Letter From Editor

Letter From the Editor – 2nd Qtr 2019

 

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2nd Qtr, 2019

There’s a cool, early-morning breeze off the ocean carrying with it the aroma of woodsmoke and orange blossoms. I’m with CinemaEditor magazine Editor in Chief Edgar Burcksen, ACE, who has just finished a 25-mile ride down the coast on his Cannondale Supersix bike with Velo Club LaGrange. We’re sitting outside Peet’s Coffee on 14th and Montana in Santa Monica.

“I love California. When I left Amsterdam, I came first to Marin County and worked with George Lucas on the EditDroid for a couple of years. The Bay Area film world is all about post-production and it’s a supportive, knowable community. A good transition from Europe. Then on to L.A.

It was by then the early 1990s.” “What brought you to American Cinema Editors and our magazine?” “In Holland, I was part of a group of experimental filmmakers who had an avantgarde magazine, SKRIEN. We learned that
we make different kinds of aesthetic connections in the cutting room and in print.  I value exploring aesthetics and storytelling through the written word as well as with images on the screen in the camaraderie of a like-minded group of artists.

That’s ACE for me. I was invited to join ACE in 1998 and became Editor in Chief of CinemaEditor in 2001 after an article I wrote on the psychology of working in the cutting room garnered some attention.” Edgar took over from Chris Cooke, ACE, who had worked with the magazine in transition after Jack Tucker, ACE, had spent years nurturing it from a small mimeographed member newsletter, getting it on its feet as a full-color glossy periodical.

“Our magazine gives film editors a voice. It advances every aspect of our mission statement at ACE. And now CinemaEditor has a global reach. It’s on newsstands around the world – the only periodical where post advertisers can connect directly with an international audience,” emphasizes Edgar.

It’s the global reach of film editing that has brought us together this morning. After almost 20 years with CinemaEditor magazine, Edgar is stepping down from his role at the helm to focus more fully as an ACE ambassador to film editors and their organizations around the globe.

In 2003, with permission from the Board of Directors, he co-founded the ACE International Relations Committee with Michael Ornstein, ACE. They are now in conversation with editors in over 15 countries including: the U.K., Argentina, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, Israel, South Africa, Canada and Australia. “It’s taking more and more time, but I’m delighted at the network we’re building.

Editors in every time zone share the same obstacles, aspirations and enthusiasms.” Edgar’s still working fulltime cutting feature documentaries so, as all film editors know, the hours have to be budgeted carefully. “Growing up in Holland I speak four languages and love to travel, so the international outreach is a natural fit for me.”

Edgar plans to continue to contribute to the magazine and encourage film editors from around the world to do so as well. “Our magazine’s in great hands. The team includes the Zakharys – Luci as our art director and inspired graphics designer and her husband, Peter, as our magazine and events photographer are amazing. And Peter has raised the bar involving advertisers, allowing the magazine to keep growing. Adrian Pennington in London
is our international editor, a beat that’s also blossoming. Carolyn Giardina is a top-notch journalist in the media industry and we’re lucky to have her expertise as our editorial consultant.”

Harry B. Miller III, ACE, and Andrew Seklir, ACE, continue to provide support on our Advisory Board and our membership and Board of Directors are very engaged. Currently, CinemaEditor publishes four issues a year – our annual Eddie Awards issue, the Television issue focused on the Emmys®, our Oscar® issue and our Summer Movie issue.

“There’s an appetite for more. With the inspired guidance of our ACE Executive Director, Jenni McCormick, and the excitement of EditFest, Invisible Art/ Visible Artists, the Eddie Awards – the con- versation around film editing is booming. The industry and the viewing public are seeing filmmaking from the point of view of the cutting room, where it all comes together.

Film editing is the only art form unique to motion pictures. Without it, there is no movie. The young innovators want to ‘disrupt’ but they can only do it effectively after they have mastered all the building blocks, all the beats.

As more and more people get their hands on tools and learn to communicate with pictures in motion, there’s an insatiable hunger to learn how we, the professionals, do it. We are the tastemakers. Storytelling. It’s the master craft.”

Letter From the Editor

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1st Qtr, 2019

ACRONYMS

Honorary societies in the motion picture industry such as American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), Casting Society of America (CSA) and, of course, ACE are mostly known to the public by the acronym that they allow their members to carry after their name. Just like M.D. or Ph.D., these acronyms reflect experience and professionalism. Films and TV series earn a badge of distinction when they can show off these acronyms in their credits and promotional materials. When directors, producers and studios are assembling their crews, having one of these acronyms after your name, gives you a leg up.

