International Animated Film Society Considers Adding Editing Category to Annie Awards

American Cinema Editors, DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation lobby organization for new category.

A growing number of individual and companies -- as well as American Cinema Editors group -- have asked the International Animated Film Society to consider adding an editing category in its annual Annie Awards.

DreamWorks Animation hosted a meeting Wednesday at its Glendale campus to discuss the issue. The meeting included a group of those that would like to see the category added -- including representatives from DWA, ACE and Sony Pictures Animation -- and ASIFA board members. An ASIFA board meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night, when a decision could be reached.

Darren Holmes, a co-editor of How to Train Your Dragon and an editor on such movies as Ratatouille, brought the group into his cutting room, where he explained the editor's role in the story development process. Academy Award nominee Chris Sanders, who co-directed Dragon, also spoke about role of the editor, whose work shaping the story begins early on with the director, writers and other key members of the creative team.

"A lot of the writing gets completed in the editing room," Holmes said, showing a series of early storyboards that were meant to open Dragon, featuring Hiccup waking up in his bed during the start of an attack. The film actually begins with an introduction to the Vikings' village. "The dramatic timing elements aren't in place until we build them here. ... Even the dialogue and performances themselves --sometimes a single sentence may be cut from five different takes."

"I look at editorial as a huge storytelling tool," Sanders said. "There was a critical moment in Dragon where there was something about the movie that felt leaden." He said the team decided to step back and leave the film in editorial, where revisions were made.

"That really was really the turning point for the film," he said. "That version is the version that came to the screen. ... We spend more time in the cutting room there any place else (during production). It is the objectivity, among other things, that we rely on."

He added: "Layout is a gigantic part (of the animation process). Trying to figure out (elements such as where the camera is placed) before the animation is in, is a huge part of this -- and it all happens in editorial."
The editor of an animated movie may in fact be on a film for three or four years, Holmes noted.

"(Editors) work with the director to shape the final product," Oscar-nominated editor Stephen Rivkin (Avatar), a member of ACE's board of directors, said during the presentation. "That may be trimming, adjusting, sometimes it is even rewriting,"

ASIFA's Annie Awards do recognize various roles, with categories including direction, writing, production design and music. For some, editing is a conspicuous absence from this list.

Even in live action, the role of editing -- often referred to as the "invisible art" -- can be overlooked. ACE is also asking certain competitions and film festivals to consider adding an editing category. Letters have been sent to the Shanghai International Film Festival, New York PictureStart Awards, Durban International Film Festival, Boston Film Festival and San Sebastian Film Festival. Rivkin explained that ACE is approaching festivals that already honor cinematography and/or production design.