Thelma Schoonmaker and Columba Powell at Cannes, May 2009
3 January 1940 |
|Spouse(s)||Michael Powell (1984-1990)|
Thelma Schoonmaker (born 3 January 1940) is an American film editor who has worked with director Martin Scorsese for over forty years. She has edited all of Scorsese's films since Raging Bull. Schoonmaker has received seven Academy Award nominations for best editing, and has won three times (for Raging Bull, The Aviator, and The Departed).
Schoonmaker was married to director Michael Powell from 19 May 1984 until his death in 1990. Since his death, Schoonmaker has been dedicated to preserving the films and honoring the legacy of her husband, who directed many classic films, including The Red Shoes. She was introduced to Michael Powell by Martin Scorsese and London based film producer Frixos Constantine.
Life and career 
Schoonmaker's father Bertram was employed as a clerical worker by the Standard Oil Company and worked abroad. She was born in Algiers and raised in various countries, including on the Dutch-Caribbean island of Aruba.
Schoonmaker did not live in the United States until she was a teenager in 1955, and was initially alienated and dumbfounded by American culture. Schoonmaker was interested in a career in international diplomacy and began attending Cornell University in 1957, where she studied political science and the Russian language. (She attended classes taught by Vladimir Nabokov.) When she graduated from Cornell in 1961, she began taking State Department tests in order to apply for positions in the U.S. government. Being politically inclined and opinionated, Schoonmaker expressed distaste for the South African policy of apartheid, a stance which did not sit well with those administering the State Department tests. In reaction to this experience, Schoonmaker switched gears and began taking a course in primitive art.
"While doing graduate work at Columbia University, Thelma Schoonmaker answered an ad that offered on-the-job training as an assistant film editor." She responded to the employment advertisement in The New York Times and got the job. The job entailed assisting an "editor" who was randomly cutting frames from classic European films, (such as those by François Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard and Federico Fellini), so that their length would conform to the running times of U.S. television broadcasts. Although she was revolted by the callousness of the editor's methods, Schoonmaker nonetheless picked up important technical skills, including negative cutting.
She signed up for a brief six-week course in filmmaking at New York University (NYU), where she came into contact with budding young filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who was struggling to complete his film What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? A negative cutter had butchered his film, not leaving enough negative frames to allow for hot splicing. One of her film professors asked Schoonmaker to help Scorsese; a close working relationship with him has unfolded over the next thirty-five years. Schoonmaker edited Scorsese's first feature film, Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967).
At NYU Schoonmaker also met director Michael Wadleigh and later edited his influential music festival documentary, Woodstock. Her first major film editing work on Woodstock gained Schoonmaker an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing. Her careful use of superimpositions and freeze frames brought the performances in the film to life, and added to the movie's wide appeal, thus helping to raise the artistry and visibility of documentary filmmaking to a new level.
Despite her obvious skill and talent, the early period of Schoonmaker's career was difficult; joining the Motion Picture Editors Guild has always been challenging, and the film industry generally has been a restrictive boys' club. Consequently, there was a twelve-year gap between her work on Scorsese's student films and her Oscar-winning work on his masterful Raging Bull.
Nonetheless Schoonmaker helped to shatter some film industry glass ceilings, and has amassed an impressive list of film editing credits. Variety's Eileen Kowalski notes that, "Indeed, many of the editorial greats have been women: Dede Allen, Verna Fields, Thelma Schoonmaker, Anne V. Coates and Dorothy Spencer." She appears in The Aviator as one of Howard Hughes' editors during the filming of Hell's Angels.
- "You get to contribute so significantly in the editing room because you shape the movie and the performances," she says. "You help the director bring all the hard work of those who made the film to fruition. You give their work rhythm and pace and sometimes adjust the structure to make the film work ‑- to make it start to flow up there on the screen. And then it's very rewarding after a year's work to see people react to what you've done in the theater."
- "... Editing is a lot about patience and discipline and just banging away at something, turning off the machine and going home at night because you're frustrated and depressed, and then coming back in the morning to try again."
- When asked how it was that such a nice lady could edit Scorsese's violent gangster pictures, Thelma replied with a smile, "Ah, but they aren't violent until I've edited them."
