Tag Archives: Lightworks

The Irishman editor Thelma Schoonmaker

By Iain Blair

Editor Thelma Schoonmaker is a three-time Academy Award winner who has worked alongside filmmaker Martin Scorsese for almost 50 years. Simply put, Schoonmaker has been Scorsese’s go-to editor and key collaborator over the course of some 25 films, winning Oscars for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed. The 79-year-old also received a career achievement award from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).

Thelma Schoonmaker

Schoonmaker cut Scorsese’s first feature, 1967’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door, and since 1980’s Raging Bull has worked on all of his features, receiving a number of Oscar nominations along the way. There are too many to name, but some highlights include The King of Comedy, After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Casino and Hugo.

Now Scorsese and Schoonmaker have once again turned their attention to the mob with The Irishman. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, it’s an epic saga that runs 3.5 hours and focuses on organized crime in post-war America. It’s told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran (De Niro). He’s a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa. It also offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime — its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

But there’s a twist to this latest mob drama that Scorsese directed for Netflix from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Gone are the flashy wise guys and the glamour of Goodfellas and Casino. Instead, the film examines the mundane nature of mob killings and the sad price any survivors pay in the end.

Here, Schoonmaker — who in addition to her film editing works to promote the films and writings of her late husband, famed British director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) — talks about cutting The Irishman, working with Scorsese and their long and storied collaboration.

The Irishman must have been very challenging to cut, just in terms of its 3.5-hour length?
Actually, it wasn’t very challenging to cut. It came together much more quickly than some of our other films because Scorsese and Steve Zaillian had created a very strong structure. I think some critics think I came up with this structure, but it was already there in the script. We didn’t have to restructure, which we do sometimes, and only dropped a few minor scenes.

Did you stay in New York cutting while he shot on location, or did you visit the set?
Almost everything in the The Irishman was shot in or around New York. The production was moving all over the place, so I never got to the set. I couldn’t afford the time.

When I last interviewed Marty, he told me that editing and post are his favorite parts of filmmaking. When the two of you sit down to edit, is it like having two editors in the room rather than a director and his editor?
Marty’s favorite part of filmmaking is editing, and he directs the editing after he finishes shooting. I do an assembly based on what he tells me in dailies and what I feel, and then we do all the rest of the editing together.

Could you give us some sense of how that collaboration works?
We’ve worked together for almost 50 years, and it’s a wonderful collaboration. He taught me how to edit at first, but then gradually it has become more of a collaboration. The best thing is that we both work for what is best for the film — it never becomes an ego battle.

How long did it take to edit the film, and what were the main challenges?
We edited for a year and the footage was so incredibly rich: the only challenge was to make sure we chose the best of it and took advantage of the wonderful improvisations the actors gave us. It was a complete joy for Scorsese and me to edit this film. After we locked the film, we turned over to ILM so they could do the “youthifying” of the actors. That took about seven months.

Could you talk about finding the overall structure and considerable use of flashbacks to tell the story?
Scorsese had such a strong concept for this film — and one of his most important ideas was to not explain too much. He respects the audience’s ability to figure things out themselves without pummeling them with facts. It was a bold choice and I was worried about it, frankly, at first. But he was absolutely right. He didn’t want the film to feel like a documentary. He wanted to use brushstrokes of history just to show how they affected the characters. The way the characters were developed in the film, particularly Frank Sheeran, the De Niro character, was what was most important.

Could you talk about the pacing, and how you and Marty kept its momentum going?
Scorsese was determined that The Irishman would have a slower pace than many films today. He gave the film a deceptive simplicity. Interestingly, our first audiences had no problem with this — they became gripped by the characters and kept saying they didn’t mind the length and loved the pace. Many of them said they wanted to see the film again right away.

There are several slo-mo sequences. Could you talk about why you used them and to what effect?
The Phantom camera slo-motion wedding sequence (250fps) near the end of the film was done to give the feeling of a funeral, instead of a wedding, because the DeNiro character has just been forced to do the worst thing he will ever do in his life. Scorsese wanted to hold on De Niro’s face and evoke what he is feeling and to study the Italian-American faces of the mobsters surrounding him. Instead of the joy a wedding is supposed to bring, there is a deep feeling of grief.

