Thelma Schoonmaker has edited every Martin Scorsese film since Raging Bull. She’s won three Oscars, but she says she’ll never win another one — a claim that most of her fellow editors would agree with.
“The Academy only gives Oscars to people who are dead,” she says.
But Schoonmaker is too busy to worry about awards. She’s currently editing two films at once, Silence and The Irishman, both in post-production, and both starring Robert De Niro.
They’re just the latest in a long line of collaborations between Scorsese and De Niro, including Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), The Aviator (2004) and The Comedian (2016).
As an editor, Schoonmaker can be credited with helping to define Scorsese’s style. “The first time I saw Mean Streets,” she says, “I was so blown away by the editing that I thought there must have been two editors working on it.”
But the entire film had been edited by one person: Schoonmaker’s then-husband Michael Powell, the British director of such classics as Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948).
Thelma Schoonmaker Editing Style
Who Is Thelma Schoonmaker?
Thelma Schoonmaker is a film editor who has made a name for herself in the editing and film industries.
She has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards, of which she has won three; and another five BAFTA Awards, of which she has also won three.
Born in 1941 and raised in New York, Schoonmaker’s early interest in the arts led her to enroll and study at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. There she studied film alongside Martin Scorsese, with whom her career would go on to be intertwined.
Schoonmaker’s career began as an assistant editor in 1965, working on films such as The Incident.
However it was her work as an assistant director on Scorsese’s classic film Taxi Driver that got her noticed by many people in the industry.
She went on to edit films like Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) and Gangs of New York (2002), for which she was nominated for Best Editing at the Oscars.
Thelma Schoonmaker On Editing
“I was trained by the best. I guess Chris and Walter Hill. I had to learn it on the job — I didn’t go to film school. We had a minimal crew — one camera, one crane, and sometimes a dolly, but primarily handheld.
The first thing that has to happen is you have to be able to know what you think is excellent as an editor. You have to be able to tell somebody, “No” or “Yes,” “This is what it’s going to be.”
And then you have to do it. That’s probably the most important thing for me as an editor: knowing how to say no.”
“The first time I worked with Scorsese, we were doing Raging Bull with De Niro, and he kept asking for more takes of each scene until he got it right, which is typical for actors.
But Marty would do about 10 takes, and then he’d say, “That’s it.” And Bob would say, “Six! We’ve got six good ones!”
And Marty would say, “You can use some of those later if you want, but now we’re going on.” That’s when I learned you could get too much of a good thing.”
Thelma Schoonmaker Biography
Thelma Schoonmaker is a film editor who won an Oscar for the movie Raging Bull in 1991. She was born Thelma Weekes on October 27, 1939, in New York City. She was the daughter of Ellen and Thomas Weekes, who owned a bookstore on Madison Avenue.
In her early life, she was very interested in film, which led to her getting a degree in Film Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of Arts. After that, she worked as an intern at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Italy, where she learned more about filmmaking.
Upon returning home to New York, she worked for the United Nations as a film editor under David Loxton. She then went to work for the National Film Board of Canada as a freelance editor. While she was editing there, her work caught the eye of Martin Scorsese, who hired her to edit his movie Raging Bull (1980). That would be the first of many collaborations between Schoonmaker and Scorsese.
She has also worked with other famous directors such as Woody Allen and Mike Nichols.
Her editing style is described as very precise and focused on rhythm and tone. Her attention to detail while editing leads to long hours and hard work.
Thelma Schoonmaker And Martin Scorsese
Thelma Schoonmaker is a true Hollywood legend. An Oscar winner for The Departed, she’s edited all of Martin Scorsese’s films since Raging Bull — including such classics as GoodFellas and Casino. She’s been nominated for the Academy Award 22 times, more than any other person in history, and has won three Oscars.
Thelma Schoonmaker was born on February 11, 1944, in Orange, New Jersey, to an aspiring actress and a sports writer. She fell in love with film at an early age, thanks to her mother, who often brought her to New York City to see films. Her first viewing was John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940). “I was just mesmerized,” she says.
Schoonmaker became a film editor by accident when she started dating Richard Marks, another editor who worked at the same company she did. One day he asked her if she wanted to take over some editing jobs he had been assigned that were behind schedule and offered her a one-week trial period if she accepted them.
She quickly learned that she loved editing, and it became a permanent gig at that company. She later married Marks and continued working with him until he died in 1974 after
Thelma Schoonmaker’s Editing Style
Thelma Schoonmaker is an American film editor best known for her work with director Martin Scorsese. She has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing eight times and has won three times. Her first win was for Raging Bull (1980), and she also won for The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006).
Schoonmaker was born in New York City to a Dutch father and an American mother. Her career as an editor began in the 1960s with documentaries directed by her then-husband, Donn Alan Pennebaker. She edited documentary films for many years under the tutelage of Pennebaker and his associates Chris Hegedus and Albert Maysles before moving on to fiction features. She has been editing feature films since 1969.
Schoonmaker has stated that she owes her success as an editor because she started cutting documentaries. She is known for her careful approach to editing, often requiring dozens of versions of a single scene before being satisfied. For example, she edited The Departed (2006) for over a year. She is also known for her loyalty to directors: “I always feel grateful when someone asks me to work on their picture,” she
Thelma And The Irishman Film
Thelma & Louise was a risky film for the studio, which initially doubted it would find an audience. It was the first film in history to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director without scoring a single Oscar nomination outside of those two categories, yet it’s now considered a classic.
Entirely shot on location in the deserts of Arizona, Utah, and Texas, the film is also notable for being Ridley Scott’s feature directorial debut. Rising from cinematographer to director, Scott showed his skill behind the camera with Thelma & Louise, which became his way into Hollywood’s inner circle and earned him the respect of peers like Steven Spielberg. And then there’s that ending.
