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DP/30 Industry Legends: editor Michael Kahn

mp3 of the conversation

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19 Responses to “DP/30 Industry Legends: editor Michael Kahn”

  1. A. Campbell says:

    Great stuff. Too bad you couldn’t get him to show you a still or two from Tintin or War Horse!

    Did I get that wrong, or did he mistake Kathryn Bigelow for a first-timer? Well, I suppose that ensconced in his room he can’t be held responsible for that.

  2. movielocke says:

    Goddamn that’s fantastic to watch. Love his thoughts overall but particularly on cutting comedy and too many cuts from studios and producers proliferating in the post process.

    Can’t wait to see War Horse and TinTin! Are they still scheduled for release 5 days apart? Has any director in the modern era ever released two films with less than one week in between the wide release dates? Hell, I would be surprised if a english language director in the sound era has ever had two films released so close to each other. December 23rd for TinTin, December 28th for War Horse, both are wide releases–that’s completely nuts.

    I suppose War Horse could move to being a Before Thanksgiving movie (nov 18th or 23rd) if the studio thinks it can be an all-quadrants box office giant. Right now there is nothing on the schedule in that frame they’d be competing with, Puss N Boots would be two or three weeks old at that point, Twilight is its own segregated niche, the Muppets are sort of the recycling that could go either way, but probably won’t reach Alvin or Garfield success because Muppets is in direct competition with Puss & Boots and Happy Feet 2. And there’s another Sandler flick positioned. So a Lot of big studio movies, but nothing that strikes as being The Movie that everyone will want to see. Possibly an opportunity, but possibly a bad move to change from December to November. The only reason to move out of December is to avoid Steven competing with himself, and it’s possible that having them so close together will create a bonanza of cross-over reinforcing publicity for both films, Stories about War Horse will also cover TinTin in passing and stories about TinTin will likewise reinforce WarHorse. But this will likely be just as true if the movies are five weeks or five days apart.

    If War Horse is totally locked by May-June, will they put it through somewhere like Telluride at all (I can’t really imagine it going to Toronto)? and build buzz throughout Sept-Dec? or are they going to hold it close to their chest watch the 2011 field unfold and unleash a big push in mid-late November?

    Spielberg, Allen, and Scorsese are all tied with the most directing nominations of living directors, how crazy would it be to see all three of them nominated (or even Spielberg and Scorsese nominated against each other for the first time ever)?

  3. The Pope says:

    I doubt WarHorse will screen anywhere until it is released. I’m wondering when the last time Spielberg put any film of his out in a festival. ET in Cannes, close on 30 years ago?

    Again, another enjoyable interview. Very modest about his craft; seems like a fun, young guy and he really does reveal some great secrets of the trade.

  4. David Poland says:

    A. Campbell – I believe he was referring to Chris Innis, for whom Hurt Locker was (actually) her second or third feature as editor (the first that anyone ever saw), and for which she won the Oscar with veteran Bob Murawski.

  5. John in LA says:

    Do you still do an mp3 version of these somewhere? I like to download the audio to listen to in my car.

  6. movielocke says:

    pope, well obviously I don’t really expect War Horse to go festival at all, but Telluride would be the only sort of non-festival arena I could see it screening at. Perhaps closing the AFI fest for it’s premiere? And it will be screening for the Academy by early december at least.

    It’s sort of funny to think of Spielberg taking it to Cannes. There’s enough irrational rage and hatred of Spielberg (it’s really really really bad to be successful AND beloved by the masses AND so absurdly skilled at filmcraft that your work makes most of your peers look like students) that the blowback against him and the film would be incredible and irrecoverable. It wouldn’t matter if the film was his strongest yet, it would be instantly and totally hated by the critics that saw it, trashed to the extreme if it showed up at Cannes.

  7. David Poland says:

    We haven’t been doing them since we started streaming, but I can knock one out for this interview since you asked. Look for it on this page sometime this afternoon or evening.

