Interviews

Paul Hirsch Interview – Coup 53

Join us LIVE

Saturday, February 20th Feb 2021
3:00 PM PST, 6:00 PM EST,  11:00 PM GMT

Oscar-winning editor, PAUL HIRSCH
(Star Wars, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mission: Impossible)
in a live conversation with Oscar-winning  editor, WALTER MURCH
(Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The English Patient)

How We Work

How are editors working during the novel coronavirus pandemic? Amid the uncertainty, ACE conducted a member survey over three weeks in late June and early July, to get a sense of where our community stands in getting back to work. Of those who responded, 128 members said they were working and 160 reported that they were not.

Among those that were not working, 111 said their job was postponed and nine reported that their job was canceled. Meanwhile, only 41 of 124 respondents (33 percent) said they didn’t receive compensation. Of those who were not working, 118 of 164 (72 percent) said they received some sort of financial assistance from unemployment or another government program.

 

 

Among those that were not working, 111 said their job was postponed and nine reported that their job was canceled. Meanwhile, only 41 of 124 respondents (33 percent) said they didn’t receive compensation. Of those who were not working, 118 of 164 (72 percent) said they received some sort of financial assistance from unemployment or another government program.

 

Of those that were working, 125 of 188 (66 percent) respondents reported that they are working from home (and an additional 7 percent said they normally work from home). And 108 of 126 (nearly 86 percent) said they are receiving their full salary, and 95 of 120 (79 percent) said they were allowed to have all of their assistants continue to work.

As to the editing tools, 80 of 128 (63 percent) said their employer provided equipment so that they could work at home. For those who own their own equipment, only 33 of 94 respondents said they were receiving a box rental and 19 of 105 said that their assistants were receiving an additional box rental. Further, only 13 of 127 respondents said they were compensated for their home cutting room. Only 20 of 128 said they were being compensated for their internet service or upgrade, just nine of 128 said they were being compensated for utilities, and just 11 of 123 were being compensated for services such as Zoom.

Looking ahead, 95 percent of respondents (137 of 144) believe there’s the potential for working from home to become more common in the future. And, 86 of 136 said they prefer working from home. When asked if editors found editing at home to be more or less efficient, the results were fairly evenly split between more efficient, less efficient and the same.

 

Michael Tronick, ACE, reports that he and co-editor Joe Galdo, with director David E. Talbert, were working towards a locked picture on Netflix’s upcoming Christmas musical feature, Jingle Jangle, slated for November release, when the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown. Tronick, who also serves as an editorial consultant on Netflix Original Studio Films, explains that the streamer then expanded the post-production schedule to give VFX artists, the composer, sound, music and picture editors and their crews time to relocate from their facilities to home.

“I had an Avid delivered to my house and my dining room became my cutting room,” says Tronick, who continues his collaboration with Galdo and two assistant editors (Rich Conkling and Jill Piwowar) via Evercast. To collaborate with artists from VFX company Framestore, with bases in London and Montreal, the editors rely on Cospective’s Frankie and Google Meet sessions.

Collaborating with music and sound effects departments is based on Audiomovers and Zoom meetings, with composer John Debney logging in from his studio in Burbank, while the orchestra and choir were recording at Air Studios in London. Talbert is able to log in to offer notes and suggestions during the recording sessions. Dance foley is also being recorded remotely from London.

Tronick explains, “I’m working off of a local drive, which has all the media, but it’s updated almost nightly by Rich and Jill who update my system with changes that Joe has been making with David on the primary Avid. Visual Effects are constantly updated by Warren Hickman, the VFX Editor. “Luckily for us, the Netflix post team headed by Jesse Torres and Mike Morgan and our Post Supervisor, Graham Stumpf and his assistant, Gladys Garcia Valiente, have been on top of this.

And it’s been a very impressive process as far as not letting the demands of post-production outrun the technology that’s required to get the work done,” he adds. “My primary concern is for the health and safety of my crew. At Netflix, the philosophy is ‘no risks’ and everyone respects that. There are no ultimatums. There are no demands. Every individual is given the opportunity to do what’s best for him or her as far as completion of this movie.”

