Schoonmaker at the 45th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Thelma Colbert Schoonmaker
January 3, 1940
|Alma mater||Cornell University|
(m. 1984; died 1990)
Thelma Colbert Schoonmaker (//; born January 3, 1940) is an American film editor who has worked with director Martin Scorsese for over fifty years. She started working with Scorsese on his debut feature film Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967), and edited all of Scorsese's films since Raging Bull (1980). Schoonmaker has received eight Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, and has won three times—for Raging Bull (1980), The Aviator (2004), and The Departed (2006), which were all Scorsese-directed films.
Schoonmaker was born on January 3, 1940 in Algiers (then part of French Algeria), the daughter of American parents, Thelma and Bertram Schoonmaker. Bertram, descended from the New York Dutch Schoonmaker political family, was employed as an agent of the Standard Oil Company and worked extensively abroad. The Schoonmakers were shortly after evacuated to the United States following the Fall of France during the Second World War. In 1941, the family moved to the Dutch-Caribbean island of Aruba, where Schoonmaker's father continued to work for Standard Oil and her mother ran nursery schools. Schoonmaker was primarily raised in Aruba, in a community she described as "a colony of expatriates from over the world"; she also spent part of her childhood in Portugal.
Schoonmaker did not live in the United States until she was an adolescent 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. When she graduated from Cornell in 1961, she began taking State Department tests in order to apply for positions in the U.S. government.
Politically inclined and opinionated, Schoonmaker was opposed to the Vietnam War and supported the Civil Rights Movement. She passed the State Department exams but failed the final "stress test" when she expressed distaste for the South African policy of apartheid, a stance which did not sit well with those administering the tests.
—Thelma Schoonmaker, on editing
While taking a graduate course in primitive art at Columbia University, Schoonmaker saw an advertisement in The New York Times that offered training as an assistant film editor. She responded to the advertisement 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.
She signed up for a brief six-week course in filmmaking at New York University, where she came into contact with young 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, so a film professor asked her to help Scorsese. Schoonmaker edited Scorsese's first feature film, Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967).
At NYU, Schoonmaker also met filmmaker Michael Wadleigh and later edited his influential music festival documentary, Woodstock on which Scorsese also worked. Her first major film editing work on Woodstock gained Schoonmaker an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing. Her 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 film-making to a new level.
The early period of Schoonmaker's career was difficult. Despite being an Oscar nominee, Schoonmaker could not work on feature films unless she became a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild. The union's entry requirements included spending five years as an apprentice and three as an assistant, which Schoonmaker was unwilling to meet. Schoonmaker remarked, "And I just couldn't see why I, who had been a full editor and had been nominated for an Academy Award, should suddenly have to become an apprentice. ...And of course, they couldn't see the sense of why I, who had never been in the union all those years and had never paid dues all those years and had never served my time in their sense, should be allowed as a full editor. So it was quite understandable on both sides. It was just insane."
Consequently, Schoonmaker did not work with Scorsese in a formal capacity in the 1970s; however, she did make an uncredited contribution to Taxi Driver. Scorsese had decided not to edit the picture during principal photography, but to save all the editing until shooting had wrapped. Unfortunately, this left him very little time to cut the picture, as Columbia's contract stipulated that a finished cut had to be supplied by the middle of February. Scorsese brought in Schoonmaker to help. At one point, Steven Spielberg visited Scorsese and chipped in with some contributions toward the final edit.
She was introduced to Michael Powell by Scorsese and London-based film producer Frixos Constantine. The couple were married from May 19, 1984 until his death in 1990. The couple had no children.
- Who's That Knocking at My Door (1967)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- The King of Comedy (1982)
- After Hours (1985)
- The Color of Money (1986)
- "Bad" (1987)
- 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)
- Silence (2016)
- The Snowman (2017)
- The Irishman (2019)
- The Kids Are Alright (1979) (special consultant)
- Woodstock (1970) (assistant director & editor)
- Boardwalk Empire (episode: "Boardwalk Empire", 2010) (consultant)
With eight Academy Award nominations, Schoonmaker tied with Michael Kahn for being the most-nominated editor in Academy Awards history. 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.
