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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The First Five Reels



Wednesday December 14, 1983

Yesterday we viewed the first rough-cut reels of "The Bostonians" at MovieLab, on the West Side by 12th Avenue. Ruth Jhabvala, Jim Ivory, Ismail Merchant, the whole editing crew including J____ and Cathy Wenning, as well as myself, were present.

At the end of the screening words were kept to a minimum. You could hear the seats creak. We disbanded, heads low, into different cabs, Assistant editors Joe, and Lori with  J_____ in one cab with the boxes of film to go back to the editing room, Ruth and Jim in another to talk alone. A single pretty woman came out of building so we let her take the third taxi. In the shuffle, Ismail and myself were left by ourselves. He was cracking his fingers nervously. A heavy rain was falling, and there being no more taxis nearby, we walked back to the office on foot, getting ourselves thoroughly soaked.

I understood from Ismail's spangled gait how things were going to play out. Gesture for him was absolute communication. The cutting on the film was so bad that the resolve to fire J_____ had strengthened. I would be hired as editor, along with Cathy, who presumably would be made chief and that my days of writing, reading and contemplation would soon be at an end.

Late this morning Jim and Ismail both called at the same time, and we had a three way conversation about a plan to finish the film. Jim said I would share an editor credit with Cathy. J_____ was being let go today. When salary came up Jim said, "This is where I get off." Ismail and I agreed on a price of eight hundred and fifty dollars a week. That's more than I've ever been paid, though actually is less than what J_____  was earning, and far less than experienced union editors that work on fully budgeted Hollywood pictures. Anyway, I am happy, happy that at least once I am getting the chance to show my mettle in the cutting room before retiring from this racket. I'm happy also that my relationship with both Jim and Ismail has elevated me in one giant bound to a new level of trust.

Humphrey called to hear all the news and gave me all the tips he could think of about making cuts and overlaps. "It's the return of the prodigal son," he said chuckling. I know I have Humphrey to thank for this - he recommended they take the leap and hire his old assistant, as an editor.

In the space of a month my outlook changed.. By October end I assigned a different destiny for myself, away from film towards some other occupation that would support me and my vagabond musings. Film has come to be the thing that will give me work. I see writing, but only after learning better discipline, and more experiences. Literary loves will be indulged during the small morning hours, and at night after long days on film. Written work will have to wait, maybe years.

Three jobs await, picture edit of "The Bostonians", completion of the soundtrack and music in London, then production on "The Deceivers".

My sights and designs are way ahead, while my energies are free to focus on the moment.

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