A Conversation with Dede Allen

Dede Allen.

by Tracy Williams, Guild Special Projects Coordinator

On May 11 we gathered at Paramount for a fireside chat with Dede Allen. Karen Rasch led the discussion. Karen has worked with Dede in the past and there was plenty to talk about. For each question there was an incredible volume of memories to share, and Dede, dressed in bright colors, with an enthusiastic and nostalgic smile, was inspiring and fascinating to listen to. She recalled being a messenger at Paramount as a young girl – they had told her she would never make it as an editor because she wasn’t strong enough to carry the film, but she persisted and at one point was hired “if only to get rid of you”. When the Second World War came, women were needed and Dede became an assistant sound editor. She said that it was the training she got in sound editing that “has everything to do with where I am today.” She recalled those learning days with great affection: carrying heavy reels up three flights of stairs, developing great biceps, and getting to know the library system so well that she could find reels in her sleep. Eventually, while working as an assistant to a sound editor who drank too much, (she would finish his work when he was too inebriated), Dede learned to cut, and the rest, as we know, is history. She talked about moving to the East Coast, where she worked for most of her life, due to family responsibilities, until returning to California in the early 80’s when Warner Brothers hired her as Senior Vice President. Dede was 18 when she started as a messenger and 34 when she cut her first picture. Last year she used an Avid for the first time. She urged the young and ambitious to “see as much theater, as much performance as you can.” When discussing the many technical changes taking place in the industry, she expressed a concern that assistants now have less time to spend with their editors. It was clear, however, that despite a great fondness for the good old days, she is someone who thrives on challenge, enjoying all aspects of life, especially that of her chosen profession and true love, the making of motion pictures. Of the changes, she said simply “Now we live in a different world, and here we are.”

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