrad and Richard.

The success of True Lies bore new opportunities for Goldblatt now that he was proficient in both modes of editing. He would enter the juggernaut worlds of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay with films like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Company and Bad Boys II. Most significantly, it reintroduced him to Paul Verhoeven. Goldblatt would edit three pictures for Verhoeven: Showgirls, Hollow Man and Starship Troopers – with Troopers being one of his personal favorites.

The 21st century maintained Goldblatt’s VFX-heavy action cred with a hint of sci-fi in movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Chappie.

Along the way, Goldblatt served as ACE president in the late ‘90s. “My years on the ACE Board of Directors serving as ACE vice president under past president Tom Rolf [ACE] and eventually as president were very meaningful to me. They enabled me as a member of ACE to give something back to the editing community and to collectively participate in raising consciousness of our craft amongst ourselves and to motion picture audiences around the world.”

He’s currently starting his 11th year on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “It’s been fabulous working alongside some of the most brilliant people in the film business,” effuses Goldblatt. “I love the Academy. It’s humbling. I think we’re making a difference. We are working to get Academy members all over the world to build a great global film community. We are at the forefront of film preservation, restoration, education and cinematic technological research with our vast film archive, library and Science and Technology Council. As our Academy Museum heads tow

ard completion to assume its position as the world’s preeminent museum dedicated to motion picture arts and sciences, I am very proud to have served on the Board during this time of exponential growth.”

In looking back on his career and thinking about the work and all of the time spent, Goldblatt has three major takeaways from it. In his approach to the material, he explains, “I realize editing is such a fluid art form. In collaboration with our directors, we can, if we choose, alter pacing, heighten performances and completely rearrange the structure of the narrative. This really harkens back to the concept that ‘editing is the final rewrite.’ We do whatever it takes to produce a final version of our films that works optimally for the audience. The possibilities are endless. The script is your guide. Let the footage speak to you. The footage represents the intention of the director and the actors. You have to make sure the timing is right and that the overall larger POVs and themes are represented eloquently.”

With regard to his role as a leader in the editing bay, Goldblatt feels his first assistant should be his right hand. “I feel it’s incumbent upon us to embrace the first AE on an emotional and creative level with shared ownership of the film because we hired him or her for a reason. I respect them enough as individuals and filmmakers to want to collaborate with them. I’ve been blessed with great assistants. Many are now top editors which makes me feel good. I encourage my assistants to edit. Sometimes someone does so much editing, I’m able to get them a co-editor credit. Joe Dante was a great mentor to me. He didn’t have to be so nice, but he was. I try to follow in that tradition.

Here are some of my past assistant editors, many of whom went on to become successful editors in their own right:

Kent Beyda, ACE*
Mark Helfrich, ACE*
Alan Baumgarten, ACE*
Jim Stewart, ACE
Caroline (Ross) Solberg*
Ian Slater
Todd Miller*
Elliot Graham, ACE
Laura Krumholz
Tony Ciccone
Lorraine Salk

Ron South
David Reale
Gillian Hutshing
Jason Hellman*
Roger Barton*
Danny Retz*
Jim May, ACE
Julie Webb
Steve Ansell*
Yvonne Valdez*
(*also co-editor)

My apologies to anyone whom I may have inadvertently omitted.

Goldblatt’s latest is Eli Roth’s reboot of the Charles Bronson franchise, Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis and Vincent D’Onofrio, set in Chicago. Goldblatt describes the experience as terrific and feels Roth was a lot of fun to work with. After 40 years in the industry, perhaps that is the best indication of a positive work environment. “Every editing situation is a differ- ent situation. Not only is it predicated on the material you’re editing, it’s very much predicated on the players. You’re there to help guide the director. Sometimes that may mean giving input they may not want to hear. Always do what’s best for the movie. It’s tricky to know when to chime in and how much to push, and when to keep your opinion to yourself. Just remember to respect your collaborators. You never know where the best ideas will come from.

Golden Eddie Award 2018 – Vince Gilligan

Growing up in the ‘70s, Vince Gilligan’s first thought when it came to the movies was to build robots and spaceships that films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars had popularized. His full contribution to the craft of visual effects may never be known but in diverting his attention to screenwriting and production we are surely all the richer.

If Gilligan had written and produced nothing more than Breaking Bad his name would already be legend. The AMC show with its maverick central character and twisted story arc captivated global audiences during what some see as another golden age of television.

Yet before then, Gilligan had proved integral to worldwide TV phenomenon The X-Files and the fourth season of Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul is on the way.

Breaking Bad won Gilligan two Emmys®, five Writers Guild of America Awards, two Critics’ Choice Television Awards, and Producers Guild of America Awards and a BAFTA®. He won another WGA honor for Better Call Saul, as well as two Peabody Awards. He is particularly proud that Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul were nominated as part of AFI’s TV Programs of the Year seven times.

Along the way, he has credited all the editors he has worked with for helping shape his stories into gold. “It is often said that editing is the third telling of the story,” Gilligan says. “You tell the story to yourself alone at a desk first. If you’re lucky enough for it to go into production, then there’s 150 people including the actors giving it a second retelling. But it is only in the edit where the story truly becomes what it is meant to be.”