Selected filmography 
- Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- The King of Comedy (1983)
- After Hours (1985)
- The Color of Money (1986)
- The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
- New York Stories (1989) segment "Life Lessons"
- Goodfellas (1990)
- Cape Fear (1991)
- The Age of Innocence (1993)
- Casino (1995)
- Grace of My Heart (1996)
- Kundun (1997)
- Bringing out the Dead (1999)
- Gangs of New York (2002)
- The Aviator (2004)
- The Departed (2006)
- Shutter Island (2010)
- Hugo (2011)
- The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Other credits 
- The Kids Are Alright (1979) (special consultant)
- Woodstock (1970) (assistant director & editor)
- Boardwalk Empire (episode: "Boardwalk Empire", 2010) (consultant)
With seven Academy Award nominations, Schoonmaker is the second most-nominated editor in Academy Awards history, after Michael Kahn who has eight nominations. Tied with Kahn, Daniel Mandell, and Ralph Dawson, she also holds the record for the most wins in the category of Best Editing, with three.
Academy Awards and nominations 
- 1971 - Woodstock (nominated) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 1981 - Raging Bull (won) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 1991 - Goodfellas (nominated) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 2003 - Gangs of New York (nominated) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 2005 - The Aviator (won) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 2007 - The Departed (won) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
- 2012 - Hugo (nominated) Academy Award - Best Film Editing
Other awards and nominations 
- 1981 - Raging Bull (1980) (won) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film
- 1982 - Raging Bull (1980) (won) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 1984 - The King of Comedy (1982) (nominated) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 1991 - Goodfellas (1990) (nominated) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film
- 1991 - Goodfellas (1990) (won) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 1993 - Cape Fear (nominated) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 1992 - Gotham Below the Line Award (won)
- 1996 - Casino (1995) (nominated) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film
- 2000 - Hollywood Film Festival - Hollywood Film Award (won)
- 2003 - Gangs of New York (2002) (won) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic
- 2003 - Gangs of New York (2002) (nominated) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 2003 - Gangs of New York (2002) (won) Satellite Awards Golden Satellite Award Best Film Editing
- 2004 - AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert De Niro (2003) (TV) (2004) (nominated) Emmy Award - Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
- 2005 - The Aviator (won) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic
- 2005 - The Aviator (nominated) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 2005 - The Aviator (won) Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Sierra Award - Best Editing
- 2005 - The Aviator (nominated) Satellite Awards Golden Satellite Award Best Film Editing
- 2005 - The Aviator (nominated) OFCS Award - Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Editing
- 2007 - The Departed (nominated) American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie - Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic
- 2007 - The Departed (nominated) BAFTA Film Award - Best Editing
- 2007 - The Departed (nominated) OFCS Award - Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Editing
- 2007 - Made an honorary Fellow of Canterbury Christ Church University
See also 
- 9/26/2005 "Thelma Schoonmaker Q&A" - The TOMB Movie News - Time Out Film - Chris Tilly
- iVillage Entertainment - "The Last Temptation of Thelma: Scorsese's editor just keeps going and going" by Lan N. Nguyen
- "Cornell University - "Thelma Schoonmaker '61 to talk movies Nov. 19 at Cornell" By Daniel Aloi
- Thelma Schoonmaker: A Personal Journey with Scorsese and Powell by Jonathan Marlow
- Biography for Thelma Schoonmaker at the Internet Movie Database
- Thelma Schoonmaker Profile, Turner Classic Movies Film Article. By staff. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- Hollywood Outstanding Achievement in Editing Award, Thelma Schoonmaker, Hollywood Film Festival. By staff. Paragraph six. Dated August 2-7, 2000. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
- "Hollywood Outstanding Achievement in Editing Award Honoree - THELMA SCHOONMAKER"
- (Editor) "Tina Hirsch" By Eileen Kowalski - Variety 11/14/2001 (subscription)
- Variety interview
- During lecture to students at Canterbury Christ Church University, 25 November 2009
- Thelma Schoonmaker at the Internet Movie Database
- New York Times - "Thelma Schoonmaker" credits / brief bio
- Fresh Air interview with Thelma Schoonmaker
- "Thelma Schoonmaker: A Personal Journey with Scorsese and Powell" By Jonathan Marlow, GreenCine.com, October 6, 2006
- Time Out interview
- Wide Angle/Closeup - Interview on set of "Cape Fear"
- "American Cinema Editors - "2004 Oscar Nominees Discuss their Craft" By William Kallay
- 2007 Coolidge Award Thelma Schoonmaker - The Coolidge Corner Theatre
- iVillage Entertainment "The Last Temptation of Thelma" by Lan N. Nguyen
- "Hollywood Outstanding Achievement in Editing Award Honoree - THELMA SCHOONMAKER" August 2000
- Cornell University (news) "Thelma Schoonmaker '61 to talk movies Nov. 19 at Cornell" By Daniel Aloi
- "Scorsese's film editor, Thelma Schoonmaker '61, talks of 'Raging Bull' and Michael Powell" By Daniel Aloi - Cornell University