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Academy Falls Short on Diversity, but Foreign Films Crash ACE Eddies Party

The American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards, which will be handed out Jan. 17, will for the first time give voters a choice of selecting a foreign-language film in each of the three categories. The trio in contention are: “The Farewell” (comedy), “Parasite” (dramatic) and “I Lost My Body” (animated).

“This is the first time in our history that this has happened,” says Stephen Rivkin, president of the guild. “We’re very proud that our membership is growing and has expanded into several international territories over the past couple of years.”

Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho storyboarded the film and included editing decisions in the design. Longtime collaborator and editor Jinmo Yang could cut exactly as Bong had storyboarded.
“It only has 960 cuts in total,” Yang says. “The reason why ‘Parasite’ is so immersive and rhythmical is because of the harmony of accurate camera work and timing of the editing, which started from the exquisite storyboard.”

Matt Friedman, who cut Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” — the second film they teamed on — calls his relationship with the director “incredibly collaborative.” When it comes to the art of the cut, Friedman is a firm believer in the story being told within every single frame. “If there are frames in there that are not contributing to the story, we fight to get them out,” he says. That approach was important to “The Farewell,” because Wang shot the film with extended moments.

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“She wanted to make the audience sit with uncomfortable emotions in a way that mainstream movies don’t often do. In ‘The Farewell,’ those empty frames were still telling the story,” Friedman says. Those extended moments stand out from the rest of the film when the pacing moves faster.

His main challenge was in telling a moving story that appealed to everyone: Chinese, immigrant and non-immigrant. While the cultural ideas were unique, the immigration idea was universal.
“We worked to make those things understandable,” says Friedman. “It was one of the finest lines I’ve ever walked as an editor.”

Benjamin Massoubre, who received a nomination for the animated “I Lost My Body,” was tasked with building empathy for his characters through the cut.
The film jumps in time as it tells the story of Naoufel and his severed hand, which is traveling through Paris in search of the rest of its body. Massoubre found the task more challenging with the severed limb as it has no facial expressions. That’s where director Jérémy Clapin came in.

“By always filming it at ground level and using a lot of POVs, Jérémy managed to immerse the viewer with it,” Massoubre says. “Cutting its memories and its fantasies in parallel also made it possible to give a soul to this otherwise mute and faceless character.”

The ACE nomination gives him a lot of pride, he says, as if he’s “entering some kind of ancient secret society. I used to sit through the end credits of movies and see amazing editors like Walter Murch, Michael Kahn or Thelma Schoonmaker with those three letters ‘ACE’ behind their names.”

Schoonmaker is a front-runner this year for “The Irishman,” on which she collaborated again with Martin Scorsese.

When it came to “The Irishman,” Scorsese didn’t feel the need to explain everything to the viewer, and he didn’t want the movie to feel like a documentary. “He wanted it to be quiet,” Schoonmaker says.

For her, the process begins with the script and once she’s read it, she lets the film evolve in the editing.

Schoonmaker is on set during shooting and is there through to the end. Scorsese, who loves the editing process, sits with her and together they weave the film.

Another front-runner is dramatic nominee Michael McCusker for “Ford v Ferrari.” McCusker, who has edited five of James Mangold’s films, says when it came to cutting “Ford v Ferrari” and creating the fast-paced action of the Le Mans race, the director went for the same approach as always: character first.

“What is that character feeling? That’s what guides his choices,” McCusker says. “And, sometimes, he changes the plan. Sometimes, he doesn’t like to rehearse a lot. He wants to see what the actors bring to the scene and respond to that in the moment. The shooting is a discovery process.”

Jennifer Lame, nominated in the dramatic category for “Marriage Story,” also found it helpful to be editing from the script stage. Working with director Noah Baumbach and having calls up to three times a day was particularly useful, she says.

Of the film’s opening sequence, Lame says: “The great stuff, the compliments are all there, but so are the problems. It’s such a beautiful sequence that shows the love story, but underneath it all is this love story that’s coming to an end. It’s not Noah tricking the audience.”

Lame had to balance the dueling comedic and dramatic aspects of the film. In the scene in which Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) serves Charlie (Adam Driver) with divorce papers, the tone switches from a moment of humor to one of devastation.

“I cut so many different versions. What I wanted to do was maintain the humor from the raw dailies. When he gets served it hits this devastating moment. I remember how devastated I was watching Adam’s dailies when he got served.

“It was fun creating this comedic moment, but then when he’s served, I wanted to make sure it was really felt and didn’t want the audience to still be laughing. It was fun to have those two sequences next to each other, going from humor to that devastating shot.”

Timing the laughs was also key to comedy nominee “Dolemite Is My Name.” Editor Billy Fox, who previously collaborated with director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) says: “It’s really a drama with a lot of laugh beats, a drama about funny people doing funny stuff. So the cuts and the timing are not quite comedy cuts and timing, but they’re not quite drama either. It’s a hybrid. That was interesting, to walk that line.”

What drove the art of the cut for Fox was Brewer’s love for music. “Craig’s movies are always so much about the music, particularly the source music. So cutting the picture to these iconic R&B songs was very important. There are many places where the timing and emotion of the music completely drives the cut, particularly in the montages.”

While the ACE Eddie film nominations overlap somewhat with the Oscars, the same cannot be said of the Emmys.

For instance, “Chernobyl’s” “Vichnaya Pamyat” episode earned a nomination instead of the Emmy- winning “Please Remain Calm” segment.

Rivkin says, “ACE continues to dedicate itself with committees to reviewing hundreds of hours of television, and the crop of shows that’s nominated represents cable, streaming and broadcast television.  The quality of both feature films and television this year is outstanding.”

Honorary awards will be given to producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who will receive the Golden Eddie; Cathy Repola, the national executive director of the Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, will receive the Heritage Award; and former ACE presidents Allen Heim and Tina Hirsch will be honored with career achievement trophies.

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