Unfortunately, it’s recently come to ACE’s attention that certain productions do not want to include the ACE acronym in the credits. The main reason seems to be that they are confusing these honorary acronyms with an affiliation to a union. Since the ‘closed shop’ mandate was abolished from motion picture productions, the usually low-budget, independent, non-union productions were gaining more and more terrain because it meant a substantial savings to the bottom line when union benefits could be evaded. It became a standard procedure for even higher-budget productions to start nonunion and hope that the crew they hired would not have too many union members who could organize and turn it into a unionized one. Because usually most writers, producers and directors are members of the Writers Guild, Producers Guild and Directors Guild, which are actual independent unions that allow their members to use union acronyms like WGA, PGA and DGA after their name, a lot of confusion seems to exist about how to differentiate the honorary and union acronyms. So the easy way out was to just deny honoring the use of any acronym.

Even though the WGA, PGA and DGA acronyms also carry a legitimacy of the professionals who use them, they are mainly based on work on official union productions while the honorary societies base their acronyms not only on the over-time accrued experience of an individual but even more on the creative, artistic and innovative accomplishments. Documentary and independent feature film editors who almost exclusively work on non-union productions, are eligible to earn the ACE acronym if the quality of their work meets the high standards set for active membership.

While most editors have a contractual agreement that determines the size, placement, spelling and use of the acronym, it all too often escapes the ability to enforce this promise. In the last year we have received many complaints from ACE members who were denied the use of the ACE acronym in credits or promotional materials. This is unfair to the editor and ACE.

We want members to know that the ACE Board of Directors has opened up lines of communication with other honorary societies to plan to work together to ensure that our acronyms are used to identify our professional members in the film business. –Edgar Burcksen, ACE

Letter From the Editor 4th Qtr, 18

Nonlinear Casualties

As I was preparing an advanced editing course I was invited to teach in Beijing, I stumbled upon a documentary called The Editdroid, Rise and Fall, for which I was interviewed about 12 years ago. The Editdroid, dreamed up by George Lucas, was the first nonlinear editing device using a battery of eight laser-disc players; while one was playing a shot, the others were lining up the next shots. In the early ‘90s I edited about half of the episodes of the Young Indiana Jones TV series on it before Lucas sold it to Avid.

In those days, the word, ‘nonlinear,’ meaning that you could place any frame, anywhere, anytime – was smirked upon by editors because we were always able to do that since film was in its infancy. Even though the nonlinearity of the Editdroid did not impress me, what was revolutionary to me was the fact that I now was able to instantly manipulate the film clips like flopping, flipping, running backwards, speeding, slowing, freezing frames, blowing up, shrinking and even simple color timing and keying. These tools are ubiquitous now, but for me at that time, it was like the shackles fell off and I was freed out of a prison where I now had the complete freedom to shape a sequence the way I wanted to.

Being proficient on a nonlinear editing device became a valuable skill in the early ‘90s but unfortunately it also forced a lot of veteran editors into retirement and with that a lot of valuable creative editing knowledge was also lost. With the increasing power and decreasing price of computers and the proliferation of editing software like Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro, the value of an experienced editor then became more defined by creative and artistic abilities. As assistant editors are already familiar with and proficient in the tools of editing, the creative part is what they try to pick up from the editors for whom they work. Regrettably, because the computer takes over more and more of the organizational part of the editing process, jobs for assistant editors are becoming scarcer and scarcer. How do I pass on my creative skills to an absent assistant? Students flocking into film schools are already very familiar with editing software, filling YouTube with their sometimes-amazing videos. So they are not interested in Avid or Premiere Pro classes, they want to know how to edit a sequence, how to mold the abundance of dailies into an exciting film.

The experienced editors of ACE need to fill the educational void that has been
created by the vanishing of assistant editor jobs. The explosive growth of the ACE Internship Program and the popularity of the ACE Diversity Mentorship Program show how much interest there is in taking that next step in editing. Through Invisible Art/Visible Artists and EditFest, we have for years been very successful in educating a more general audience to the marvels of editing. MPEG also has a very active educational branch that organizes specialty classes and master classes in advanced editing. However, the accredited film schools in higher education need to make more use of the abundance of knowledge and creativity that exists in our midst. Maybe we can establish a pool of ACE editors who have the experience, educational skills and time to make themselves available to teach?