The original script called for Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) to die in a fiery car crash as they escaped the law, but Scott thought that was too bleak, so he changed it. “I told myself, ‘I’m not going to shoot this,’” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. “I had no intention of doing it, but I thought about it overnight.”
The following day he pitched the idea of letting them live to screenwriter Callie Khouri, who agreed with him.
Thelma Schoonmaker On Film Editing
The credits don’t roll by in silence when you’re watching a film. The soundtrack plays, underscoring the mood you’re expected to feel at that moment. It can be subtle or dramatic, but it’s always there, guiding your emotions towards one end of the spectrum or another.
Trying to create this effect in a film is the film editor’s job. Their job is to craft a story out of pieces – sometimes thousands – of footage shot by multiple cameras and a range of directors, then choose which takes are right and piece them together into one seamless whole.
They decide what should appear first and last; which shots will be slowed down, sped up, or left onscreen for no more than a second; which audio clips should be used from different takes and when to put them in; and what music will best set the tone for each scene.
Thelma Schoonmaker’s career has spanned nearly 40 years as an editor with Francis Ford Coppola. She’s won three Oscars for her work editing his films, including two for The Godfather films and one for Raging Bull, for which she won Best Editing at the BAFTAs.
Thelma Schoonmaker On Scorsese
Thelma Schoonmaker is an editor. She is the editor of Martin Scorsese, but she is not just the editor of Martin Scorsese, who happens to be a very famous film director. She is an editor and has edited many films besides those directed by Scorsese. I know this because when I was in high school, I read a book about editing, and it had an interview with her as its centerpiece. The book was called “The Technique of Film Editing,” and I have been working my way through it again recently.
Towards the end of the interview, Schoonmaker says she makes films with Scorsese. This may seem obvious or even banal, but one of the reasons that Scorsese’s films are so good is because he and Schoonmaker are so attuned to each other — they make films together that are very much their own because she knows his sensibility so well. The way he cuts his films together relies on her instincts and choices as much as his own.
There is much more to say about editing than any book could say in a single chapter — maybe more than any book could say in multiple chapters. One thing that fascinates me about editing is how it changes.
Thelma Schoonmaker – Editing Commentaries
Schoonmaker shared her thoughts on editing and commentaries in the March 2003 issue of American Cinematographer:
I like commentaries because you can learn so much about filmmaking from them. If you’re a filmmaker and see a great film, it’s really helpful to have a commentary. But I also think that sometimes they’re really boring and, in a way, not completely honest.
A lot of people get together and watch the film together, then all of a sudden, one person says, “Well…I don’t know how to tell you this,” or “I’m very embarrassed about this,” or something like that. And certain things are not spoken about. There’s nothing about the bad things in the film. There’s no criticism on set.
But it should be there. I think some directors — and we’re talking about men here — want to be God, and they want everyone to kiss their feet. And they don’t want anybody to say anything bad about them or their work because they don’t want to feel hurt by it. I think they should welcome comments from others because if they don’t get those comments then they’ll never grow as filmmakers. I find it very sad that so many people are afraid to speak up.
How Thelma Schoonmaker Got Into Editing
Thelma Schoonmaker has been working in film editing for more than fifty years, and her work has earned her five Academy Awards. Her impressive artistry and a long list of credits, including Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence, and The Aviator, reflect the industry’s appreciation for her talent.
Tisch Graduate School of Film Preservation interviewed with Ms. Schoonmaker in 2006 to learn more about how she got into editing and how she learned the craft.
Question: You were an assistant editor at first. Can you describe what you did in that position?
Schoonmaker: Well, I started working at MGM when I was 17, and I began as an apprentice editor. I worked for an editor who was called “the cutter.” He cut down the dailies every day; he was the boss editor at MGM in charge of all the editors. And then we had a head of production who edited all the significant features; that was Freddie Young. Many other editors cut features too, but those two were the top guys; Freddie was head of everything, including John Ford’s pictures if he was making a picture there. So I started as an apprentice cutting dailies.
Film Editing Is Not Always Invisible
One of the most common questions I get is how to edit a film. To answer this question, I must say this first: Film editing is not always invisible.
The reason I bring this up is that a lot of people think they have to make the cuts invisible. They think that the audience has to be able to see exactly what happened on each take, and there can be no confusion. This approach is undoubtedly valid and it’s worked for many films throughout the years, but it’s not the only way to edit a scene.
I have seen many films where the cuts are obvious but still work. But why? Why do we accept certain edits as part of the storytelling process?
The reason we accept these edits is that they work with the story. They can establish a new space or environment that would otherwise not be visible on screen, and we accept those edits as part of the narrative process. The filmmaker has done their job in making us believe in what we see, even if we don’t know how it got there.
Another example would be using jump cuts for comedic effect; if you’ve watched any of Mike Leigh’s films, then you know what I’m talking about here. Leigh uses jump cuts constantly.
What do Do Film Editors Need To Succeed?
If you are a film editor, you will have to do a lot of editing before you can get your movie to be the best it can be. You will have to edit out parts that you don’t want and keep the important parts. It is not an easy task, and it takes a lot of time and effort.
What do Do Film Editors Need To Succeed?
Film editors must ensure that their movie is of good quality and that everything is in order. They need to make sure that the story flows well and the dialogue flows along with it. They also need to ensure that the sound effects are just right and that there are no mistakes in the filming process. A lot of work goes into making a movie, and editors play a crucial role in this process.
Film editors need to have patience because they need to look at all the parts of the film repeatedly. It can be challenging for them because there is only so much that you can take looking at something before your eyes start glazing over, but they still have to keep trying until they get it right. They also have to be able to research things if they don’t know what something means or how to do it.
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