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Thelma Schoonmaker - Winner's Acceptance Speech, BAFTA Fellowship, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2019

10 February 2019

Winner's acceptance speech by Thelma Schoonmaker for the BAFTA Fellowship

THELMA SCHOONMAKER:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.

You can't edit sequences like that if they're not incredibly designed by a brilliant director.

My deepest thanks to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge for giving me the honour you have bestowed upon me.  I'm thrilled to be joining the fellowship that contains so many illustrious filmmakers; most importantly for me, Martin Scorsese, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  

And my heartfelt thanks to Cate Blanchett.  Martin Scorsese and I loved Cate's astonishing and Oscar-winning performance as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.  I'll never forget seeing the uncut footage of Cate at the end of her impassioned and futile plea to get Howard Hughes, played by DiCaprio, to come out of the screening room where he'd shut himself away for weeks.

Everyone on the set was so stunned by her performance that Scorsese never called out "cut".  As Cate slowly brought herself back from being Katharine Hepburn to being on the set again, she slowly lifted her head to say quietly, "Did you want something more?"

I have the best job in the world, and I wish I could parcel up little pieces of all the luck I have had over the years to give aspiring filmmakers.  Imagine being chosen by Martin Scorsese to collaborate on 23 of his feature films.  Each one is different and each one is an exhilarating new challenge.

Nothing could be more different from Hugo than the wild and crazy Wolf of Wall Street.  I think some of my fellow editors might like to take out a contract on my life to bump me off so they could get this wonderful job, since many of them maybe in their lifetime only work on two or three really wonderful films.  I have worked on 23 with Scorsese.

Scorsese's favourite part of film-making is editing, and he thinks like an editor when he conceives a film, when he collaborates on the writing of it, and when he shoots it.  I think some of you know how lucky I am to be given footage that is created that way.  Then this utterly brilliant director comes eagerly into the editing room and we cut his films together.  I think without a doubt, every great director has a strong sense of editing.  So it is very precious to me that you are honouring my craft tonight.

Then Marty gave me a second enormous gift.  He addicted me to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the great British filmmakers.  When we were working on Raging Bull, Marty pelted me with videos of their work, because those films taught him how to become a director, and I fell in love with them.  Then Marty introduced me to Michael Powell, not expecting we would fall in love and marry, but we did, and this gave me the happiest ten years of my life, until I lost Michael in 1990.  

How much more could one want in life?  The best job in the world and the best husband in the world.

Michael Powell left a little furnace burning inside of me that has helped me to cope with his loss, which is to work with Scorsese and his film foundation to cherish the Powell/Pressburger legacy, to restore their films and to get as many people as possible to see them.  It is a joy to do this, believe me.

When Marty finally found Michael in 1975, and they met in a Soho restaurant, Michael writes that he was stunned that this young American director knew every shot he had ever taken and was asking him how he had done them.  Michael wrote, "The blood started to run in my veins again."

My undying thanks to Marty for all he has given me, and to BAFTA for recognising our work together as filmmakers and as keepers of the legacy of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  

Thank you so much.