The Boardroom

by Bonnie Koehler, A.C.E.

My favorite part of our monthly ACE Board Meetings is the first hour. It’s the pizza and gossip part, before ACE President Randy Roberts drops the gavel and we address the official agenda. It’s a free flowing, random time, but a deceptively productive one. We are at our most candid then. It’s when we take the temperature of our editing community and gestate and test the ideas that will appear on future agendas to become the promotional events, products and policies that grow our ACE mission.

Between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. we rush in, one at a time, from far-flung cutting rooms wearing that startled look of stunned concentration endemic to editors still lost in the day’s creative concerns. We each blurt out an opening non sequitur as we enter:

“Four hours of dailies.  HD is killing us.” “I turned the show around in 24 hours!  What happened to ‘editor’s cut’?”   “I haven’t seen an assistant in a week.  Who’s stupid idea was 3-2?”  “Tell me again how we ended up with a 60-hour work week?” “Why is it that studios will gladly spend millions on gadgets, but they so hate to pay PEOPLE?”  “Why Canada?  It’s a rainforest. This industry was founded in a DESERT for a reason.  Hello?”  “I hear when they lift the embargo the studios are going to rush to Cuba.  It’s got it all–beaches, cheap labor, cigars and gambling.” “Gee, imagine telling a story without spending 50 million on CGI…” “Oh. It’s STORYTELLING you want?  Picky, picky…”

One recent Tuesday night, after returning from a trip to Portland to sort through my parent’s house after they passed away, I walked into the boardroom thinking about a silver charm bracelet I had discovered in my mother’s jewelry chest. I blurted out the words “Bob-O-Link” as I entered. Bob-O-Link? It was a style of bracelet that was all the rage when my grandmother attended the University of Colorado in 1915. I had found her bracelet – a series of small, sterling silver rectangles, each engraved with a different set of initials and linked together, that she had given my mother, and my mother had left for me. What was the story behind this bracelet and to whom did all the initials belong? Over a number of days, I solved the mystery. A picture of my grandmother with her circle of artsy friends–girls in long skirts and boys in high-laced mountain boots, posing as Greek muses–was the key. I looked at the names on the back of the photo. My grandmother’s bracelet represented a link given to her by each of her close friends with whom she had shared her college years. The Eisenstadt Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Missouri, I learned, had started the craze that swept through the World War I-era college social set by advertising in the Saturday Evening Post and challenging young people to see who could collect the most links. Sales went viral as everyone rushed to memorialize the fragile bonds of youthful friendship in silver and gold. Both girls and boys wore multiple bracelets and vied with each other to see who had the most Bob-O-Link “friends”—Facebook 100 years ago.

“Bob-O-Link,” I said, as I entered the boardroom. Maybe we should all have silver links for each film we’ve cut or for every dear friend we’ve bonded with while working together. We could wear our credits. Sterling silver resumes. Jingle, jangle–the sound of experience. How satisfying it would be to have something shiny and material to show for all of those ephemeral hours of inspiration. Is there an ACE Bob-O-Link bracelet in our future?

Over the years, this monthly hour of checking in with each other before ACE Board meetings has led us to identify and focus on a series of concerns: the challenge of evolving technology, eroding working conditions, editor isolation due to fragmenting of the once physically close editing community on studio lots, the growing popularity of reality TV and its working conditions, the proliferation of film schools, a growing interest in the editing process by young people, the evolving shorthand film language of YouTube, film festivals and their lack of recognition of the editing process, etc.

Board Member Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E., deftly led the charge to take the latter issue into hand and we are seeing an increasing number of festivals add film editing to their awards list.  Reality TV has been added to our Eddie lineup and reality editors invited to join our membership and share their experiences.  We are always brainstorming ideas for social events that draw editors together so that we can continue to build our virtual community to replace the physical proximity that has flown the way of the flange.

And lately, we’ve all been getting that global feeling–a desire to expand our ACE community internationally. International Cinema Editors (I.C.E.) I believe I once suggested. Fortunately in that case, finer minds prevailed. But we have that feeling now–that sense of being part of a worldwide cinema community. And we, as a board, are looking at ways to expand the reach of ACE to address that growing interest around the world in what we do as film editors here in Hollywood.

“And we, as a board, are looking at ways to expand the reach of ACE to address that growing interest around the world in what we do as film editors here in Hollywood.”

Our magazine is a big part of our international presence and we’re kicking around ideas to grow our publications and online real estate. And ACE Executive Director Jenni McCormick’s brainstorm—EditFest—is blossoming every year. Boston and London seem the most likely next stages. We’ve floated the idea of an EditFest in Frankfurt and one in Beijing. Is Rio next?

Wherever editors gather, ideas spark. We are artists. Our rough edges create friction together. We are heat. We are fire. We are light. The shadows flicker on the wall of the cave and we are the shadow shapers. We control the magic. May I add your initials to my Bob-O-Link bracelet? Will they remember our names in 100 years?