When mixing commences at Warner Bros., it’s a personal choice, whether you want to show up at the studio or continue working remotely and monitor the mix on ClearView Flex,” Tronick finds that there are some advantages to working from home, like the convenience of not having to commute, and enjoying dinners with his wife Barbara. Yet he admits, “I always thought that working from home would be a little bit more civilized, but it turns out it’s just as hectic and stressful, getting an occasional 10 minutes for lunch, and dealing with unexpected Zoom meetings.

He also misses the hands-on sense of collaboration that comes from sharing a space, “because it allows for certain spontaneity to exchange ideas and approaches and trying different things whereas with Evercast or any of these systems, we’re always at the mercy of Spectrum cable.

“I think the technologists are seizing on the situation and extracting what silver linings there are and those will become permanent in the process,” he adds. “I don’t know what the new normal is going to look like exactly. But I am skeptical whether it will be able to duplicate the old normal.”

_________________________________________________

LISA BROMWELL, ACE
Sent home to work in early March, Lisa Bromwell, ACE, recently finished the final two episodes of Netflix drama Shadow and Bone. “The media was transferred to a G-Raid drive and brought to my house along with the equipment I needed,” she explains.

“I guess we’re on an honor system because there’s no specific security measures other than a memo that went out reminding us of the NDAs we signed. We use Evercast when we need to work together. For things like sound spot or VFX reviews where there are a lot of people, we log onto a PIX session and talk via Zoom.” Assistant editor Paul Alderman uses TeamViewer to access the system and transfer files.

Looking ahead, Bromwell says that if invited to return to the post suite, she’d be fine provided there are the right safety protocols in place. “We’re lucky we have a showrunner who cares about safety. I’m not sure they all would prioritize people this way.”

She’d also be happy to adopt a hybrid workflow. “Doing the first cut from home would be ideal – it’s the hardest part and that drive home, when my eyes are tired, has always been difficult, so I’d love to work from home for that part. “Ideally, when with the director or producer,  I would prefer to be in the same room,” she continues. “But I’d like to be flexible about coming into the office. Toward the end of the process, when there’s a lot of waiting on notes, or very minimal notes to execute, I’d be just as happy to do that from home.” But she warns that there need to be rules. “And they need to be enforced so ‘working from home’ doesn’t mean always working,” she says.

“I can just hear execs saying, ‘Well, you’re home, your Avid is there, just do this one little thing, never mind that it’s Saturday or 10 at night…’ I’ve been around long enough that I would be comfortable refusing, but a younger editor might not be so brave.”

_______________________________________________

STEVE MIRKOVICH, ACE
At press time, editorial on Sony Pictures’ Escape Room 2 returned to the studio following three months of shelter in place.“Everything is in flux with the state of the virus just now,” says Steve Mirkovich, ACE. “We may look to do as much as we can from home and spend a couple days on the lot for essentials.

“Trying to fumble through the workflow from home was not easy,” he admits. “We tried Zoom, Evercast and Splashtop remote desktop solutions without ever finding one that was perfect. We were reaching into the studio cutting room’s Nexis for the media, submitting cuts to the studio on PIX, and had issues with sync-lag.

I upgraded to the highest bandwidth internet connection but everyone has different ISPs making the workflow clunky and slower than usual.” He commends the studio for being inventive, flexible and understanding in granting them additional time to work through the problems. The ‘essentials’ Mirkovich refers to pertain to the creative energy and nuances of brainstorming that he feels only materialize in person.

“No one forced us to go back but [director Adam Robitel] and I have a relationship [they worked together on Escape Room, 2019] where we agreed that at the stage of director’s cut and studio notes there is no substitute for being in the same room to get the creative juices flowing. It’s those off-the-cuff comments, the little suggestions and pitches, the spontaneity that gets lost remotely. “That collaboration is so important at this point in the picture and is really helpful for the director.”

