Three prominent filmmakers — Louie Psihoyos, Charles Hambleton and Alan Edward Bell — journeyed to San Diego last week to receive awards from the San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS).
Psihoyos made his Oscar-winning debut into filmmaking last year with the documentary "The Cove." Hambleton, the assistant director of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) served as assistant director on the documentary. In addition to winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary, the film won more than 20 other top industry awards.
It was at a marine mammal conference in San Diego with 2,000 of the worlds top marine mammal scientists, that Psihoyos met Ric O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer and learned about O'Barry's passion to save the dolphins. Eventually O'Barry and Psihoyos, a former National Geographic photographer and director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, took a film crew to Taijii, Japan where massive numbers of dolphins are slaughtered annually for their meat.
"The Cove" is an eco-adventure thrill ride and jaw-dropping look at this practice and its after effects. The crew was threatened with arrest and blocked from the operation's viewing grounds. In addition to the dolphins' slaughter; it's a health issue. Whale and dolphin meat is sold around Japan and is part of school lunch programs, disregarding the research that both species contain high concentrations of mercury. The film crew resorted to some movie magic to expose this practice, and Psihoyos knew the crew faced certain danger in documenting what they saw.
"Paul Watson (a crew member) is an extremist who risked his life to capture part of this story," Psihoyos said. "And it's nice to know there are people out there willing to risk their lives for the environment and a really good cause. There was a large part of mainstream America that did not know about this issue and after seeing the film are now aware of it.
"Charles and I are now working on a television series based on a band of activists who try to solve an ecological problem every episode."
Alan Edward Bell was honored with the critics' choice of Best Editing for the film "500 Days of Summer." Bell has been a music producer, visual effects supervisor, writer, and film editor and producer since the late 1980s. Some of the films he's worked on include "Lord of the Flies," "A Few Good Men," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "The Green Mile," "Hoot" and "Wall Rats."
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and directed by Marc Webb, "500 Days of Summer" was an independent romantic comedy until picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures after its Sundance premiere. The quirky romance stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a greeting card writer who falls for a co-worker. Zooey Deschanel plays the off-beat girl who begins to date him, while continually warning him that she does not believe in true love.
"It's a quirky romance — kind of an exception on romance," said Bell, who admitted he's a fan of romantic comedies. "But not the silly formulaic ones we continually see on the big screen. I like films that reveal the truth about love and romance."
"500 Days of Summer" was nominated and won many industry awards. Efforts of the filmmakers and cast paid off; the movie earned more than $60 million worldwide, distancing its modest $7.5 million budget.
Listening to Bell discuss his career was a reminder of the editor's critical involvement in what's seen on the screen. In essence, the job of telling the story falls into the editor's hands as he (or she) must cut hours of film down to movie length.
"I usually begin editing after the first day is shot," Bell said. "Then director, producers, and cinematographer add their perspectives. Everyday it starts over again with the new footage. It's a very long job, but I love it."
Some of the magic editors perform was revealed when Bell said there was a scene with Deschanel where he didn't like her facial expression. "I looked through hours of footage, found the perfect expression, cut it out and applied it to the other scene. It's seamless; no one would ever be able to pick it out."
Bell will soon begin editing "Water For Elephants" starring Robert Paterson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz.
Editor's note: Diana Saenger is treasurer, past president and a co-founder of The San Diego Film Critics Society.
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- Louie Psihoyos/Charles Hambleton
- Alan Edward Bell