At last month’s Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, film editor Geeta Gandbhir won one of the coveted winged statuettes for her work on Spike Lee’s HBO’ documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” She won the Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Picture Editing in Nonfiction Programming and shared it with supervising editor Sam Pollard and editor Nancy Novack.
The film, which received three Emmys, portrays New Orleans in the wake of Katrina’s destruction with powerful music, imagery and words. It includes interviews from 100 people selected from diverse backgrounds, including Louisiana’s Governor Blanco and rapper Kanye West and has been described as the “opposite of a Ken Burns documentary.” (NYT). Clips: 1, 2,3, 4.
Read on to learn how Gandbhir, who has worked in the industry for over 15 years, got her start in editing, her other projects, and why babies and Emmys don’t mix.
How did you get interested and started in editing?
I originally worked in animation for a Harvard professor, until I met Spike Lee. He gave me a job as an intern in the edit department on his film “Macolm X” and that was the start of my edit career. I studied art and animation in college and have always been interested in storytelling through film and theater, so editing seemed to be perfect for me – telling stories through a visual medium.
What are your favorite films?
Too many too be named but a few are “La Haine,” “The Constant Gardener,” “Quilombo,” “The Piano” and “Sholay” – the epic Hindi flick! I also love “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcom X.”
Where do you keep the Emmy statuette?
In its styrofoam box in my bedroom so that my 2 ½-year-old son won’t impale himself on it. Its wings are sharp!
How did you feel when you won the award?
Shocked, honored, and nervous that I would trip on the way up to the stage. I am so glad that I won for this project though, as it’s about such a critical issue.
Responding to a question about women in film editing, Thelma Schoonmaker said: “I think women make good collaborators, and every director deserves that kind of support. Editing requires very hard work, patience, discipline, and good organizational skills, and these are second nature to many women. Of course, talent is the most important thing in editing—a sense of how to shape material, how to get the best out of the actors’ performances, rhythm, pacing, structure, a good musical sense—and that is not something only women have.” (Home Theater)
What do you think? Would you add anything based on your experiences as a minority woman in film editing?
I would add Hollywood is still a male-dominated business, and it can be hard for women, particularly of color, to get the bigger gigs. We just have to keep trying.
What projects are you working on now? Next?
I just had a baby in June so I am taking off until January to enjoy the baby. After that I am working on a documentary film about Marvin Gaye with Sam Pollard (producer of “When the Levees Broke”). My husband and I also have a film and animation production company, Kali Ra Productions with several projects in development, which we are shopping to networks.
More: “Mehret.” edited by Gandbhir.