Film Editors Are People Too (?)


Q: How many editors does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Change? I'm not changing shit.

Above, see a lengthy and quite interesting Q&A with Dede Allen, pioneering chick film editor ('Bonnie and Clyde', 'Serpico', 'Milagro Beanfield War', 'Slaughterhouse-5','Addams Family', etc.). She's something of a pain in the ass but all editors are to some extent and you would be too if you stayed locked in a room watching actors say the same thing over and over with no real perceptible change in performance. The video is in four parts and if only I'd watched the whole thing I could tell you if it's all worth watching. Her work was widely considered to be the best in the business, though Sidney Lumet was somewhat churlish about her contributions to 'Serpico' being singled out--given the low shooting ratio of Lumet's films its unlikely she had much more to do then clip the slates off, something that cannot be said of her work with the promiscuously over-shooting Arthur Penn.


Never trust a tanned editor...

And finally:

Q: How do you get an editor to complain?

A: Give him a job.

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What do you do when you're a director and your longtime friend and editor sends you the above Patton Oswalt rant on how movies are actually made? Frankly I think he's got it right so I took no offense. Thus this posting, intended to share the information...

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This blog has been silent for the last two and half weeks in tribute to my parents Frank and Dorothy, who died within a few months of each other--she in November of 2015, he in March of this year. Previously I'd been posting my fathers work--docs, trailers of films etc.--and in the near future I'll put up more stuff as it comes in. You see, he had a closet full of 16mm (and 8mm) film and I'm gradually watching it all (on his perfectly functional 1973 projector, with the image being thrown onto a white bedsheet draped over a big screen TV), preparing to transfer the material to other formats, all of which are probably less reliable than good old 16mm. All of this material will eventually find its way onto Youtube, the world-wide bin of all things ever recorded, and I'll steer this blogs modest but attentive audience to the stuff as I post it. Meanwhile, I've posted a clip from 'A Day At the Races', a film that my parents and I loved and watched religiously every time it aired on local LA TV, in the pre-historic pre-VCR era.

Speaking of this blog: it was with a bit of a shock that I just noticed that the first post went up in June 2007. Thus we are on the verge of the ninth birthday of this exercise in web-based ephemera. It had originally been my intention to write about the making of movies but thankfully Youtube intervened--I hadn't yet been made aware of the depth of the material being posted and soon realized that any clip of any movie or performance was now available for the cherry-picking. So it morphed into a kind of visually aided look into the contours of my mind and interests. A year or so later my movie 'City Island' got off the ground and I assumed I would abandon the blog to get some real work done. But then it occurred to me to blog the making of the movie and we did--posting clips of the on-set work along with stills, interviews etc. We actually got a real audience for this (which largely disappeared once the shooting was done and we were in post) and I repeated the experience on my movie 'Rob The Mob' as well as with my doc 'Bookers Place'. ('Madoff' was not blogged due to very strict orders from the ABC/DISNEY legal team--not a lot of on-line quirkiness in their hearts).

And now, with the deaths of my parents, the blog has proved to be a vigil of sorts, a place to celebrate and remember the most important people (along with my son) of my life. Thus it has become a sort of partner to me, a public place in which to share whatever the hell seems to be happening in my life and whatever my current obsessions are as aided by the invaluable clips of film. Is it merely a large ego-trip to believe that ones life and interests need be shared in public? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. But if you remember that behind every large ego is a tiny, quivering one you might be able to forgive my vanity.

By the way, the first post that went up in the year of our lord 2007 was a commentary on the last episode of 'The Sopranos' which had aired the previous evening. Who the hell would have thought that 'The Sopranos' ended almost a decade ago?

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Welcome to a hot summer evening in New York City in 1962. The setting: Bellevue Hosptial. It don't get more glamorous. We are in the "EMERGENCY WARD"--which is the name of the documentary film that my father, Frank De Felitta, shot during that sweltering summer of '62 and which is posted above.

The film is a fascinating look at a single intern and a typical night in his life. Of course it wasn't shot in a single night but over a course of weeks. The reason, according to my father, was that the mandate from NBC--the network who commissioned the show--was to show an intern losing one patient and saving another. This didn't happen every night. It barely happened that summer. But after weeks of arduous shooting and waiting around and becoming a serious annoyance to the staff, my father and his crew delivered. Dr. Martin Mulnar--the young, blonde Tab Hunter-ish intern who they chose to follow--first lost and then finally saved a patients life. The film wrapped, NBC had their one hour movie, and Dr. Mulnar went on to a career in medicine. He was twenty-six in 1962 which means he was born in 1936 which means he'd be eighty years old this year, making the odds good that he's alive. I hope he's forgiven my father and his crew for making that summer immeasurably more complicated for him than it needed to be. Still, he got on TV--something that doctors (back then) rarely did.

"Emergency Ward" was actually a one hour segment of a larger anthology show called "The DuPont Show Of the Week". The show ran for three seasons--1961-64--and the episode list makes many of the shows sound quite tempting. I dig my fathers film for reasons that go beyond the family connection. It's a genuine cinema verite noir--a look at "Naked City" New York complete with period characters; doctors who smoke, beat-up drunks from the Bowery etc. It's shot in a wonderful, unobtrusive style that was influenced by D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles...except that it was made while they had barely begun their documentary careers. The narrator of the film is Dana Andrews who speaks his lines as if he hadn't bothered to watch the film. (He was probably in a hospital himself when they recorded him...) Strangely enough--as with most of Andrews screen work--this somehow works to his advantage.

Enjoy. And watch the very ending for one of the most astounding zoom shots you'll ever see...

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Here, in honor of my father who was a veteran of the Second World War (he was a pilot in what was then known as the Army Air Corps) is one of his one-hour documentaries that he made for NBC in the 1960s. 'The Battle Of The Bulge" aired on the twentieth anniversery of the battle and remains a stirring and dynamic tribute to (and explanation of) this significant turning point in the bloodiest war the world has ever known. The film contains priceless footage of many of the significant participants in the war, including Generals Omar Bradley and Anthony McAuliffe--the latter was the general who famously replied "nuts!" when told by the Germans that he had no honorable choice but to surrender to them.

My father flew "troop carrier" missions, dropping parachuting fighters deep into the battle zones. Indeed, he participated in this battle and--astonishingly to me--wound up documenting it a mere twenty years later for national television. In 1996 at the Deauville Film Festival, I had the opportunity to mention the fact that he participated in the battle that liberated Bastogne and Northern France. The next morning I received a number of notes under my hotel room door. They were thank you's from the people who had lived there during the war, children then and now adults. They asked that I convey their deep appreciation for what the Allies did for the French. One of them recalled seeing the very planes that my father flew dropping troops and wrote that to their eyes, on that never to be forgotten day, the planes and the troops looked 'like God had arrived and was raining freedom upon us.' I've never been more proud of my father than when I read that note, written fifty-two years after the event.