Leigh Johnson – Schmeer Fellow


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

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The Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship (KSFEF) celebrated its seventh year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival, last March in Austin, Texas, during which Leigh Johnson was named its 2017 fellow. Director Heather Courtney and editor Leah Marino presented Johnson with the Fellowship Award at the film festival’s awards ceremony, and Johnson also participated in a meet-and-greet during SXSW.
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“Leigh has a really strong work ethic and an intuitive storytelling sense,” says Garret Savage, Schmeer Fellowship board president. “In recent years, she’s dedicated herself to learning about documentary art and craft by attending panels, meetups and screenings. We love that. We’re eager to support her efforts to become a better editor and help push her career to the next level.”
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Johnson studied Neuroscience & Behavior at Vassar College and later taught English in rural Japan, during which time she learned Apple’s Final Cut Pro as a creative outlet. This ignited a passion and led her to New York where she interned and eventually joined The Onion’s video department. “I didn’t really start trying to break into the film world until my mid-20s,” says Johnson. “I felt like others already knew each other and everyone was going to festivals – so I wondered, ‘How do I get into this?’ But I found my people fairly quickly and it’s such a testament to the film community here in New York that I was able to build an opportunity and receive so much encouragement.
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leigh2The Fellowship is certainly a boost and I’m so grateful that it will allow me to meet more people.” As the 2017 Fellow, Johnson received passes to SXSW, Sundance, IFFBoston, Stranger than Fiction, ACE EditFest, Roof top Films, IDA’s Getting Real conference, Camden International Film Festival and Manhattan Edit Workshop’s Sight, Sound & Story summit. During the year, Johnson will keep a blog on the KSFEF site, chronicling her experiences. She also received a Manhattan Edit Workshop class, a $1000 Rooftop Films equipment rental credit, a $1000 cash award, ‘Special’ membership in ACE with a subscription to CinemaEditor magazine, IDA membership, a $250 Powell’s Books gift certificate and a DVD collection of Karen Schmeer’s films.
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A fan of the fellowship for years, Johnson says, “I began my application and kept realizing what a perfect year this was to get more involved. I’ve wanted to attend more festivals, take a Manhattan Edit Workshop class and I already have a full cart on Powell’s Books.”
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The biggest standouts for Johnson are her mentors for the year: Penelope Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Step), Maya Mumma (O.J.: Made in America, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown), and Geoffrey Richman, ACE (Murderball, The Cove). “The mentorship is such a big piece of the fellowship and it was a great time for me with a project on my hands,” says Johnson. “I could hand my mentors my current project to screen and they could give me their feedback. It’s been amazing timing and such an opportunity to learn. “They really designed the Fellowship to the letter,” Johnson says as an encouragement to anyone considering the 2018 application process. “Karen’s friends are just incredible people to know and I can’t think of a better support system. … The more I put myself out there the more I found people who were waiting to be generous toward me.”
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Sponsored annually by ACE, the KSFEF was established to develop an emerging documentary film editor by offering opportunities for creative growth and professional community building. The Fellowship pays tribute to the legacy of Karen Schmeer, ACE, who edited projects including the Academy Award®-winning The Fog of War in addition to the Mr. Death and the IFC series, First Person. Schmeer died in 2010 when she was struck by a car in a hit- and-run accident.

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