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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

HomeAwardsContender-Hughes Winborne-Editor-Great Debaters

Contender-Hughes Winborne-Editor-Great Debaters

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The Great Debaters producer Todd Black, who had worked with editor Hughes Winborne on the The Pursuit of Happyness and director Denzel Washington on Antwone Fisher, recommended Winborne to Washington.
Winborne called the new collaboration a fantastic experience. “Denzel is incredibly smart, incredibly focused and a great guy to work with. His methodology is like the movie: positive. In the editing room we didn’t use the word ‘problem,’ ever. It’s not a problem. It’s a challenge.”
According to Winborne, Washington demonstrated his generosity when he allowed the editor to shortcut the normal process of a first cut, which strictly follows the script and includes all footage and dialog shot. “About three weeks before production finished, I asked Denzel if I could cut the film the way I thought it should be, meaning, how would he feel about me taking scenes out, dropping lines, restructuring a little bit,” says Winborne. “Most directors don’t want an editor to do that.”
But Washington knew what he shot and knew that he could look at footage later if he thought something needed to be in, so he allowed Winborne to “go for it.” Nevertheless, Winborne admits, “That was a double-edged sword. It was great for me to have the freedom, but I had to present a cut that looked like a finished film, so I actually had to do a lot more work. That was a great thing for him to do for me, because sitting in the room for the editor’s cut can often be a painful experience. This was much more fulfilling.”
There was not a lot of story restructuring after Winborne finished the first cut. As might be expected from an actor-turned-director, Washington concentrated on performance. “Denzel was ruthless about taking stuff out,” says Winborne. “He was as ruthless about his own performances as he was about anyone else’s.”
Editing the debates was a real challenge, says Winborne, because the director worried that people would not listen to them. He adds that Washington wanted to think of the film as a sports film, only with words, so he tried to pace the film that way. The Oklahoma debate was worked on extensively to improve pacing, but by the time the film got to the final Harvard debate, strong performances allowed the filmmakers to “let it play.”
A tight schedule posed another challenge. Winborne and Washington started working together at the beginning of August and showed the cut to the studio just after Labor Day—a mere five weeks to complete the director’s cut. Preview screenings were slated for early October.
“Fortunately, the preview scores were high, so we only previewed once,” says Winborne. “Otherwise, I don’t know how we would have finished. We were literally checking prints the day before we were to screen for the DGA and the Golden Globes. It was tight.”
-Mary Ann Skweres

2006 Wins
Oscar, Best Achievement in Editing, Crash
ACE Eddie, Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic, Crash
2006 Nomination
BAFTA Film Award, Best Editing, Crash

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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