Before going back to the studio, Mirkovich laid some ground rules. “I talked to the studio heads in my department and arranged for us to have bigger-than-normal rooms for cutting, for VFX production and VFX editing. That was possible since the lot was vacant and gave us the space to socially distance without feeling too cramped.” Everyone had antibody tests, masks are worn during sessions, social distancing applies in a suite and the team are swab-tested once a week. “Maybe I’m overcautious but I want to keep my crew healthy.”

At press time, Escape Room 2 had the only editorial team cutting on Sony’s lot, therefore they have a two-story building to themselves. “It feels like living in a leper colony. Social distancing in a creative meeting is like going to dinner in a hazmat suit. I am nervous for my crew right now as the outbreak is spiking which is why it’s likely we’ll revert to home. I’m not sure what the new normal is any more.”

Honoree Cathy Repola

`

1st Qtr, 2020

Cathy Repola serves as National Executive Director of the Motion Picture Editors Guild (IATSE Local 700), a role that she has held since 2016 when the Board of Directors unanimously appointed her to the post.

Since then, she has fought for members in areas from benefits to working conditions. Repola comes from a union household in the entertainment industry. Her father, Ernie Repola, was a secretary/assistant business agent at IATSE Local 683 (Film Lab Technicians) and her older siblings all went to work in the industry in various post-production roles. “I wasn’t planning to work in the entertainment industry, so I went to college, got a degree, and was going to teach – or so I thought.

Then I got a temporary job within a union that represents clerical people in the industry. That temporary job turned into a permanent one. “I became a shop steward, my nickname quickly became ‘Norma Rae’ and after sitting through the collective bargaining process, the light bulb went off: This is what I want to do. I took some labor courses and begged the union in which I belonged, OPEIU, to hire me and eventually they did.

A few years later, I saw an ad in the trade magazines that a union [Motion Picture Editors Guild] was looking for an Assistant Executive Director. I had an interview with Ron Kutak, Executive Director, then the Board of Directors and the rest is history.”

Repola relates that 27 years ago when she started at Local 700, there were 3000 members (including picture editors, sound editors, music editors, assistants, apprentices and librarians) and mainly two contracts they worked under. “Now we’ve got thousands of different contracts, 8300 members, national jurisdiction and we have to continue to increase our staff in order to keep on servicing the membership,” she says.

That’s not all. Repola was appointed chairwoman of the first-ever IATSE Women’s Committee (a role she held from 2015-2018). She received the IATSE President’s Award for Outstanding Woman Leader in 2017. Her commitment to the community has also seen her serve on the Board of FilmLA and chair its Community Relations Committee.

She was selected to participate in the #TimesUp women’s production group committee. She is also a longtime advocate, fundraiser and volunteer for the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Looking ahead, she says, “Unions need to work from the bottom up and that became so clear [in 2018] when we were negotiating the new contract. All of a sudden there was a renewed interest in the union and that year we had five brandnew board members installed who never were involved before. That level of interest continues to increase.”

The MPEG Membership Outreach Committee, among many things, promoted the idea of town-hall style membership meetings. “I will say a few words to open it up but the members come up with the topics, the things that are important to them,” Repola explains. Says MPEG president Alan Heim, ACE: “Cathy has awakened the members of the Guild and I look forward to working with her toward the best contract we can get at the next negotiations.”

“One of the things that is really important to me is to not remove myself too far from the membership,” Repola sums up of her approach. “I want to be accessible. I go to a lot of the membership mixers; I go to a lot of the events; I go and talk to members because I do want to understand who they are and what they are about, what their expectations are, what their disappointments in the union are. I want to know what they think, what they feel and what they care about.”

Honoree Alan Heim, ACE

`

1st Qtr, 2020

Alan Heim, ACE, should need no introduction – but here goes. The former President of American Cinema Editors and current President of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, Heim is heralded as much for supporting the craft of the cutting room as for his estimable body of work in shaping art on screen. He has edited for some of the best directors to ever grace the business, including Sidney Lumet, Mel Brooks, Bob Fosse, John Hughes and Milos Forman. An Academy Award® winner for editing for Fosse’s All That Jazz and Oscar® nominated for Lumet’s Network, he has also won or was nominated for several ACE Eddies and Emmys®. “Working in film, you manipulate time,” Heim says. “The editing process is really the last opportunity to change the story before it goes out into the world.”