Gilligan spent his childhood in Farmville, a small town in Virginia where his mother taught in the local elementary school and his father worked as an insurance claims adjustor. Hollywood was 2000 miles away but storytelling and a love of the movies was always close to home.

He recalls his mother building a tree out of cardboard and crepe paper in a corner of her classroom for children to sit under and read or be read to. He vividly remembers being introduced to Hollywood movie classics by his father who used to wake him and his brother, Patrick, up in the small hours of the morning to watch a transmission of films like Angels with Dirty Faces and Bad Day at Black Rock.

“They both loved stories and inspired in me a love for Hollywood movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s,” says Gilligan. “I grew up knowing about Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart long before I knew anything academic.”

At age 11, Gilligan and childhood friend Angus Wall – who would grow up to be an ACE member editor and is a twotime Oscar® winner – began to turn excitement about movies into a hobby. Wall’s mother, one of Gilligan’s school teachers, loaned the pair a Super 8 camera for three months during successive summer vacation periods. Gilligan saved up to buy film cartridges to make “mini sci-fi extravaganzas.”

“Jackie Wall was an incredible person who inspired and supported both of us to make the most of our creativity,” says Gilligan. “Perhaps it’s amazing that from a tiny little town of 4000 people, two friends grew up to work in Hollywood as we have done.”

Gilligan’s own breakthrough came after completing a film production course at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He’d won a scholarship to attend the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and graduated from the Lloyd C. Bird High School in 1985 to attend Tisch, also on a scholarship.

It was during his time at Interlochen and then at NYU where his writing talent began to blossom, first under the tutelage of teacher Jack Driscoll and then professors David Hicks and Jesse Kornbluth.

“It’s hard to teach writing. It requires a discipline and it’s an art form, yet these folks nonetheless were inspirational with their ideas and generous with their advice,” he says. “Jesse Kornbluth was writing for Vanity Fair at the time and I loved to hear his stories about the intersection between journalism and screenwriting.”

It was for Kornbluth’s scriptwriting class that Gilligan penned his first feature-length screenplay, Home Fries, “an oddball story of two socially-stunted brothers in their late 20s whose mother tasks them with killing her husband – by frightening him to death.” A year after leaving college he entered the piece into a scriptwriting competition inaugurated in his home state and won the $1000 first prize.

“Man, I could sure use the thousand bucks when I’m fresh out of college but I had lottery level winning luck since one of the judges of the contest was Mark Johnson,” Gilligan says. An alum of the University of Virginia, Johnson had produced the Oscarwinning Best Picture Rain Man a year previously.

“He called me up a short while afterwards as I was sitting in my mom’s house, said he liked the script and asked ‘did I have any more?’ Well, I had been plugging away so I put a copy of everything I had into the mail to him and thus began a professional relationship that is still going strong three decades on.”

Johnson eventually got Home Fries made into a feature starring Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson, released in 1998. Prior to that he produced another Gilligan script, romantic comedy Wilder Napalm (1993), and subsequently executive produced Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

It was Johnson’s belief in him, says Gilligan, that convinced him he could pursue a writing career. “I loved and still enjoy drawing, painting and sculpture but with very much amateur-level ability and I realized before the end of college that while I lacked those skills I perhaps possessed an ability to spin a good yarn.”

His natural inclination was to write for the movies. “I wasn’t a snob about TV but what little I knew about TV production was that as a writer you had to be in California. However, I’d just bought a house in Virginia, my girlfriend was there and I didn’t want to move to L.A. where the cost of living would be ten times higher.”

In 1994, on a trip to L.A. to pitch ideas and meet with executives, a chance introduction to The X-Files creator Chris Carter changed the course of Gilligan’s career.

It helped that he was a fan of the show, already steeped in its characters and history, when he met Carter. “It was on the cusp of becoming a smash hit and Fox had just ordered another two episodes for the second season. Chris and his writing team were hurting – they had crunching deadlines and with more episodes to fit in they were looking for any warm body who could put it on paper. He was expecting me to pitch to him and if I’d been expecting that I would probably have seized up, but I just gave him an idea almost off the cuff about how a guy’s shadow comes to life and eats people.”

The episode, “Soft Light,” was the first of two episodes he would write as a freelancer, after which he joined the series full time and rose up the ranks over seven seasons to become an executive producer on the show. He also co-created and became executive producer of The X-Files spin-off series The Lone Gunmen.

“I enjoyed writing the first episode and I never looked back,” he says. “Movies were less and less interesting to me and I became more and more interested in TV. Writing TV, for me, has been infinitely more rewarding than the movie business.”

Part of that he attributes to the camaraderie of TV production in which everyone is expected to get involved, to chip in and help meet tightening deadlines.

Carter, in particular, threw the X-Files writers in at the deep end and in the process opened Gilligan’s eyes to the editing process.

“I had spent time in the edit room on my own back in NYU cutting on 16mm film and 35mm splicers but to me it was a bit of a chore. Left to my own devices I’d never have realized how fundamental editing is to a show.”

