NEWS


MPEG Veterans Days:
Honoring Our Retirees

East Coast (scroll down for West Coast)
story and photos by Kevin Lewis


John Craddoc, left, Ron Kalish and Don Finamore.

The Editors Guild East Coast Retiree Luncheon is two events in one: a reunion of retired editors and a class day for current active members. And happily, sometimes the two juxtaposed aspects are merged because, as it turns out, some of the retired members are involved in current film production. Classic can-you-top-this-stories about past grueling jobs are retold, and new ones are shared about making films with young filmmakers in the digital technology era.

The retiree luncheon is not just for reminiscing, however, but networking for jobs, as the over 145 guests gathered at Gallag-her’s Steak House in Manhattan on May 9 agreed. Gallagher’s, in the heart of the Broadway theatre district, is redolent of old times in the Big Apple, and the guests are loyal to the landmark tavern. The defiantly non-carb-conscious steak house symbolizes those dark-wood and celebrity-photograph restaurants of the Damon Runyon era, which New Yorkers, tourists and Guild members hold dear.

Though some are happily retired, others are involved with current members or are working professionals in films, proving that life can still begin at 80. Members regard themselves as a family as well as a guild, and the luncheon revealed that bloodline generations are still a vital part of the union.


Board member Louis Bertini, flanked by Damian Begley, left and Sandy Rackow.

Veteran editor Manny Kirch-heimer, whose directorial debut documentary Tall:The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan (2004) has been shown on the film festival circuit and the Museum of Modern Art, is preparing a new documentary. Documentaries, once relegated to the television or educational market, are now box office magic, so more production money is being put into their production.

Because of the digital technology, the creative skills of sound and picture editors are in demand, and they are beautifully edited, according to Kirchheimer. Depending on how well documentaries are funded, they can be transformed into a 35mm theatrical format, he explained. But, even if that funding doesn’t materialize, “More and more theaters are accepting Beta SP, Digi-Beta and formats like that,” he said.

Kirchheimer’s old college friend Don Finamore says, “We’re two of the luckiest people in the world because this is our 50th year of editing films in New York City, and we’re comparatively healthy, which is also a good thing. I met a couple of friends here that I’ve known for 40 years in the business,” he said. Reminiscing about projects is a healthy activity, especially when film historians come knocking and the memories remain fresh.


East Coast Assistant Executive Director Paul Moore, left, and Jerry Siegel.

Some members, such as Sandy Rakow, retired when sound editing converted to a digital format. Rakow decided that he had had a long career as a film editor and, “would have had to spend $25,000-$30,000 [on tuition and equipment] and then have to learn to do the same work all over again with a different toolbox.” He just didn’t want to compete with editors “half my age,” many of whom he had trained as interns or fledgling editors.

Instead, he remains close to his colleagues, such as Eastern Region Board member Louis Bertini (who recalls such films they worked on together as Arthur in 1980 and Star 80 in 1983), and keeps abreast intellectually with the new technology. He also has developed new creative outlets making furniture. “Sandy was one of my teachers on the job,” admitted Bertini.

On-the-job training or internships are vitally important because, as Rakow recalls from his days teaching at the School of Visual Arts, “Some of the teachers never worked in the film industry.” As a result, he was shocked that they couldn’t convert their knowledge into practical training, such as making proper leaders or handling trims. “They didn’t know what an Academy leader was,” Rakow explained. “There’s nothing better than a few months in a real room.”

Barry Schachter, who worked in, among other things, optical sound track and effects editing for documentary, industrial and television commercials in New York, characterized much of the realities of yesterday’s editing as based on muscle––carrying around massive amounts of 35 film dailies.

Board member Marc Laub spoke to the guests about the changing technology and how it is affecting workflow and creativity. Because less people are required due to streamlined technology, job description categories “are continually getting blurred, and that’s something as a union we deal with,” Laub explained. A new organizer (Jesus Sanchez) has been hired to meet this challenge, he said, adding, “I think we are very well set up as a local to meet our challenges.”

“Just as everything’s changed technologically, things have changed geographically too,” Laub added, referring to the plethora of post-production facilities that have moved to lower Manhattan in the Tribeca and Soho neighborhoods.

Retirement does not have to mean the final splice for some MPEG members, just a recomposition of the frame image.

Kevin Lewis is a contributing editor of International Documentary and has written for DGA Magazine, Film History and Cineaste. He can be reached at kcrlewis@mindspring.com.

West Coast
story by Michael Kunkes photos by Gregory Schwartz

Where can you go to find someone who will freely admit to having worked on The Trial of Billy Jack? The answer? The Editors Guild Retiree Luncheon on the West Coast, held Sunday, May 15, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California. The culprit was Michael Karr, one of over 250 retirees and guests who joined together for a lively chilled cocktail session on the hot lawn, followed by a luncheon and dancing in the mercifully well-cooled Empire Ballroom, scored by the tunes of Phil Friedman and his orchestra.