NEW YORK BEGINNINGS
Brought up in The Bronx, a block from the 41st Precinct (later better known as “Fort Apache”), Heim’s first paying job (aged 13) was as the projectionist for the Police Athletic League in the basement of the police station, a result of being on the audiovisual squad at school since the age of 10.

“There were at least five movie theaters within walking distance of my home and I spent many Saturday matinees in them,” Heim recalls. “As a child I imagined that films somehow appeared in the theaters as if by magic, made in some Hollywood wonderland far beyond my reach. None of my career was on my radar then.”

An avid photographer in his early teens, Heim harbored a “vague fantasy” of a future in photography but it was only when he dropped out of CCNY in his first year that he discovered the college’s Film Institute. “At the time this was chaired by a great documentarian named George Stoney (All My Babies). There were so few students in the late ‘50s that I took many of my courses at night, including editing. I discovered that I had a talent for looking at our meager material with a different eye than most in my class, and when George viewed my first student film (three minutes long, one roll of film) he asked me to edit it, though it was intended to be cut in the camera. That got me really hooked.”

While he struggled to gain work after graduation in 1959, he was able to pursue his new interest courtesy of the U.S. Army as part of the military draft. “I never thought that I would actually serve. I was wrong but it turned into a great piece of luck. A person I worked with as a sound assistant introduced me to the Major heading up the film division of the Army Pictorial Center in Queens and he agreed to try and get me stationed there after basic training. Unbelievably, he was able to do it. I spent 18 months there where a civil servant taught me how to really edit music.”

After being released from the military, Heim’s career began to gather pace. He gained a union card as a result of assisting at a commercials house, before composer and music editor Robert Stringer invited him to work on TV series The Nurses, as a music and sound effects editor. He got his break into features as sound effects editor on The Pawnbroker edited by Ralph Rosenblum, who became a mentor. The 1964 drama was the first major American film that tackled the horrors of the Holocaust and controversially (given its subject matter) was the first film featuring bare breasts to receive Production Code approval. It was also Heim’s first encounter with director Sidney Lumet who a few years later who would trust the budding editor with his first solo picture credit.

In the interim, Heim acted as associate editor on the documentary Festival which had been filming the Newport folk music scene between 1963 and 1966. At the same time, Heim took on a sound and music role (credited sound effects) on The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. Both films went on to win Academy Awards for best documentary (in 1967 and 1965 respectively) but had cemented in Heim a desire to move into picture editing. “I decided to give up sound editing and work as a picture assistant to learn the ropes in the cutting room,” Heim says. “Sidney came to my rescue.”

Heim was sound editing to the picture cutting of Gerald Greenberg, ACE, on Lumet’s comedy Bye Bye Braverman in 1968 when he was offered the chance to edit The Sea Gull. The drama, based on Anton Chekhov’s play and featuring James Mason and Vanessa Redgrave, received mixed reviews but encouraged the director to invite Heim back to cut Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, adapted by Gore Vidal from a Tennessee Williams play and shot by James Wong Howe. “I went to the rehearsals and was dazzled by the company.

As on Sea Gull, Sidney stood behind me and had a hand in every cut. I was learning from him but began to feel underused and uncomfortable. When I finished the picture, after several lowkey disagreements with Sidney, I left it in the more-than-capable hands of my brilliant assistant, Craig McKay (now ACE).” Far from jumping ship, Heim was in demand, this time from filmmaker and iconoclast Mel Brooks who wanted him to edit The Twelve Chairs on location in the former Yugoslavia. It wasn’t their first encounter.