Before exec producing, Gilligan was sent by Carter to the show’s editorial hub in Vancouver. “The idea was to oversee production and be as helpful as we could to the director on individual episodes,” says Gilligan. “He did this with all the writers and I loved that. I learned so much about all aspects of production, including directing, and began to realize just how much of the final story stems from the edit room.”

Years later, on Breaking Bad, he recalls writer and co-executive producer Peter Gould coming to see him straight from the edit suite grinning from ear to ear.

“Peter explained that they’d just figured out how to cut an entire 3-4 pages of dialogue out of the episode. We’d slaved over the dialogue but we suddenly realized we didn’t need any of this because Bryan Cranston had given a look to Aaron Paul which said all you needed to know. That feeling stuck with me – that it is remarkable how little dialogue is actually needed to tell the story combined with the sheer joy of something working to tell the story that can only come from the edit.”

He continues, “I learned from each and every editor I worked with but in particular I learned every day from my brilliant and regular collaborators, Skip Macdonald, ACE; Kelley Dixon, ACE; and Lynne Willingham, ACE. Every day I learned something about the story that I thought I knew all about since I’d written it. I learned what a story could become in the hands of their creative brilliance and how incredibly nuanced it can be when an editor manages to convey the story or an emotion with a look, a gesture or a juxtaposition that you didn’t expect or even see first time around.”

Willingham had worked with Gilligan for five years as an editor and producer on The X-Files during which she was Emmy nominated for her editing. Gilligan chose her to edit the pilot of Breaking Bad, for which she won the first of her two Emmys for the series and Eddies for the series.

Macdonald worked on 27 episodes spanning all five seasons, winning ACE Eddie awards for the “Dead Freight” and “Face Off” episodes as well as series finale “Felina.” He was also Emmy nominated four times for his work on Breaking Bad, winning for the series finale.

Dixon joined the show in 2007 as assistant to Willingham on the pilot, then was promoted to editor when the show was picked up to series. She won an Emmy for the “Gliding Over All” episode and was nominated for three additional episodes of Breaking Bad as well as garnering four ACE Award nominations for the show.

Gilligan says this editorial trio was crucial to the global success of the show. “The pilot tells you the ground rules: Your hero is going to die. He’s given a death sentence and armed with this knowledge he decides to do things he would never have done otherwise. Lynne, Skip and Kelley didn’t let me stray from the logic of that. They were wonderful partners who would keep the writers honest by making sure we obeyed the internal rules of the narrative and of the characters we had set in motion. That approach was very important to try not to cheat the audience.

“In later seasons we also had some fantastic editing assistants step up and edit or co-edit episodes including Chris McCaleb [now editor on Better Call Saul] and Curtis Thurber [who assisted on Better Call Saul and went on to edit episodes of Fargo].”

When Gilligan first pitched Breaking Bad – about a middleaged teacher with cancer who cooks crystal meth – he was told by the CEO of Sony Pictures Television, Michael Lynton, that it was “the single worst idea for a television show that I have heard in my whole life.” Lynton said that after he’d taken a gamble and greenlit a deal to distribute the show which aired in the U.S. on AMC.

Going into Breaking Bad, Gilligan and his creative team had looked around at what else was going on in TV and deliberately set out to do what other shows did not. For example, they found that TV had become very tightly framed. A lot of drama was filmed in close-up and The X-Files was no exception.

“It was extremely successful for The X-Files stories but a typical scene might include a close-up of Scully, screaming, then a close-up of Mulder, also screaming, then back to Scully still screaming. I’d been cutting and shooting that for seven years and I was looking for something new. It was at a point where TV displays were getting bigger in the home and it dawned on me to shoot wider and make more of landscapes and the wider aspect ratio. And, instead of the frenetic pace of a lot of action films we chose to slow it down and build suspense and character over sequences that lasted six, nine, 12 minutes.

“I cannot claim credit for these ideas because Breaking Bad was a group effort and much of the inspiration for the look, the pace, the storytelling was from our editors. It really is a group effort. There’s no one person doing it all in television or in the movies. It’s always a collaborative effort and anyone who tells you otherwise is awfully pumped about their own contributions to
the endeavor. But it’s a great feeling, a great collaborative feeling, and it’s wonderful.”

More success followed with Better Call Saul which reunited Gilligan with Macdonald and Dixon (who have each earned additional Emmy and Eddie nominations for Saul). This prequel to Breaking Bad explores how the show’s bent lawyer, Saul Goodman, started out as a good guy, Jimmy McGill.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” says Gilligan of the AMC series, starring Bob Odenkirk. “After Breaking Bad I thought this is where we’re going to get our asses handed to us – but so far so good. It may be all downhill from here, but I will always have had these two.

“Receiving the ACE Golden Eddie is a wonderful honor for me. Some of my favorite time spent making TV has been in the dark of the edit room where you can think with just one other person and not have 150 others calling on your attention. It will always amaze me what you can do in the edit, this magic theater, where the story comes to life and problems that you think can’t be fixed, are solved. Mostly, I find that I enjoy myself there immensely. That’s how I feel, a fan watching you guys at work on the sofa behind you.”