By Janet Dalton & Jason Banke
In this edition of “Spotlight on an Editor,” we had the opportunity to sit with legendary editor of “Silence of the Lambs,” Craig McKay, ACE. For our April 2015 workshop, Mr. McKay visited and spoke with our Six Week Intensive students through our Artist in Residence program.
Manhattan Edit Workshop (MEWShop): Where did you grow up?
Craig Mckay: I grew up in Walden, New York, a small village in the Hudson Valley.
MEWShop: What kind of film education did you receive?
CM: No formal film education--in college I studied Art & Psychology.
MEWShop: How did you get your start?
CM: I made 8mm films starting at about 11 years old and then my parents bought me a 16mm Bolex at thirteen. A few years later a friend of the family introduced me to the owner of a film company in New York City. He offered me a job and I took it. A week later I was in the carrying film cans to the laboratory.
MEWShop: Which film/films inspired you to be an editor?
CM: I loved “Forbidden Games,” “The Seven Samurai,” “Citizen Kane,” “Once upon a time is the West,” a lot of older classics
MEWShop: What is your favorite edited scene or movie of all time?
CM: Dave shutting down HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
MEWShop: Can you recommend any editing books?
CM: Not an editing book, but a book that helped my editing a lot was “The Art of Dramatic Writing,” by Lajos Egri.
MEWShop: Did you have a mentor? If so, who were they?
CM: Yes. Alan Heim, Barry Malkin, Evan Lottman, and Dede Allen.
MEWShop: What are some of the qualities in yourself and others that make one suitable to be an editor?
CM: A strong sense of story, a good eye for visual composition, an excellent ear for music, a natural feel for rhythm, and a high degree of emotional intelligence.
MEWShop: What skills do you look for in an assistant editor?
CM: I generally look for good people skills, complemented by a high degree of organizational and technical knowledge.
MEWShop: If you had your choice what editing software would you use to edit with?
CM: I am an AVID guy, period!
MEWShop: What technology advancement in post-production has affected you the most in your work?
CM: The speed with which I can accomplish my edit decisions. It’s a good thing!
MEWShop: If you had to be something other than an editor what would it be?
CM: Probably a writer, a storyteller....
MEWShop: Is there anything you do outside of editing that helps sharper your storytelling skills?
CM: Photography, play music, write....
MEWShop: What is your favorite editing snack?
MEWShop: Has the job description of the editor changed in the last 10 years? If so how?
CM: Yes, I am dealing with more elements all at once. I’ve become the orchestrator for the film.
MEWShop: What is your current favorite film or television show from an editing perspective?
CM: I love the editing Tom Cross did on the film “Whiplash.”
MEWShop: What project(s) are you working on now?
CM: I’m currently producing and editing an Independent feature film.
MEWShop: Where do you see the industry of post-production evolving over the next decade?
CM: No more JKL commands, only hands free vocal commands!
MEWShop: What was your proudest/worst/happiest (pick one) moment as an editor?
CM: Editing “The Silence of the Lambs.” I got to do everything I wanted editorially.
MEWShop: What was your most challenging experience as an editor?
CM: Co-Editing “Reds” with Dede Allen, it took us two years with a crew of 64 and three million feet of film to accomplish. This was before Avid was even around!
About The Six Week Intensive Course: Manhattan Edit Workshop’s signature workshop in the art and technique of editing is a comprehensive jump-start for anyone serious about a career in post-production.In addition to certified training in Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, FCPX and After Effects, we devote time each day to film theory; covering the history & evolution of editing technique, as well as the aesthetics of narrative, short-form, comedy and documentary. You’ll not only learn the tools – you’ll understand why we use them. Learn more about our Six Week Intensive Course by clicking here.