Before Sea Gull Rosenblum had hired Heim for the sound editing on Brooks’ Nazi satire The Producers, taking over the final editing of the picture when Rosenblum had to leave the project “in part because of their mutual dislike,” Heim confides. “There were only the titles to supervise and one scene which Mel had been unhappy with – signing the contract in the Nazi’s apartment,” Heim relates. “It had a lot of funny dialogue but it was presented as a single master shot, something I felt needed different coverage and a different pace. I convinced Mel to give me two days to recut it. I found close-ups and new angles, restructured it and when I showed it to Mel he accepted it on the spot.” At the cast-and-crew screening Heim recalls the audience laughing so hard that the dialogue was almost obliterated –

“I loved feeling the crowd laugh and wanted to become a picture editor more than ever.” Next up, after Sea Gull, was Doc, a 1971 Western loosely based on Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and starring Stacy Keach and Faye Dunaway, directed by Frank Perry. It’s the only film Heim has cut in scene order. “There had been a lot of jealousies on the film set in Spain, which I discovered when I cut a simple scene of Stacy Keach and Harris Yulin playing cards which just didn’t seem to match.

When revisiting the whole scene I found that the actors had been changing vests between takes. When I asked Harris why, he told me that they were tormenting the script supervisor. Then he asked, “Did you catch the shirts?” And it turns out they were also changing shirts with subtly different striped patterns between takes and I missed it because on a Moviola screen, that’s really hard to see.” He adds wryly, “It can sometimes be very tough to be an editor.”

Then came the career- and life-changing moment when he met Bob Fosse. “I discovered in Fosse a really kindred spirit. The whole freedom of editing that I got from Bob fits into my whole psyche.” Fosse was as innovative a choreographer as he was a filmmaker. His sophomore directorial effort Cabaret in 1972 won eight Oscars and beat Francis Ford Coppola to Best Director for The Godfather.

Heim, by his own account, was not a musician and at that time wasn’t a fan of musicals either but a chemistry between them led to a stunning and lifelong artistic collaboration. “I first met Bob at the rehearsal studio for Liza with a Z (the same venue that appears in All That Jazz) and I was dazzled by the energy in the room. Just the thrill of being surrounded by the dancers there was astounding. They would come sliding right up to our feet, and the room was filled with heat and sweat – movement and color. I knew how to make material work with music and to make music work with material but Bob was really disappointed that I wasn’t actually a musician and couldn’t read music.

Later that night I saw Cabaret and I knew then that I really wanted to work with him. Luckily, it worked out.” Their first venture together was a one-hour live concert of Liza with a Z filmed with nine 16mm cameras. “A tremendously complex film. The main camera broke in the middle of the first act, so we had no master shots and it was lit theatrically, which led to certain problems because it didn’t translate well to television. We started fiddling around with the film to cover all that and sort of never stopped fiddling.” The fiddling worked since it landed Fosse an Emmy and Heim his first Emmy nomination.

The film they made next redefined the Hollywood biopic. Lenny, about comic Lenny Bruce, was based on a play and “terrific” script by Julian Barry featuring Dustin Hoffman in the title role but the storytelling began to change radically in the edit. “We were trying to get across the complexity of Lenny’s personality and it wasn’t working so we began to intercut scenes of his stand-up routines with moments in his life. This idea existed in the script but we just went a lot further. Actors like to be liked and Dustin wanted to make Lenny nice but it didn’t work for the sharp-edged guy that [he] actually was. “We found that the shorter the comedy routines got, the more juxtapositions about Lenny’s life we made, the faster it got and the edgier Dustin’s performance became.”

Lenny received six Oscar nominations including for Hoffman and Best Picture. Heim and Fosse took the techniques they’d developed in the cutting room into their next film, All That Jazz, a semi-autobiographical account of Fosse’s life and career. “Jazz is about show business but it’s much more about the baring of an individual’s soul. It’s done in a kind of brutal manner. Some critics talked about the egotism involved but he’s taking himself apart. In fact, Roy Scheider is playing a character who happens to be Bob. In the cutting room I had to unlearn saying ‘you’ when talking about the character. I had to say ‘Joe’ or ‘him.’ I knew it was his life of course having lived part of it.”

It paid off handsomely as the picture, an instant classic, gained nine Academy Awards nods with Heim receiving the Oscar, a BAFTA® and ACE Eddie for his work. The pair went on to make Star 80 (1983), about Playboy model Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered by her husband Paul Snider, before Fosse’s life was tragically cut short by a heart attack in 1987, aged 60. “He was a genius. He made so few movies that I feel incredibly fortunate to have known him and to have worked with his material. He would come into the cutting room and we would rework scenes, to polish them as much as possible, to get the most out of it.”

