The Flick Chicks

04/30/06 2006 NAB

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Judy Thorburn

"2006 NAB" Features Informative Sessions with Oscars Winning Filmmakers

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By Judy Thorburn
Photos by Stephen Thorburn

Besides the convention floor where more than 1,400 exhibitors show the latest in television, radio, post/production and multimedia technologies, the world’s largest electronic media show known as NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) is broken down into various conferences, and offer a wide range of educational sessions, award luncheons, and receptions.


But, for the attendees who work or aspire to work behind the camera in the movie industry, one of the highlights of the 2006 edition of NAB that took place at the Las Vegas Hilton and the Las Vegas Convention Center on April 22-27 had to be the keynote dialogue sessions with a few of Hollywood’s top filmmakers. As part of the NAB Post Production World Conference, one session had Academy Award winning editor Hughes Winborne, as the featured speaker who just this past March won an Oscar for his amazing work on Best Picture of 2005, Crash. Winborne spoke about his roots in the south where he spent his early years as a paralegal and house painter before deciding that he loved movies so much that he wanted to change directions and work in films. Everyone he met in the industry wanted to be a director, but he knew he wanted to be an editor. His first job was low budget films Girl From India and The Mutilator. But while “most move up through assistant work. I didn’t do it that way”, he said. “My experience was unconventional. Sling Blade was the job that allowed me to move into feature films. It was the beginning of my work in Indie Films. I was completely committed and passionate about those projects. But, it is tough in the independent (film) world; so hard to get them into theatres.” Winborne said that his resume includes lots of independent films we never heard of and working in TV on 48 Hours at CBS, which he said was “great training.” He went in to say. “I feel incredibly lucky to do what I do. I have a fun job. Once I found out what I wanted to do, I stuck with it even after people suggested that I give it up. The editing room is a fun place.”

He brought along a few clips from some of his work, the first shown being the opening sequence of 2001’s Stark Raving Mad, a film that he was asked to create a “visual” equivalent of technomusic, a challenge if there ever was one. With a one year old to support, he thought once again about changing careers when he landed Crash and felt (the film) had to “stand out in an extraordinary way.” Winborne showed clips from the film and spoke about the editing techniques he used to create a certain kind of impact and how the use of the glare of bright Christmas lights on LA streets while filming in December delivered a very special effect. Another scene was so emotionally intense that when it came into the editing room it made him weep, something that he warned would happened again, and it did. As a complex film with multi storylines, Winborne said Crash was not easy to edit, and gave an example of a very tense scene with actor Michael Pena, that had “no wasted moments.” Regarding working with writers and directors and their input, he said that Paul Haggis (Crash’s director) was incredibly committed to the project, and there was not a frame he didn’t look at.”

Winborne introduced his assistant editor, John Breinholt, who has been working with him for seven years since meeting Winborne in Salt Lake City where he was making a film. It was obvious the editor and his protégé have a mutual respect and admiration for each other and shared their feelings about their craft, and insight on what’s it is like working together and with directors on feature films. “Assistants do what he can’t do. I am not analytical. John is,” Winborne said. “He helps me a lot and it is helpful for the director. Part of an editor’s job is being the shrink between director and producer.” Breinholt said that after graduating from the University of Utah’s film program, he looked at editing and found it attractive. “I would be on the job from beginning of the film to the end. It doesn’t matter how big a film. It comes down to a couple of people in a room. What I get out of a film is creative. It is important to have an opinion in the cutting room; a point of view, the start of how I get involved creatively.” I am sure the audience left with some insightful information they could use in their own creative endeavors.

Part of NAB’s Digital Cinema Summit was an interesting keynote dialogue titled “Where is Digital Cinema and How Do we Get There?” led by moderator Charles Koones of Variety that had James Cameron, the Oscar winning filmmaker/director of Titanic, and NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners) President John Fithian speaking about Digital Cinema and its relation to enhancing the movie going experience. “There is a growing malaise about going to the theatre with HD rolling out in homes. We are going to lose audiences if we don’t fight to keep them,” Cameron said.

Fithian added, “We constantly have to improve the movie going experience. Business wise, Dolby surround sound was very important, but digital cinema is a bigger change than digital sound. Digital technology is the biggest transition since sound. It is ready now and will improve the experience with a high quality of what you see on screen and enables something really cool.”

Cameron said that he started shooting digitally in 2000 and that “the person who wants to see a big epic will differentiate between 35mm and digital cinema.”
Fithian addressed the marketing potential for digital cinema. “Movie screens are a whole lot bigger than home screens for one. Digital is a real improvement that can be marketed rather than film. Visually it is better and audiences are more excited.”

While top filmmakers Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan said back in 2002 they would not shoot in digital, Cameron noted “They are artists, doing things the way THEY want.” On the idea about transferring large-scale films to cell phone screens, Cameron responded with a laugh. “Who would want to watch Star Wars, Titanic or 2001 on a cell phone?”

In regards to fighting piracy, a major problem for the industry, as NATO President, Fithian said, “If we continue to do digital cinema right, it will help fight piracy. The digital age will enable us to jam camcorders. Content is encrypted and sent separate from key codes, making the delivery more secure.”

“The more technology you have, the more you can do,” said Cameron. “Each era of film has its own flavor and style.” But, when asked how digital cinema will affect the style of films being made today and in the future, Cameron replied, “The important things that make good cinema don’t change. You still need a good script, acting, and content. The new tools enhance the ability of a filmmaker to do these things, as long as filmmakers don’t overuse a technique.”

When it comes to the influence of digital cinema technologies, you can bet the theatre going experience is now being transformed to a new level of entertainment for all to appreciate and enjoy. This year, NAB showed all of us that what is being created and implemented is just the tip of the iceberg in what awaits the consumer.