Former students of mine from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco invited me to teach advanced editing classes in Beijing. This invitation made me realize that there is an eagerness in other countries to learn from our experience and creativity. We will start to explore, through the ACE International Relations Committee and with our colleagues abroad, what we can and need to do to assure that the knowledge and skills we have amassed over the years do not disappear – we need to prepare the next generation of editors to carry the torch. Then the revolution in editing that began with the Editdroid and its unintended casualties of assistant jobs and other paths of learning creative editing skills, will be hopefully redeemed.

Letter from the Editor 2nd Qtr-2018

EDITORS WITHOUT BORDERS

It is one of ACE’s main goals to propagate, inform and educate the moviemaker and society in general with events such as the Eddie Awards, Invisible Art/Visible Artists, EditFest and, of course, CinemaEditor.

Next up is EditFest London, which takes place June 30 at BFI Southbank. The day will feature several editor panels including such talent as Una Ni Dhonghaile; Andrew J. McClelland; Eddie Hamilton, ACE; John Venzon, ACE; and Martin Walsh, ACE; as well as a featured conversation with Chris Lebenzon, ACE. Another ACE initiative that has truly transcended international borders is the Petition for Editors’ Recognition in cooperation with the Motion Picture Editors Guild, which aims to give editors their creative due at film festivals all around the world by pushing for editing award categories.

Establishing contacts around the globe to persuade all kinds of international film festivals to honor editors has familiarized us with lesser-known communities and organizations of editors that helped in the effort. It turns out that there’s a vibrant array of formal and informal groups of editors that gather to advocate all the professional and creative aspects of our jobs.

This led to the genesis of an idea to find ways to connect all these organizations, clubs and communities. As the preeminent honorary society of editors, ACE seems to be the perfect organization to take a leading role in bringing all the creative challenges, struggles and concerns of other editors together. On the recommendation of the International Relations Committee of the ACE Board of Directors, last year CinemaEditor inaugurated the Global Editing Perspectives column, each time featuring another country’s editors organization; in this issue we highlight South Africa.

The ACE Board of Directors has been diligently working with the International Relations Committee to find ways to strengthen our bond with editors around the world because we realize that motion pictures are not bound by borders and so neither should we be. –Edgar Burcksen, ACE

Letter From the Editor 1st Qtr 2018

DISCOVERING EXCELLENCE

 

With the annual ACE Eddie Awards behind us, we always explore what can be improved and how we need to evolve with the changing way content now comes to us – in terms of how it affects our awards ceremony and also the many others during awards season. Because it is not only the financial and economic bottom line and the amount of viewers that select winners but there are also aspirational, artistic and inspirational considerations that play an important role determining what will, needs to be or should be awarded.

The ACE Board of Directors has a standing Blue Ribbon committee that each year carefully and expertly determines and advises the Board about the award categories and line-up. They discuss the changes in production, post-production and distribution affecting the creative assessment of films and shows so the voting ACE membership can fairly choose their favorites.

With the arrival of the cable-cutting streamers like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and an ever-increasing number of choices presented on smart TVs and streaming devices, the competition has intensified. For editors it has meant that creatively much of the most interesting work nowadays seems to be generated by the small screen; and small is, of course, very relative with the ever-increasing size of home theater devices that in size and definition are beginning to resemble the screens of small theaters.

The definition of small screen also includes cell phones and tablets. We might not want to watch a 90-minute drama previously released in theaters on them, but viewing a 20-minute sitcom does not seem to be so weird or unusual. It does, however, mean competition for the big screen, even if it only takes content-consumable time away.

When theaters were the only way content could be distributed, there was room for cinemas that showed culturally and creatively interesting content in addition to the crowd-pleasing box office blockbusters. Now the indies find their audience on iTunes, Amazon and Netflix hoping that a successful run on the streamers can vault them into the mainstream. Even if that does not happen there has been a proliferation of festivals including Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Tribeca and others that can shine a light on the indies that are daring to innovate.

At ACE, we always try to broaden our view of what goes on in the film and TV business because it is our goal to award excellence in editing wherever it might happen. Excellence sometimes can be found in obscure places of creativity and we challenge ourselves to find ways to give it its proper and deserved attention. –Edgar Burcksen, ACE