What was the most difficult sequence to cut and why?
The montage where De Niro repeatedly throws guns into the river after he has killed someone took some time to get right. It was very normal at first — and then we started violating the structure and jump cutting and shortening until we got the right feeling. It was fun.

There’s been a lot of talk about the digital de-aging process. How did it impact the edit?
Pablo Helman at ILM came up with the new de-aging process, and it works incredibly well. He would send shots and we would evaluate them and sometimes ask for changes — usually to be sure that we kept the amazing performances of De Niro, Pacino and Pesci intact. Sometimes we would put back in a few wrinkles if it meant we could keep the subtlety of De Niro’s acting, for example. Scorsese was adamant that he didn’t want to have younger actors play the three main parts in the beginning of the film. So he really wanted this “youthifying” process to work — and it does!

There’s a lot of graphic violence. How do you feel about that in the film?
Scorsese made the violence very quick in The Irishman and shot it in a deceptively simple way. There aren’t any complicated camera moves and flashy editing. Sometimes the violence takes place after a simple pan, when you least expect it because of the blandness of the setting. He wanted to show the banality of violence in the mob — that it is a job, and if you do it well, you get rewarded. There’s no morality involved.

Last time we talked, you were using the Lightworks editing system. Do you still use Lightworks, and if so, can you talk about the system’s advantages for you?
I use Lightworks because the editing surface is still the fastest and most efficient and most intuitive to use. Maintaining sync is different from all other NLE systems. You don’t correct sync by sync lock — if you go out of sync, Lightworks gives you a red icon with a number of frames that you are out of sync. You get to choose where you want to correct sync. Since editors place sound and picture on the timeline, adjusting sync where you want to adjust the sync is much more efficient.

You’ve been Marty’s editor since his very first film — a 50-year collaboration. What’s the secret?
I think Scorsese felt when he first met me that I would do what was right for his films — that there wouldn’t be ego battles. We work together extremely well. That’s all there is to it. There couldn’t be a better job.

Do you ever have strong disagreements about the editing?
If we do have disagreements, which is very rare, they are never strong. He is very open to experimentation. Sometimes we will screen two ways and see what the audience says. But that is very rare.

What’s next?
A movie about the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, based on the book “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Chatting with Scorsese’s go-to editor Thelma Schoonmaker

By Iain Blair

Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese go together like Lennon and McCartney, or Ben and Jerry. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.

Simply put, Schoonmaker has been Martin Scorsese’s go-to editor and key collaborator over the course of 23 films and half a century, winning Oscars for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed. Now 77, she also recently received a career achievement award at the American Cinema Editors’ 67th Eddie Awards.

She cut Scorsese’s first feature, Who’s that Knocking at My Door, and since Raging Bull has worked on all of his feature films, including such classics as The King of Comedy, After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, New York Stories, GoodFellas (which earned her another Oscar nomination), Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, Casino, Kundun, Gangs of New York (another Oscar nomination), Shutter Island, Hugo (another Oscar nomination) and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Their most recent collaboration was Silence, Scorsese’s underrated and powerful epic, which is now available via Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

A 28-year passion project that reinforces Scorsese’s place in the pantheon of great directors, Silence tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) who travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) at a time when Christianity was outlawed. When they are captured and imprisoned, both men are plunged into an odyssey that will test their faith, challenge their sanity and, perhaps, risk their very lives

I recently talked with Schoonmaker about cutting Silence, working with Scorsese, and their long and storied collaboration.

Silence must have been very challenging to cut as it’s very long and could easily have ended up being a bit slow and boring.
(Laughs) You’re right! It was one of the things we were most concerned about from the start, as it’s a very meditative film. It’s nothing like his last films, Hugo and Wolf of Wall Street, and it couldn’t be more different.

Wolf had all the crazy stuff and the wild humor and improvisation, but with Silence Marty wanted to make an entirely different movie from the way most movies are made today. So that was a very brave commitment, I think, and it was difficult to find the right balance and the right pace. We experimented a great deal with just how slow it could be, without losing the audience.

