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DP/30 Industry Legends: editor Michael Kahn

mp3 of the conversation

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.


Quote Unquotesee all »

“With any character, the way I think about it is, you have the role on the page, you have the vision of the director and you have your life experience… I thought it was one of the foundations of the role for John Wick. I love his grief. For the character and in life, it’s about the love of the person you’re grieving for, and any time you can keep company with that fire, it is warm. I absolutely relate to that, and I don’t think you ever work through it. Grief and loss, those are things that don’t ever go away. They stay with you.”
~ Keanu Reeves

“I was checking through stuff the other day for technical reasons. I came across The Duellists on Netflix and I was absolutely stunned to see that it was exquisitely graded. So, while I rarely look up my old stuff, I stopped to give it ten minutes. Bugger me, I was there for two hours. I was really fucking pleased with what it was and how the engine still worked within the equation and that engine was the insanity and stupidity of war. War between two men, in that case, who fight on thought they both eventually can’t remember the reason why. It was great, yeah. The great thing about these platforms now is that, one way or another, they’ll seek out and then put out the best possible form and the long form. Frequently, films get cut down because of that curse in which the studio felt or feels that they have to preview. And there’s nothing worse than a preview to diminish the original intent.Oh, yeah, how about every fucking time? And I’ve stewed about films later even more because when you tell the same joke 20 times the joke’s no longer funny. When you tell a bad joke once or twice? It’s fine. But come on, now. Here’s the key on the way I feel when I approach the movie: I try to keep myself as withdrawn from the project as possible once I’ve filmed it. And – this is all key on this – then getting a really excellent editor so I never have to sit in on editing. What happens if you sit in is you become stale and every passage or joke, metaphorically speaking, gets more and more tired. You start cutting it all back because of fatigue. So what you have to do is keep your distance and therefore, in a funny kind of way, you, as the director, should be the preview and that’s it.”
~ Sir Ridley Scott