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Editors panel for Oscar nominated films

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The 6th annual Invisible Art, Visible Artists panel presented by the American Cinema Editors was held March 4 before a crowd packed to the balcony rafters of the American Cinematheque at the Grauman’s Hollywood Egyptian Theater. Convening this year’s Oscar-nominated editors—Michael Kahn, ACE (Munich), Mike Hill, ACE and Dan Hanley, ACE (Cinderella Man), Michael McCusker (Walk the Line), Claire Simpson (The Constant Gardener) and Hughes Winborne (Crash)—for a discussion of their career paths, techniques and Academy-nominated films, ACE president Alan Heim commented, “Sometimes we transcend entertainment and it’s wonderful to see.”The Oscar nominated editors shared their diverse beginnings. Winborne and Hill had worked in the prison system. Hanley began as a “pain-in-the-ass kid in the cutting room” but didn’t get serious about the film industry until a sliced finger while working in fast food instigated a change of career path. Simpson spent most of her afternoons in movie theaters while studying art and architecture at England’s Cambridge University, eventually transferring to film studies in Dublin. Kahn started as a messenger for a New York commercial ad agency with clients that sponsored The Lucy Show; that became his “in” at Desilu Studios. McCusker was guided to film studies by a high school teacher, but almost gave up his filmmaking ambitions from the boredom of reading scripts for a living. Postproduction saved him from development purgatory.Mentors played a large part in all their lives. Dede Allen hired Simpson when she was editing Reds in London. McCusker credits David Brenner for helping him be in the right place at the right time, “He brought me into the fold.”Kahn works with the most assistants, using as many as five or six on a film project with Stephen Spielberg. Sharing his thoughts on the art of editing, Kahn noted, “editing is not by knowledge. It is by feel.” Until Crash upped his commercial profile, indie editor Winborne had to do with only one assistant. Now he’s got two assistants and a runner. Hill and Hanley have shared editing responsibilities for 25 years. They work with three assistants and a dog (presumably not a seeing-eye dog).A love of movies eventually led this group to their current successes. During the Q&A, an audience member asked, “Who should win and why?” Winborne, who ultimately did win, expressed the mutual respect that each obviously held for the others’ work: “Watching these clips is humbling. Everyone deserves to win.”

Written by Mary Ann Skweres

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