  8. John in LA says:

    Thanks David,
    As an editor I look forward to hearing this. Not to be too pushy but any chance of getting an mp3 of the Angus Wall/Kirk Baxter Interview?

  9. machiav says:

    Best. DP/30. Evah.

  10. Ejz says:

    Thank you very much for this wonderful interview!

  11. Proman says:

    Thanks for this, Dave. Michael Kahn is a legend to me. What a treasure. Amazing and a very insightful interview.

    I sort of wish you’d let Mr. Kahn elaborate on Steven’s involvement in Poltergeist (it never gets old for me) but oh well.

    Cannot wait to War Horse, Tintin and future projects.

    By the way movielocke. Eveyrthing you said is very true and I cannot agree with you more about the idiocy of some people’s (luckily and minority) on Spielberg’s work. Whatever. We all know what the man’s really worth.

    That said, he’s been at Cannes with a movie twice and both never really had any problems. And of course, that E.T. screaning is the stuff of legend.

    (And speaking of Cannes legends though this one is likely false) I hope Steven considers doing a Lupin III film for real. That would be awesome.

  12. JKill says:

    Actually this is one of the few on the record confirmations of Speilberg’s directorial involvement in Poltergeist I think I’ve ever seen. Even in Speilberg biographies, without his involvement, they kind of skirt around the issue and hedge their language. I know he usually tries to downplay it, as does Tobe Hooper. I love that movie so I too am always curious about what exactly went down. It feels very personal to him, especially since it’s one of his few screenplay credits.

    Great interview. It’s awe inspiring to think of just some of the amazing sequences Mr. Kahn has cut together. A true industry legend.

  13. witherholly says:

    How fabulous for Kahn, he has an operator! (Rigged with two keyboards, too, doubly cool.) He’s like a DP with a camera operator. Love how he says he doesn’t find it hard anymore, except for the challenges, like matching, performance and making people relate to each other on the screen. That’s precious! He’s a highly respectable icon, with exactly the right temperment and talent, representing a by-gone era of what was possible in a career. Sad and laudable and true of many fields, where 8 years of paid training would be welcomed!

  14. Joe Leydon says:

    Steven Spielberg was supposed to be at Cannes 1986 for an out-of-competition screening of The Color Purple. But he cancelled — as did many other American filmmakers and actors — because of terrorism fears in the wake of the US bombing of Libya. Seriously: A lot of US journalists cancelled as well. So many, in fact, that I wound up having a 2-hour-plus chat with Roman Polanski. After about a hour, I said something like, “Well, look, thanks for being so generous with your time…” And Polanski stopped me with, “Oh, no, Joe, stay. I have no one else scheduled for another hour.”

    Of course, it could have been that few people really wanted to talk to Polanski about the film he had at Cannes that year: Pirates.

    Trust me, David: Back then, you probably could have done a DP/180 with Polanski.

  15. Proman says:

    Odd thing is, I heard a rumor the validity of which I cannot even begin to gauge (could be 100% false) that Spielberg really is planning to show the completed “War Horse” in Cannes.

    Could be the European flavor of the film. I actually think it could go pretty well.

  16. Hopscotch says:

    Truly a living legend. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best edited movies of all time. Most of us film fans can recite cut after cut.

    Two of Spielberg’s long standing collaborators, John Williams and Michael Kahn, are reaching retirement age. I’m curious who’d he hire to replace them.

  17. Maurizio says:

    Wonderful, inspiring interview, David. Kahn is more than just a consummate professional, he’s a master in his field. And it’s just plain great to see his passion and enthusiasm for his job.

    Now, it would be lovely if you could snag an interview with another Industry Legend that works with Steven Spielberg since his beginning: film composer John Williams. I’d love to see a candid interview with him like this one you did with Mike Kahn.

    Greetings from Italy,

  18. yancyskancy says:

    Finally got around to this. Really great.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon