In Memoriam – John Travers


IN THIS ISSUE – 2nd
 Qtr, 2017
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
BACK ISSUES

traversOn a rainy Sunday in January an exclusive group of friends and associates gathered at the historic Egyptian Theatre where John Travers had spent so much time to pay a last goodbye to a little known, but incredibly talented film editor. The theater gave us the Spielberg room in honor of him. He passed away of a heart attack in his bungalow at Yamashiro restaurant in the Hollywood Hills on Nov. 1. He had been working hard editing on a schedule that was unrealistic and demanding, but that was like John. John Travers was an editor for all seasons. He was of the faith and lived and breathed film.
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To many of the young filmmakers who came to Hollywood he was their inspiration. I was privileged to work with him on two films, One Down and Lightmaker. On One Down we began working on the film in his tiny bungalow at Yamashiro. It was a recut and we were working with a limited budget. Eventually I secured a room for us at Warner Hollywood Studios. John was a constant source of inspiration on how to make the movie better. I don’t remember much about the film, but I do remember John having me and my brother, Thom, and several other people come to a cemetery as mourners for a key scene he wanted to add. He was having trouble shooting with a Russian camera he had acquired. The camera wouldn’t work and we never got the scene, but nobody minded being there for John. Later, as we were reshaping the film, we had a scheduled screening and John was still wrestling with reel three. I grabbed the other reels and headed for the screening room on the lot yelling back to John, “You have 15 minutes to finish the reel before we hit white screen!” Fifteen minutes later John walked into the screening room and shortly thereafter reel three came up. It played beautifully.
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Under that pressure John did what he always did. He made the picture better. I don’t remember how I met John Travers, probably through Doug Haines or Bob Murawski, ACE. I later learned he was born in New Orleans and grew up in Connecticut. His father was the novelist, Robert Travers, and his half-sister was Mary Travers of the folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary. None of this did he ever tell me. I only found out after his passing. He began making his own films at age 11. While in high school he worked as a production assistant on Friday the 13th for director Sean Cunningham and producer Steve Miner.
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While at the University of Bridgeport he won the ACE Student Eddie in 1981. Five years later he won the Student Academy Award® for his 44-minute film, Jenny. I had never seen the film until the memorial and was astounded by the work and craftsmanship that went into it. His ongoing love affair with editing began with that film. After working together, I would often run into John, usually at the Egyptian where he filmed events including ACE’s Invisible Art/Visible Artists. He would usually take me next door and buy me dinner and we would talk film. He had a strong insight into how editing made the movie.
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At one point, John showed me the feature he had directed, Deep Down, with George Segal and Tanya Roberts. I wondered why he didn’t direct more, but I guess his real love was editing. Among the other films he edited are the documentary, Peter, Paul and Mary: Reunion, Meeting Spencer and Convincing Clooney. He also edited several television series, including Hollywood Safari and Billionaires Car Club; and trailers, music videos and commercials. A few years later we collaborated on Lightmaker, a film that had gone through many versions. John brought me on to help organize the footage from the many versions. It was a huge task and, as I managed it, I was able to watch John at work. His innate sense of story and creativity allowed him to bring out elements not previously explored and often he shot new footage to make the story work.

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At the memorial service, we viewed Jenny and many of his friends and associates told stories of his love of film, his compassion for his friends and his fondness for getting together at the historic Formosa Cafe. I will always regret that I never asked John to join ACE. He very much exemplified the editors we are looking for: devoted to the craft. I will miss him. –Jack Tucker, ACE