IAVA Roundtable

Cutting Observations, Welcome Departures At ACE Panel Discussion Featuring Oscar Nominees | SHOOTonline.com

Editors on the ACE panel are Academy Award-winning editor John Gilbert,ACE and Spirit honorees Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders. Additional panelists were  moderator Alan Heim, ACE; Joe Walker, ACE; Tom Cross, ACE; and Jake Roberts (photos by Peter Zakhary/Tilt Photo)

American Cinema Editors (ACE) recently held its annual Invisible Art/Visible Artists roundtable discussion starring the latest lineup of Oscar-nominated feature film editors–and once again, as strange as it may sound, ACE was glad to have some of those panelists leave early.

This time, Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, who cut Moonlight, and Jake Roberts, editor of Hell or High Water, exited about two-thirds of the way through the Saturday morning (2/25) session at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. McMillon, Sanders and Roberts had to leave to get across town in time for that afternoon’s Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica as they were all nominees in the competition’s Best Editing category. ACE president Stephen Rivkin, ACE, noted in his opening remarks that ACE lobbied heavily over the years to get the Spirit Awards to include an editing category which was launched in 2014. Rivkin said he was only too happy to see editor panelists have to depart for the Spirit Awards ceremony, bringing added recognition to the art and craft of editing in the independent filmmaking community.

As it turns out, McMillon and Sanders won the Spirit Award for their work on Moonlight. And the next day, fellow ACE session panelist John Gilbert, ACE, won the Oscar for Hacksaw Ridge. Joining McMillon, Sanders, Gilbert and Roberts on the ACE panel discussion were Joe Walker, ACE, who cut Arrival, and Tom Cross, ACE, editor of La La Land. Moderating the session was Alan Heim, ACE, an Oscar winner for All That Jazz in 1980, just three years after he earned his first Academy Award nomination for Network.

Visceral vs. emotional
When asked by Heim how he was able to  maintain his professional composure as an editor when dealing with the graphically violent war images in Hacksaw Ridge, Gilbert quipped that he might have “a personal disorder” which enables him to be fairly “dispassionate” about such carnage. At the same time, Gilbert feels himself being emotionally moved by poignant character interaction. He related that it’s “the emotional more than the visceral content that gets to me.”

Relative to an editor’s creative approach to visceral content, Roberts noted that violence which is more edited often tends to be less convincing.

Meanwhile, as for how emotional fare affects him, Cross said that he feels its impact more in dailies than when cutting. While in the throes of editing, Cross said he tends to think “more mechanically” about his approach with an emphasis on finding solutions. His personal feelings and being emotionally moved then kick in again once he gets to see the film with an audience.

Sanders feels more objective about material when screening dailies, tapping into what he feels during that first viewing and then applying his craft to try to “maintain” those feelings in the work over the ensuing months. That, he said, is “the macro level” of what he does, striving to retain those dynamics that strike a responsive chord. The “micro level,” he continued, is more along the lines of “we need two more or two fewer frames here or there.”

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