Honor Thy Editor


Editor Craig Wood, right, accepts the International Animated Film Society’s (ASIFAHollywood) first Annie Award for Editing in a Feature Production for Rango from presenter Peter Baynham in February 2012. Photo by Bonnie Burrow/ASIFA

by Edward Landler

As part of their ongoing effort to gain recognition and acknowledgement for picture editors, the Motion Picture Editors Guild and the American Cinema Editors (ACE) launched a Petition for the Recognition of Editors in late June. The Committee for Creative Recognition, comprised of members from the Boards of Directors of both organizations, hopes to encourage film festivals and other organizations (both domestic and international) that present awards for achievement to honor the vital contributions of editors.

The petition clearly states its purpose: “Given the essential role film editors play in the creative process of making a film, acknowledging them is long overdue.”

The ACE Board began the campaign for greater awards recognition of editors over a year ago and has already scored some success. Last September, the 27th annual Boston Film Festival initiated an Editing category among the awards it bestowed upon its festival entries. In February 2012, the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA- Hollywood) for the first time included awards for Editing in a Feature Production and Editing in a  Television Production among its 39th Annual Annie Awards for outstanding achievements in animation. Also, in July of this year, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films presented an award for Best Film Editing as part of its 38th annual Saturn Awards for achievement in the genre.

Announcing the new category, Robin Dawson, executive director of the Boston Film Festival, told The Hollywood Reporter, “Editing is definitely one of the main elements of the film…and is critical to the director’s success.”

According to MPEG and ACE Board Member and chair of the Committee for Creative Recognition, Stephen Rivkin, A.C.E., who has been spearheading the campaign, the initial approach to those three venues involved letters and personal e-mails.

In the original letter, the case for the editor’s crucial role in filmmaking was made: “The editor creates the first cut as the film is being shot, which requires skills in storytelling, performance and shot selection, structure, rhythm, pace, length, taste and talent. This first viewing of the film is often the most important as a first impression is formed, and it helps the filmmakers to define the task ahead. The director and the editor are collaborators in the process of refining and trimming, working closely together through completion and delivery of the final film.”

In the case of ASIFA-Hollywood, the written communication led to a coordinated effort with DreamWorks Animation Studios and a demonstration of editing’s importance in the animation process to ASIFA board members in the DreamWorks cutting room.

Stephen Rivkin.
Photo by Wm. Stetz

Among the other organizations asked to consider editing awards are the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards, the Shanghai Film Festival, the San Sebastian (Spain) Film Festival, the Byron Bay (Australia) International Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. The awards of all of these organizations already recognize either cinematography or production design or both. “We are going to continue our campaign of letter-writing and ongoing contact with those organizations — and back it up with these signatures,” Rivkin told The Hollywood Reporter as part of the kick- off of the petition drive.

Later, Rivkin said to CineMontage, “It’s time to take it to the next level to show that we have the support of more members of the film community. It adds more weight. In our e-mails to the critics associations, we send a link to the online petition to show we’re in the process of garnering support.” As of mid-August, the petition had received nearly 2,000 signatures.

Noting that they are looking for ways to branch out to the other industry guilds, societies and organizations, Rivkin said that they already have received signatures of directors, producers, writers, production designers and cinematographers from over 25 countries around the world. Along with the signatures, encouraging and helpful comments are coming in as well.

“One of our petition supporters suggested that we approach the Tribeca Film Festival,” he related, “because it was pointed out that they were recognizing documentary editing but not narrative editing.” Guild and ACE members are excited by the idea of getting involved, according to Rivkin. “They are sensing support and now they’re seeing progress as organization by organization is recognizing their work. We will make every effort it takes to elevate the perception of editors everywhere. I don’t care how much time it takes, as long as we’re moving in the right direction.”

For more information, see the ad on the opposite page, or visit www.editorspetition.com, where you can read and sign the petition.

About Edward Landler 113 Articles
Edward Landler is a filmmaker, media educator and film historian. He made I Build the Tower, the definitive feature documentary on the Watts Towers, and is currently completing a cultural history of film. He can be reached at edlandler@roadrunner.com.