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HomeAwardsAwards Portfolio: Thelma Schoonmaker/Aviator

Awards Portfolio: Thelma Schoonmaker/Aviator


When director Martin Scorsese was first handed a script for The Aviator, he said, “Hmm, airplanes.” But as he read further, he became empathetic towards Howard Hughes, the title character of the film, and it all started to fall into place. The story traces the early life and loves of Howard Hughes as the dashing young aviation visionary, before his decent into the unshaven eccentric of his later years. This intense and fine-tuned character study evolved from a great script, finessed onto the screen by the storytelling skills of Scorsese and his long-term editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, A.C.E.Both Scorsese and Schoonmaker had to learn new technology for the film, which relied heavily on computer graphics to create the detailed re-enactments from historic newsreel footage. There was also a far greater than usual collaboration between editorial, visual effects and color timing.Schoonmaker says she was terrified that there was too much overlapping dialog on set—usually kept at a minimum, to keep the dialog clean. “But what happened when I started editing, it actually worked as he intended it. We did loop some lines, but rarely the overlapping.”Collaboration between Schoonmaker and Scorsese began with his first film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967). They picked up working together again with Raging Bull (1980) and Schoonmaker has edited all of Scorsese’s films since. On a recent Below the Line post-screening panel, the editor described a cutting room with a television constantly playing a silent TCM and Scorsese breaking into exclamations over beautiful shots. When asked what it was like working with Scorsese, she replied, “You have to be there. It’s very exciting. Emotional.”

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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