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Martin “Marty” Cohen — a beloved member of the postproduction community who during his career headed post at Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks and Paramount — died Sunday of natural causes after a battle with heart disease. Remembered as not just a colleague but a friend and mentor who helped launch many careers, he was 67.
“Marty began in the editing room with Michael Kahn and me on The Color Purple and then made the transition to a postproduction supervisory role on both DreamWorks and Paramount films,” his longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg said Tuesday in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Later, he worked with me and other filmmakers on film preservation, a passion we both shared. But more than anything, Marty was a dedicated and loyal member of our Amblin family for more than three decades. He cared deeply about the way movies looked to audiences, both in theaters and in homes. His keen eye and warm heart will be missed dearly at the finish line of every film we make from here on out.”
A New York native, Cohen graduated from Queens College in 1975 and initially gravitated toward editing, working for such noted editors as Sidney Wolinsky, Richard Marks and Kahn. While working with Kahn on Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun at Amblin, he was asked to head postproduction for the studio.
Cohen served as head of postproduction for Amblin starting in 1987 and oversaw work on films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future Parts II and III, Hook and Schindler’s List, for which he had the additional role of postproduction supervisor.
He then headed postproduction at DreamWorks from 1994, when the studio was formed, to 2005, managing films including the Spielberg-helmed Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and Munich, as well as the studio’s best picture Oscar winners American Beauty and Gladiator.
Cohen then transitioned to Paramount, where he oversaw feature postproduction for all the studio’s releases through 2010. He was also a co-producer on The Hunger Games, as well as an associate producer on Godzilla.
A dedicated film preservationist, Cohen during his career additionally supervised the restoration of classics including Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy and Spielberg’s Jaws.
In October, Cohen was awarded the Motion Picture Editors Guild’s Fellowship and Service Award. At the event, he said, “When you’re on a film, you’re part of a family — a family that grows in size and meaning with each new project and story you give your life and time to. These people became my extended family. They showed me that this work could be a key ingredient in becoming a better human being. They taught me how to prioritize empathy and humanity not only onscreen, but in the places where it mattered most — in our very real lives and relationships, both in and out of the cutting room.”
At the same event, Kahn said, “There has been one constant giving us all that sense of Amblin, that sense of home in every single room, no matter where it is. And that’s Marty.”
In the event’s program book, Jeffrey Katzenberg called Cohen “one of the unsung heroes of our industry.” Amblin vp postproduction Mark Graziano called Cohen the “godfather of post,” but also noted that “first and foremost he’s a teacher, not only in filmmaking but in life.” Editor Dody Dorn remembered how Cohen “always had an open door to discuss the subtleties for surviving and thriving in postproduction,” and two-time Oscar-winning rerecording mixer Andy Nelson shared that Cohen had a laugh “that lights up a room.”
Cohen is survived by his wife, Kathy, a retired physical therapist; daughter, Maggie, a Riverside public defender; son, Gabriel, a marriage and family counselor, and his wife, Zynette; son, Hershel, who works at EFILM, and his wife, Marysa; son, Elijah, a middle school history teacher, and his wife, Brianne; and two grandchildren, Alexis and Maya.
Due to circumstances and safety precautions around the coronavirus pandemic, the family will have a private burial at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary on Friday. A celebration of life will follow at a later date, tentatively set for April 2021.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Martin Cohen Memorial Scholarship Fund at Queens College.
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