Lynzee Klingman, film editor: “I’m hired because I have opinions”

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From Kosovo 2.0

Film editor Lynzee Klingman has opinions; maybe that’s what brought her so far in the industry. She is not the kind of person who tells the director “tell me what you want me to do,” she says, “I’m hired because I have lots of opinions and it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut!”

Born in Chicago, in the last day of 1943, Klingman shared her experience and knowledge in a master class about the creative editing process.

Her calling card? She gathered acclaim editing cinematic masterpieceOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next, starring Jack Nicholson. Participants in her masterclass had the chance to actually view scenes cut out of that film that brought her and the editing team a BAFTA for the their work.

As she remarks in the beginning of her talk, Klingman started her career in the film industry at a time when women were not part of it. “Once I entered in a studio asking for a job, and they took me for an actress: they wanted to paint something on my body for a scene…” That was one of her first attempts, which, of course, she refused. Until she worked with Emile di Antonio. Besides the difficulty of being a woman in a time and profession of men, she was also a sort of activist in a time of harsh decisions, such as the Vietnam war, were being made by the US — “I couldn’t be a hippie because I always had a job!” she jokes.

About that, the Vietnam War, she did more than protest, as the film editor of Peter Davis’ documentary Hearts and Minds (1974) she helped illuminate the horrors and futility of the war. Right before its premiere screening at Cannes festival, an executive from the film’s production company, Columbia Pictures, cut Colubia’s logo from the reel. The editing process took more than 14 months, splicing together archival material with original footage shot by cinematographer Richard Pearce, who would later become Klingman’s husband.

“What editing really is, is what rewriting really is — it is working on a film continuously.” For her, the function of an editor is enlightening the director, who, she says, sometimes cannot really see the movie because they are shooting and visualizing it in their mind. “It’s the editor’s job to find sense among all that footage.” Despite that, she jokes, she is “really glad” of not being a director as it is for her “too complicated.” In the US, though, the last word belongs not to the director or editor, but the board of producers — “and that can be painful.”

With her rounded, black-rimmed glasses on, Klingman showed and commented on edits and scenes, some of them unpublished, from other movies like A River Runs Through It (Robert Redford; 1992). Participants had the opportunity to receive some tips and ask her thoughts on music editing, the differences between documentary and fiction editing and to get to know some unknown facts about films in which she worked. To the question of an actor being doubled in a film, specifically Jack Nicholson in a scene of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, she demanded, excited, “believe in what you see on the screen!”