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Contender-Virginia Katz-editor-Dreamgirls

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“No one should be surprised that Bill [Condon] is my favorite director to work for; I really feel we grew up together,” observes Virginia Katz.Her attitude is well founded. One of her first jobs when she moved from New York to Los Angeles was as assistant editor on Sister, Sister, Condon’s first feature. In the subsequent 18 years, she’s edited everything he’s directed for television and the big screen.”When you’re going to spend months together in a relatively small room, it helps considerably when your temperaments mesh,” she notes. “But it’s evolved into a really wonderful working relationship. He’s someone that really knows what he wants and helping him get it has improved my craft.”Katz on the one hand marvels at Condon’s ability to keep focus on a project as large and complicated as Dreamgirls. The challenges of directing a movie musical are daunting, especially for a relative novice. For the musical numbers that dominate the picture, he filmed with three and sometimes four cameras.For the “Steppin” production number, Katz admits it took her three days just to view all the material. Nonetheless her routine didn’t differ markedly from earlier collaborations on Kinsey or Gods and Monsters. She credits work on such TV series as Alias and Felicity as imbuing her with the need for speed and focus.”He’s not someone that hovers over you,” says Katz. “During production he has enough to worry about on set and I’ll put a DVD together of cut scenes for him to look over on the weekend. We’re basically on the same wavelength and he’s very thorough. I can only remember saying once on Kinsey that he had to get me a particular close-up.”She had a rough cut of Dreamgirls two weeks after completion of principal photography and then the hard work began of refining the film and trimming it to an acceptable length without losing the story. Katz is currently adding some of that material back for the DVD, and smiles about how the format has encouraged the “director’s cut.”Likening her work to that of a writer, she says that the decision of where to begin a scene is the most important thing an editor does because it determines how to proceed. Dreamgirls by its musical nature demanded a different rhythm from a drama or comedy. She points out that while the music helped to determine a scene’s length, the million or so feet of material shot offered an almost infinite number of options.”I marvel at stories of directors that cut in the camera but that was back in the heyday of the studio system,” says Katz. “I don’t know anyone that does it that way today. And why should they? It limits an editor’s options as well as their own.”

Written by Len Klady

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