Fosse referred to Heim as his collaborator, which Heim accepts as a great compliment.“We worked hard, but what was so nice about working with him was that he always acknowledged it. Every day was an adventure, absolutely every day.” As befits a filmmaking collaboration that advanced the concept of manipulating time on screen, we have skipped ahead in our narrative of Heim’s career.

All That Jazz was not his first or only brush with Oscar. In 1976, Heim had renewed his association with Lumet for the broadcast news drama Network. It’s a film which has lost none of its coruscating cultural impact. “The idea of a TV personality taking over the attention of America? It’s remarkable.”

This time around, Lumet left his editor alone. “I knew I could do it on my own. Paddy Chayefsky was a brilliant, prescient polemicist and a poet who wrote a near flawless script. It was beautifully acted and directed perfectly by Sidney. What more could an editor want? We turned the film over in just five days and it took 10 weeks from production to print.”

Actor Peter Finch’s standout performance was Oscar awarded posthumously. “Performances are the raw material,” Heim says. “I look for the best takes and try very hard to protect the actor’s integrity.” “People still send me notes about Network and All That Jazz. It’s nice to have worked on something that’s not ephemeral.

I always feel nowadays that films have the shelf life of a cantaloupe. As soon as they enter theaters they go rotten.” Among many other projects, Heim worked as a music editor on Paul Newman’s Rachel, Rachel (1968) and as picture editor including Godspell (1973); Funny Farm (1988) for George Roy Hill; She’s Having a Baby (1988) for John Hughes; Milos Forman’s Valmont (1989) and Billy Bathgate (1991) for Robert Benton. He won two additional Eddie Awards for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Grey Gardens, and shared an Emmy for his work on the TV miniseries Holocaust (1978). He moved to Los Angeles in 1995 where, having learned to edit on the Moviola, then the Kem and Steenbeck, he took to editing on Avid in stride.

Heim worked on Copycat and The Mirror Has Two Faces (for Barbra Streisand); American History X and The Notebook, Alpha Dog and The Other Woman for Nick Cassavetes. Unwittingly, Heim has even become part of folklore, with his work and actual persona depicted in the critically-acclaimed series Fosse/Verdon about which Heim has mixed feelings. “I knew him for 16 or so years, smoked grass with him, attended parties and never saw him as he was depicted. That said, I’m happy for Gwen’s memory to be enhanced.

Few show dancers get enough credit or even much history. Also, it was kind of fun to have somebody play me, no matter how inaccurate. I don’t believe I was quite so heavy and I know I didn’t wear glasses until after Star 80 – but that’s just vanity.”

When he wasn’t in the cutting room, Heim served as a board member of ACE for more than 25 years, which included serving four terms as president, from 2004-2008 and 2012-2016, and four terms as vice president, from 2008-2012 and 2016-2019.

As part of his tireless advocacy for the work of editors everywhere he was instrumental in producing The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. The feature documentary recounted the history of the cutting room and extolled the virtues of its artistry with the testimonies of a who’s who of cinema talent. Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Jodie Foster, George Lucas, James Cameron and Sean Penn were some of the many talented artists contributing to the project thanks to the efforts of Heim and the documentary’s director Wendy Apple.

The film also captured the thoughts of master craftspeople like Walter Murch, ACE; Michael Kahn, ACE; Thelma Schoonmaker, ACE; and the late Sally Menke, ACE. “We thought we could raise the profile of the editing community,” Heim says. “It’s the editors’ shot at getting some airtime.”

Always humble, charming to a fault and generous with an anecdote, Heim is a worthy recipient of ACE’s highest honor. “I have been privileged to be a part of a fantastic community of people over many years who have advanced the art of storytelling in the editing room,” he says. “To be honored with this award from my peers in the editing community is extremely meaningful, and the recognition of my colleagues is most deeply appreciated.”