Bill Butler dancing with his daughter, editor Lynne Warr.

Bill Elias, the Guild’s Sergeant-at-Arms and luncheon chairman, acknowledged the other board members present, including longtime luncheon greeter and Board Secretary Diane Adler, ACE; John Gilbert, ACE; Maggie Ostroff, Mary Prange and Sharon Smith-Holley.

In a special introduction, Elias called on Guild past President Stan Frazen, an ACE Career Achievement Award winner who 20 years ago came up with the idea of the retiree’s “gold card.” Also present were Bernie Balmuth and Ving Hershon, who attended the first retirees’ luncheon two-dozen years ago.
Editing careers can be generational affairs. No pun intended, but as in many entertainment professions, jobs were often “grandfathered” in (along with lots of inherited talent). Among the attendees was picture editor Pembroke Herring, a three-time Oscar nominee whose son, Craig Herring, co-edited his dad’s last movie, Multiplicity (1996), and worked with him on Groundhog Day (1993). Bill Butler, an Oscar nominee for A Clockwork Orange (1971), danced with his daughter Lynne Warr, who has just finished her first shows (three episodes of One Tree Hill) as a full editor.


New Editors Guild retirees for 2005 are (standing, from left) William Thiederman, Mary Prange, Greg Wong, Tim O'Meara, Chuck Montgomery, Ira Leslie, Ron Meredith, Charles Campbell, John Barton (kneeling, from left) Richard Woolrich and Dennis Dutton. Also pictured, kneeling, are Guild Board Secretary Diane Adler, past President Stan Frazen and Board Sergeant-at-Arms and Retiree Luncheon Chairman Bill Elias.

Dann Cahn, ACE, onetime supervising editor at Desilu Studios, attended with his wife, former pro golfer Judy Cahn. He also was joined by his I Love Lucy (1951-1957) team members, Gary Freund and Ted Rich––both of them started as his apprentices. His other apprentices included Bud Molin and a fourth, “the one I had to nurse the longest,” Cahn smiled. “That was Michael Kahn, ACE, and he is now the number one editor in town, doing all of Steven Speilberg’s shows.”

Cahn is the middle part of the only three-generation family in ACE history. His father, Phillip Cahn, had a long career at Universal, mainly cutting Abbott and Costello comedies. His son, Danny Cahn, ACE, is a picture editor on features and TV series (The Novice, 2004; Tremors, 2003. At Desilu, the elder Cahn helped create multi-camera editing on sitcoms.

“We were the first sitcom to shoot with three cameras and ship in 35mm instead of kinescopes, thanks to our great DP Karl Freund,” he recalls. “One day, I heard about a machine that was being developed for Ralph Edwards on Truth or Consequences (1950), but was never used. It was a Moviola with four heads––three for picture and one for sound. When they wheeled it in, I said, ‘Boy, that’s some monster!’ And the name stuck.”


A Desilu reunion: Ted Rich, left, Dann Cahn and Gary Freund.

Sound editor Kendrick Kinney recalled his days in the Photographic Science Laboratory (the Navy’s equivalent of the US Army Signal Corps) in Washington, DC during World War II. “I was cutting sound into training films and battle reports, since the people in the Pentagon couldn’t visualize battle scenes without sound in them,” he related. “Seems like I just went from one damn battle to another without going anywhere.”

Kinney, who joined MGM in 1936 at the age of 20 and worked under Douglas Shearer, the legendary head of the sound department, added, “When I went back to MGM after the war, any show that had a battle scene in it came to me. I had a helluva time getting away from that.” That sentiment may not hold true for two Best Sound Oscar-winners Kinney worked on, Ben-Hur (1959) and How The West Was Won (1962), as well as re-working the battle of Atlanta for the Cinerama re-release of Gone With The Wind (1939). “I had a great job, but it could be frustrating, because everyone from the producer right down to the messenger boy would come in and make suggestions,” he says. Some things never change.

As usual, the new crop of retirees was welcomed into the fold: John Barton, Chuck Campbell, Dennis Dutton, Ira Leslie, Ron Meredith, Charles Montgomery, ACE; Tim O’Meara, ACE; Mary Prange, William Theiderman, Richard Woolrich and Greg Wong. A happy 90th birthday was sung to Asa Clark, ACE, and TV veteran Bob Kagey presented Elias with a signed copy of his new autobiography, Memories of a Nobody. Asked about the title, Kagey responded, “Editors are supposed to be invisible, right?”

For this gathering at least, many veterans were out to see and be seen.

Michael Kunkes is a freelance editor and writer specializing in animation, production and post-production. He can be reached at writermk@sbcglobal.net.

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