In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild published a list of the 75 best-edited films of all time based on a survey of its membership. Three films edited by Schoonmaker with Scorsese are on this list: Raging Bull (1980), listed first, Goodfellas (1990), listed fifteenth, and Hugo (2011), listed sixty-ninth. Only George Tomasini, the editor of Alfred Hitchcock's films in the 1950s, has more appearances on this list.
Awards and nominations
|1971||Best Film Editing||Woodstock||Nominated|
|2003||Gangs of New York||Nominated|
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 (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
- 2014 – 71st Venice International Film Festival – Golden Lion For Lifetime Achievement
- 2017 – American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award
- 2019 – BAFTA Fellowship
- Colby, Matthew (January 15, 2015). "Thelma Schoonmaker's Favorite Scorsese Moments". Retrieved January 13, 2020.
- "The Thelma & Bertram Schoonmaker Story" (PDF). Lago-colony.com. p. 563.
- Meuel, David (2016). Women Film Editors: Unseen Artists of American Cinema. McFarland. p. 157. ISBN 9781476662947.
- Marlow, Jonathan (October 6, 2006). "Thelma Schoonmaker: A Personal Journey with Scorsese and Powell". GreenCine.com. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013.
- Rafferty, Terrence (November 30, 1982). "His Girl Friday: Thelma Schoonmaker Cuts Things Down to Size". The Village Voice.
- Anderson, Hamish (November 22, 2011). "The Woman Behind Martin Scorsese". Elle.
- Daniel Aloi, "Thelma Schoonmaker '61 to talk movies Nov. 19 at Cornell", cornell.edu; accessed February 26, 2018.
- Shoard, Catherine (August 1, 2005). "Long-lasting love through a lens". The Daily Telegraph.
- Nguyen, Lan N. (March 15, 2005). "The Last Temptation of Thelma". iVillage Entertainment. Archived from the original on October 22, 2006.
- Thelma Schoonmaker Profile, Turner Classic Movies Film Article; retrieved February 5, 2013.
- "Hollywood Outstanding Achievement in Editing Award Honoree – THELMA SCHOONMAKER". Hollywood Film Festival. August 2000. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006.
- Tapley, Kristopher (December 21, 2013). "Thelma Schoonmaker remembers her first Scorsese collaboration: 'Who's That Knocking At My Door'". Uproxx. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
- Robson, Leo (May 9, 2014). "Thelma Schoonmaker: the queen of the cutting room". FT Magazine. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Sangster, Jim (2002). Scorsese. Virgin Film.
- Kowalski, Eileen (November 14, 2001). "Tina Hirsch". Variety.
- Talty, Stephan (September–October 1991). "Invisible Woman". American Film.
- Chris Tilly, "Thelma Schoonmaker Q&A" Archived January 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, TimeOut.com, September 26, 2005.
- "The 75 Best Edited Films". Editors Guild Magazine. 1 (3). May 2012. Archived from the original on March 17, 2015.
- Aloi, Daniel. "Scorsese's film editor, Thelma Schoonmaker '61, talks of 'Raging Bull' and Michael Powell". Cornell University.
- Schoonmaker, Thelma (December 26, 2005). "Oscar-Winning Scorsese Editor Thelma Schoonmaker". Fresh Air (Interview). Interviewed by Terry Gross. National Public Radio. No transcript available.
- Hynes, Daniel (January 17, 2014). "Cut Here, Cut There, but It's Still 3 Hours: Thelma Schoonmaker on the Art of Editing Long Movies". The New York Times.
- Kallay, William (March 3, 2005). "American Cinema Editors – 2004 Oscar Nominees Discuss their Craft".
- Morgan, David (1991). "Interview with Thelma Schoonmaker". Wide Angle/Closeup.
- Schoonmaker, Thelma (September 26, 2005). "Thelma Schoonmaker Q&A: The Oscar-winning editor discusses Martin Scorsese, Michael Powell and her new film, 'The Departed'". Time Out (Interview). Interviewed by Chris Tilly. Archived from the original on January 7, 2006.
- 2007 Coolidge Award Thelma Schoonmaker – The Coolidge Corner Theatre
- Thelma Schoonmaker on IMDb
- Schoonmaker, Thelma at Encyclopedia.com
- "Thelma Schoonmaker: From 'Raging Bull' to 'Silence'"—January 26, 2017 interview on Studio 360