November 13, 2013

Michael Kahn Honored at SCA

Steven Spielberg Dedicates Chair in Editing to Longtime Collaborator

By Desa Philadelphia

Film Editor Michael Kahn first worked with Steven Spielberg on 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the years since then they have collaborated on most of the director’s films including Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), for which they both won Oscars, and last year’s Lincoln. On Monday November 11th, the Director honored their 37-year relationship by dedicating the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Editing at the School of Cinematic Arts.

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Editor Michael Kahn
and Professor Norm Hollyn

Kahn is one of the most celebrated editors of all time. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, with three wins that also include recognition for his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). His many other awards include a Primetime Emmy for Eleanor and Franklin (1976)—a television miniseries about the early years of the Roosevelts, culminating with the election to the Presidency—and a lifetime achievement award from the American Cinema Editors.

In introducing his friend and collaborator, Spielberg joked that they are bonded by the fact that they were both Eagle Scouts and continue to apply the scouting motto “be prepared” to their work as filmmakers. He noted that while his films rely on actors and crew that could number in the hundreds, after the production has wrapped, he, Kahn and composer John Williams often spend many more months as the small core team who see the projects through to completion. Williams, who attended the dedication event, has been working with Spielberg for forty years.

“The magic of editing is something I will never get over. I will never get over doing the best of my ability to tell a story and handing it over to Mike and having him showing it to me, using the gift of objectivity—something filmmakers are all too quick to lose,” Spielberg told an audience of friends and supporters, gathered at the School’s Ray Stark Theatre. “When you have a friend like I have in Mike, he can show me my movie in different ways over and over again. Without Mike, I wouldn’t be standing up here.”

Kahn, who learned his craft as an assistant to editors, said he was pleased that his accomplishments would inspire SCA students for generations to come. “I got my education at Desilu U. I started on I Love Lucy and moved onto Hogan’s Heroes,” he said. “I did my post-doctoral work with Steven on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and a few other small projects in between over the years.”

The event also recognized Professor Norman Hollyn, who will be the first holder of the Kahn Chair. Hollyn is head of the Editing Track at the School of Cinematic Arts. His credits include The Cotton Club (1984), Heathers (1988) and Oliver Stone’s television miniseries Wild Palms (1993). He writes about filmmaking at