Even the film’s opening scene was a major challenge. It’s very slow and sets the tone before the film even starts, with just the cicadas on the soundtrack. It tells you, slow down from our crazy lives, just feel what’s going on and engage with it. The minimal score is all part of that. It’s not telling the audience what to think, as scores usually do. He wanted the audience to decide what they feel and think, and he was adamant about starting the film off like that, which was also brave.

It feels far closer to The Age of Innocence in terms of its pacing than his more recent films.
Yes, and that was definitely a big part of its appeal for him, as it’s set in another country and also another century, so Marty wanted the film to be very meditative, and the pace of it had to reflect all that. Along with that, he was able to examine his religious concerns and interests, which he couldn’t do so much in other films. They were always there, but here they’re up front.

Did you stay in New York cutting while he shot in Taiwan, or did you visit the set?
I was in Taipei while they shot, working on the dailies, but I didn’t go on set as the locations they used were very arduous — up these steep mountains — and it took two hours just to get up there. There was bad weather and mud, wind, mosquitoes and snakes. Really, I just didn’t have the time to go on set, so I never got to see the great beauty of Taiwan, since I was back in Taipei in my editing room.

I do go on sets sometimes, and I love to visit and watch Marty work with the actors, and it’s always fun to be on the set, but as an editor, I also want to be unbiased when I sit down and watch footage. I don’t want to have my eye prejudiced by what I see on set and how difficult it might be to get a particular shot. That has nothing at all to do with my job.

How long did it take to edit?
Almost a year, but we had a couple of interruptions. Marty had to finish up his show for HBO, Vinyl, and then there was a family illness. But I love having that much time. Most editors simply don’t get to live with a film that long, and you really have to in order to understand it and understand what it’s saying to you. You’re editing the work of 250 people, and you have to respect that. You shouldn’t have to rush it.

Last time we talked, you were using Lightworks to edit. Do you use Avid now?
No, I still use Lightworks, and I still prefer it. It’s what I was trained on during the early days of digital editing, and it’s used a lot in Europe. Our first digital film was Casino, and back then Lightworks sent a computer expert to train me, and I’ve loved it ever since because it has a controller that is like the old flatbed editing machines and I love that — you can customize it very easily. It also has this button that allows me to throw stuff out of sync and experiment more, and that’s not available on Avid. So I’ve been editing on Lightworks ever since Casino.

When I last interviewed Marty, he told me that editing and post are his favorite parts of filmmaking. When you both sit down to edit it must be like having two editors in the room rather than a director and his editor?
It’s exactly like that. I do the first cut, but then once he comes in after the shoot we make every decision together. He’s a brilliant editor, and he taught me everything I know about editing— I knew nothing when we started together. He also thinks like an editor, unlike many directors. When he’s writing and then shooting, he’s always thinking about how it’ll cut together. Some directors shoot a lot of stuff, but does it cut together? Marty knows all that and what coverage he needs. He’s a genius, and such a knowledgeable person to be around every day.

You’ve been Marty’s editor since his very first film, back in 1967 — a 50-year collaboration. What’s the secret?
I think it’s that we’re true collaborators. He’s such an editing director, and we know each other so well by now, but it’s always fresh and interesting. There are no ego battles. Every film’s different, with different challenges, and he’s always curious, always learning, always open to new experiences. I feel very fortunate.

What’s next?
Right now I’m working on the diaries of my husband, (famed British director) Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus), and then Marty and I will start The Irishman later in the summer. It’s all about elderly gangsters, with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. It’s exciting.


Industry insider Iain Blair has been interviewing the biggest directors in Hollywood and around the world for years. He is a regular contributor to Variety and has written for such outlets as Reuters, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Review: Lightworks V.12.0.i NLE from Editshare

By Brady Betzel

There are more NLE choices for editors these days than ever before: Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Autodesk Smoke, Blackmagic Resolve 11, Sony Vegas… and Lightworks. Remember that one? It has (quietly) been around for as long as Media Composer, and thanks to Editshare it has been given a new life.

Lightworks has been around and in use by some for approximately 25 years! For me it’s been that elusive NLE that I’ve occasionally heard about but have never used and have never seen any other editors use (although it’s the tool of choice for Martin Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker), so when asked to review it my interest was piqued.

Recently, Lightworks (@ESLightworks) has been doing a free public beta test for its forthcoming Continue reading