EditFest: 'Star Wars' Editor Urges More Diverse Stories in Film

"There's still a long way to go," said Oscar-winning editor Richard Chew.
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Richard Chew

Richard Chew — an Oscar winner for editing 1977’s Star Wars with Paul Hirsch and Marcia Lucas — believes Hollywood still has “a long way to go” in telling more diverse stories.

Speaking in a featured conversation Saturday at American Cinema Editors' EditFest L.A., the veteran editor, who was born in Los Angeles to Chinese immigrant parents and studied Law at Harvard, said an inspiration for getting into film was “to be able to tell the story of people that the majority might feel are ‘the others.’ I always hated the notion of the ‘they.’ I wanted to work in film so I could tell the stories of those people."

Speaking after the session with The Hollywood Reporter, Chew admitted: “I find that there’s still a long way to go. In some pictures in Hollywood today, we are trying to overcompensate, perhaps ... maybe, for instance, by making African-Americans as victims.” He added that, instead, he would like to see more films that “show that they initiate action — like Hidden Figures."

Chew continued: “Just because the actor has dark skin doesn’t mean that we’ve found equality in terms of portrayals. The characters have to be allowed to live out a full life. They have to be portrayed in the same way — with a sense of humor and a sense of purpose. We see so many different shades of Americans these days, coming from different cultural and religious backgrounds. We have to acknowledge that in that fabric, everyone is contributing to what America has become. It's not the America of the ‘50s that I grew up in."

That belief was among the reasons that Chew chose his current project, The Public, an indie written by, directed by and starring Emilio Estevez. "The drama centers around a group of homeless people in Cincinnati’s public library, and they decide to have a non-violent protest against the lack of housing for the homeless," he explained. "I was drawn to that because there’s voice given to the homeless that doesn’t paint them in an idealistic manner or as a stereotype. They are not just victims, they perpetrate action.”

During the daylong EditFest, which drew more than 400 attendees to the Walt Disney Studios, speakers included ACE president Stephen Rivkin (Avatar), Virginia Katz (Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast) and Paul Rubell (Collateral).

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