LEPSELTER, ALISA

Alisa Lepselter, ACE

Born 1963

 Alisa Lepselter, ACE succeeded Susan E. Morse in editing all of Woody Allen’s films, beginning with Sweet and Lowdown. She began as an intern on Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and was Thelma Schoonmaker’s assistant editor on Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. Her first editing credit was for Nicole Holofcener’s first film as a director, Walking and Talking. She was nominated for an Eddie Award for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris.

“I learned a lot about how to work with directors by watching all these different personalities. Some editors could explain themselves in a way that ultimately got them what they wanted. They were diplomatic. And some people weren’t cut out to be editors because they were too confrontational. You have to have the kind of personality that can work with the director to achieve the director’s vision; you can’t be fighting for your own vision. And that’s something I’m okay with because I thought editing itself was so much fun.”
— “Making the Cut” in Duke Magazine. The full text can be found in the Appendix.

MORSE, SUSAN

Susan Morse, ACE

Born 1952

Susan Morse, ACE was Woody Allen’s primary editor from 1977-1998, during which time she edited twenty-two of his films, from Manhattan to Celebrity. She got an Oscar nomination for Hannah and Her Sisters, and five BAFTA nominations for various films by Allen. Morse has forty-one credits, and in the 2010s, she edited the third season of Louie and three episodes of Billions.

“The director,” Morse says, “has got built in how he wrote it, how it was conceived, the nuances of the performances he heard in his head, the problems he had in camera placement… It can distract him from really looking at it.”
—“On the Cutting Edge” by Desson Howe. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.

LUCAS, MARCIA

Marcia Lucas

Born 1945

Marcia Lucas edited Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and was then the supervising editor of his next two films, Taxi Driver and New York, New York. The first film by her husband George Lucas that she co-edited (with Verna Fields) was American Graffiti. She then co-edited the first Star Wars: Episode IV with Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew.  They won an Oscar and a Saturn Award. Lucas co-edited the next two Star Wars: Episodes V and VI. After their divorce, she retired from editing work. But later, in the same galaxy…

“I love editing and I’m real gifted at it,” she stated in 1983. “I have an innate ability to take good material and make it better, or take bad material and make it fair. I’m compulsive about it. I think I’m even an editor in real life.”

“I felt we were partners, partners in the ranch, partners in our home, and we did these films together. I wasn’t a fifty percent partner, but I felt I had something to bring to the table. I was the more emotional person who came from the heart, and George was the more intellectual and visual, and I thought that provided a nice balance. But George would never acknowledge that to me. I think he resented my criticisms, felt that all I ever did was put him down. In his mind, I always stayed the stupid Valley girl. He never felt I had any talent, he never felt I was very smart and he never gave me much credit. When we were finishing Jedi, George told me he thought I was a pretty good editor. In the sixteen years of our being together I think that was the only time he complimented me.”

(I love this cartoon but sorry, I couldn’t track down who did it.)

About editing Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore:
“Marty [Scorsese] called, and asked if I would do his first studio feature. He was terrified of the studio executives, that Warners was going to give him some old fuddy-duddy editor or a spy–the studios were known for having spies on such projects. Marty liked to edit, and I felt like I was being hired to cut a movie so I wouldn’t cut it, so I’d let the director cut it. But I thought, if I’m ever going to get any real credit, I’m going to have to cut a movie for somebody besides George. ‘Cause if I’m cutting for my husband, they’re going to think, George lets his wife play around in the cutting room. George agreed with that.”
Three excerpts from “In Tribute to Marcia Lucas” by Michael Kaminski. The full text can be found in the Appendix

Cut to 16: THE WICKED POWER OF THE NICE LADY

Cut to:
The Wicked Power of the Nice Lady

When asked how it was that such a nice lady could edit Scorsese’s violent gangster pictures, Schoonmaker replied with a smile, “Ah, but they aren’t violent until I’ve edited them.”

SCHOONMAKER, THELMA

Thelma Schoonmaker, ACE

Born 1940

Beginning in 1980 with Raging Bull, Thelma Schoonmaker, ACE has edited all of Martin Scorsese’s films. She has received seven Oscar nominations and has won three times—for Raging Bull, The Aviator, and The Departed. Schoonmaker is the second most-nominated editor in Oscar history and holds the record for the most wins. She has also won twenty-nine other awards (BAFTAs, Eddies, etc.). Schoonmaker has been a mentor and role model to many younger women editors.

Scorsese tried for years to convince Schoonmaker to work for him. She was unable to work in Hollywood, however, because she couldn’t get into the union. When Scorsese called to ask her to work on Raging Bull, she again demurred because of lack of union membership. She believes that Al Pacino got her into the union, but to this day, she doesn’t know what influence was used to gain her union membership.

“There’s a great deal of mystery in film editing, and that’s because you’re not supposed to see a lot of it. You’re supposed to feel that a film has pace and rhythm and drama, but you’re not necessarily supposed to be worried about how that was accomplished. And because there is so little understanding of what really great editing is, a film that’s flashy, has a lot of quick cuts and explosions, gets particular attention. For example, with The Aviator, which I won an Oscar for—I’m sure that decision was based largely on the very elaborate plane crash that Howard Hughes had. That’s so dramatic, and you can really see the editing there, but for me, and for a lot of editors and directors, the more interesting editing is not so visible. It’s the decisions that go into building a character, a performance, for example, or how you rearrange scenes in a movie, if it’s not working properly, so that you can get a better dramatic build.”

“The priority is absolutely on the best take for performance, and frankly I don’t understand why people get so hung up on these issues, because if you look at films throughout history, you will see enormous continuity errors everywhere, particularly when you’re talking about the Academy aspect ratio where you see more in the frame. Even in The Red Shoes, a film that nobody ever has complaints about, there are enormous continuity bumps, and it doesn’t matter. You know why? Because you’re being carried along by the power of the film. So throughout our history of improvisational cutting, we have decided to go with the performance, or in this case particularly with the humor of a line, as opposed to trying to make sure a coffee cup is in the right place.”
— Two excerpts from “Interview: Thelma Schoonmaker” by Nick Pinkerton. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.