Ongoing Projects:
Medieval Fayres

Production of a film using material from the East Anglian Film Archive contrasting the iconic medieval fayres that happened in East Anglia in the 1970s with present day festivals.

Sbu Duma, polo player - murdered

The young polo prodigy featured in one of our films was murdered, shocking not only his friends and family, but the entire polo playing community.

News story

Mother Cutters

60 minute documentary about Hollywood’s oldest, brilliant and creative women editors, a co-production with Gloria and Joan Wood. The proposal is now with TV commissioning editors and production companies in the USA. Intended for production in 2013.

Women, beautiful and young, have always been a key ingredient on screen in the history of cinema. Those that make the films, producers, directors, cinematographers, designers etc have, until very recently, been mostly men. An exclusive 'boys club'. Yet in one area, the all important and 'invisible art' of film editing, we can identify a number of women whose work, with great directors, has brought innovation and immense creativity to many of the finest films of the last 90 years.  

Variety Magazine noted that many of the editing greats have been women: Thelma Schoonmaker, Anne V. Coates, Dede Allen, Dorothy Spencer and Verna Fields are those listed.

This is the story of these women. An hour TV programme that is a mixture of biography, anecdote and a layman’s guide (with many examples) to the art of film editing.

Thelma Schoonmaker (72), Scorsese favourite editor has agreed to take part: she is one of only three people (the others being men) who have won 3 Academy Awards for film editing. Now 72, she is bright, articulate, funny, modest and charismatic.

Anne.V. Coates is also willing to appear. She is 87, an amazing raconteur, a dynamic personality and still working. She is presently is in London where a short interview was filmed at her home in Chelsea. Anne also won an Oscar for Best Editing for David Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Those still alive can speak for themselves and discuss their lives and work, with examples of how they shaped their films. For those deceased we will use archive material, interviews with younger members of their families and with editors whom they trained and others in the film business, preferably celebrities and well known film directors who know and understand how crucial the role of film editor is. 

What this documentary will unveil is a selection of strong, intelligent, creative, now elderly or dead and mostly unknown women to the wider public, who have been instrumental in shaping the most popular visual entertainment form of the last 70 years. Editing in filmmaking is vital to success. Since 1984 two-thirds of all films winning the Academy Award for Best Picture have also received the Best Editing Award. 

Why do women make good editors? In a filmed interview Thelma Schoonmaker explained that while her NYU group were making films in the early 1960s they all considered each other as filmmaking equals. Yet, often in the post-production process the men were seen to be messy and chaotic. Where the men would lose cans of film and film clips, the women brought patience, discipline and organisation to the process of structuring and completing a film.  

Short Biographies

* Thelma Schoonmaker (72) studied political science and Russian at prestigious Cornell University. On graduating in 1961 she considered testing for a position with the US Government but there was mutual objection to her stance against South African Apartheid. She then moved on to study primitive art, signed up for a course in filmmaking at New York University (NYU) and fell in with a group, including Martin Scorsese, who were to change the face of US cinema. She worked with Scorsese on his first student film. However it took another 12 years before she could break into the 'boys club' and get a union ticket to work on features. She has now spent 35 years working with Scorsese, garnering 6 Academy Award nominations and 3 Oscars for 'Raging Bull, 'The Aviators' and 'The Departed'.

* Anne V. Coates (87) is the only British film editor in this programme. Initially she worked with horses, then as a nurse, later working on religious films. She belongs to an all-film family. Her uncle was J.Arthur Rank, she married director Douglas Hickox and all her children are directors or film editors. Her most applauded achievement was winning an Academy Award for editing David Lean's masterpiece, 'Lawrence of Arabia'. She has been nominated for 5 other awards. In 2007 she was given a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Farming on Prescription

In spring 2011 intend to be making a 20 minute documentary for a Primary Health Care Trust (PCT) of the National Health Service (NHS) in South Norfolk, UK. A co-production with Beth Derks.

The film will be shot on Clinks Care Farm, an 130 acre farm growing a mixture of vegetables, arable crops and breeding animals. The subject of the film is a pilot project where the local PCT will refer a number of mentally ill patients – suffering from depression, bereavement and drug and alcohol problems, for example – to work on the farm for at least 12 weeks, 2 days per week with medical professionals and clinicians supervising progress to evaluate whether working on the land is a more cost effective way to recovery than medication. We have chosen to film in April to June 2011 because of its importance as the UK’s main growing season, for vegetables and arable crops, lambing etc.  

This approach to mental health problems has been working in the Netherlands. This will be the first pilot project in the UK. Presuming individuals in the project agree to be filmed, we will identify several people in one group over the 12 week period and film their activities and reactions. We will aso interview PCT professionals and clinicians at the beginning and conclusion of the film and the farmer, Doeke Doema. It is hoped that, if the film shows a positive change to the the individuals we focus on, the finished film will be used at conferences and to show the experiment to other PCTs in the UK.

* Dede Allen died in 2010. She worked her way up through the industry. It took 16 years before she edited her first feature. She has worked with Arthur Penn, Sidney Lumet, Robert Wise, Elia Kazan and George Roy Hill. Nominated for 3 academy awards her list of credits reads like a history of US cinema from the 1960s until the present day. She pioneered many techniques now taken for granted such as the use of audio overlaps and dramatic jump cuts. She has co-edited most of her recent films with younger film editors, helping produce a new generation of award-winning cutting edge film editors.     

* Dorothy Spencer died in 2002. She worked with (amongst others) John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch and edited some of their finest works, including 'My Darling Clementine', 'Stage Coach' and 'To be or not to be'. She was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including 'Earthquake' and the infamous 'Cleopatra'. 

* Verna Fields died aged 64 in 1982. She came to prominence in the 'New Hollywood' era (1962-1982). Forged close ties with directors Peter Bogdanovitch, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, early in their careers. She became known as their 'mother cutter' (a cutter being a film editor in US parlance).

She taught a whole generation of film-makers at the University of Southern California (USC). Her recognised most extraordinary achievement was editing 'Jaws' for which she received an Academy Award. Her work on this film has been endlessly analysed by film critics and scholars. "The first cut was a mess. Verna Fields saved it by throwing out most of the shark stuff - it was just a phony lump of rubber- and focused on the results, the reactions. 'Jaws' scared the world, brought in a fortune for Universal and made Verna Fields about as famous 'overnight' as an editor ever gets". She stopped editing after 'Jaws' and became a senior studio executive.

© Bob Edwards / Gloria Wood /Joan Wood - 2010