Sunday, July 7, 2013

May 16th, 2013 - My Last Day at Sikelia Productions

On Thursday, May 16th, 2013, I had my last day interning at Sikelia Productions, where I have been an intern for the past year-and-a-half. Over the course of the past eighteen months, I have had so many joyous experiences working at the office of my lifelong hero, Martin Scorsese, including helping out every now and then on the set of Mr. Scorsese's new film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio; assisting three-time Academy Award-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker with her work; working as a research assistant and doing publicity for acclaimed documentary filmmaker Nancy Buirski on her films The Loving Story and Tanaquil Le Clercq: Afternoon of a Faun; working as a production assistant on the set of the HBO pilot Guest Host with Fran Lebowitz; meeting Mr. DiCaprio on several occasions; receiving life advice from the incredible assistant editors Red Charyszyn and Scott Brock; and traveling around the city to deliver packages to the most extraordinary people.

Of course, we are not supposed to go into detail about the internship, so I'll simply say it was consistently the adventure of a lifetime. Earlier this year, for instance, I stood in the same room as Scorsese, George Lucas and Ang Lee!

On my last day at my internship, I had the most moving send-off. I was led unknowingly into the office kitchen to find the whole Sikelia team, including Thelma Schoonmaker, waiting for me with Sprinkles cupcakes, a wonderful card and DVDs of The King of Comedy, Public Speaking and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death. I have never been so moved - and I'd love to share the moment with you in this post.

On my final day, I entered the office feeling very aware that this could be the last time I would be in any of these rooms. As I sat behind the front desk midday, Kyle, one of my fellow interns, came up to me and said we were both needed in the kitchen. I followed Kyle into the kitchen, and suddenly I realized that there were many people in there, kind of crowded around in a circle. I saw Thelma Schoonmaker standing in the middle of the group, and all of a sudden, everyone started clapping. I realized suddenly that they were gathered around for my last day!

I was given a bow-tied gift, which included The King of Comedy and Public Speaking, quite literally the only two Scorsese films I did not already own on DVD, as well a card signed by everyone in the office. Thelma also gave me a DVD of A Matter of Life and Death, one of the masterworks directed by her late husband, the legendary filmmaker Michael Powell. Although I have seen and loved Powell's films The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I have not yet seen A Matter of Life and Death, and Thelma said I would love it. She also said she wanted to give me a copy of The Canterbury Tales, a lesser-known Powell and Pressburger picture she thought I would enjoy. They thanked me profusely for all of my help, and as I was led to the cupcakes, Thelma asked me, "What is your senior thesis film about?"And so I pitched my film to this legendary group of people!

I ended the day by meeting a friend at the Village East Cinema to see the last New York City showing of Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price, which was an incredible surprise – a rich and moving film with an awe-inspiring performance by Dennis Quaid. Bahrani's film is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. We were two of only a handful of people in the theater, and it troubles me deeply that more people aren't seeking out this kind of exceptional, well-made movie. Don't ever tell me there aren't masterful films currently in cinemas - they're just usually not playing at the multiplex. At Any Price joins Mud, Frances Ha, Before Midnight, Stories We Tell and The Place Beyond the Pines as one of the year's best films.

By the end of the day, it was as if everything had coalesced into something magical. I was reminded of that wonderful song by Van Morrison

By the way, the first official trailer for Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street was released recently, and it is perhaps the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. It's particularly amazing for me to watch this trailer, having already been exposed to so many of the scenes that are featured in the trailer. As my fellow intern Natalia Lehaf said to the rest of the interns, it feels like this movie is our baby - we saw it through pre-production, the entire shooting period and now well into the post-production period. It's hard for me to believe that the movie I watched and heard Thelma edit in her office is the new picture from the greatest filmmaker of all time.

I haven't been this excited about a trailer since the trailer for The Departed was released back in the summer of 2006 (I watched the trailer over and over again online, and I remember by the time I finally saw it play before a movie - Michael Mann's Miami Vice - I could already quote every line). 

Mr. Scorsese has had a wonderful year so far. In February, Scorsese was selected to deliver the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, making him the first filmmaker to receive this honor. Previous lecturers have included Arthur Miller, Robert Penn Warren, Toni Morrison and John Updike, but never before a filmmaker. The day after the Jefferson Lecture, Scorsese spoke at a NYU Alumni Luncheon at NYU's campus in Washington D.C. with Tisch Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell.

In May, Variety revealed that Andrew Garfield and Ken Watanabe will star in Scorsese's next filmSilence, an adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo that Scorsese has longed to make for years. In March, Scorsese was ranked #3 on Forbes Magazine's list of the Most Influential Celebrities. And after Roger Ebert passed away, Scorsese had some wonderful words about his friendship with the great film critic.

Finally, here is Scorsese speaking about the restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which his Film Foundation beautifully restored. And, for a great read, here's an article from Flickering Myth about why Goodfellas has the best film soundtrack of all time, as well as an article about what your favorite Scorsese film says about you.

In other news about my heroes, Robert De Niro is re-teaming with director David O. Russell in the new film American Hustle, which already stars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. This is wonderful news, as O. Russell is one of the best filmmakers currently working, and his new film stars many actors who gave outstanding performances in his last two masterpieces, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. You may remember that I was very passionate about De Niro and O. Russell winning Academy Awards earlier this year - for Best Supporting Actor and Best Director, respectively - for their extraordinary work on Silver Linings Playbook. Although I was very disappointed they did not win, I was very happy to see Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) win Oscars. There really is no excuse for Tony Kushner not winning Best Adapted Screenplay for Lincoln, though.

The win for Ang Lee, who is a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts, is particularly exciting, as it marks the fourth time in the past ten years that the Best Director Oscar has gone to a Tisch alumnus (after Lee for Brokeback Mountain in 2006, Martin Scorsese for The Departed in 2007 and Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men in 2008). When looking at this year's Academy Awards, though, I have to agree with this article from the Toronto Star, which argues that Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln were "far more truthful" than Argo, but unfortunately "nuance doesn't make you want to pump your first in the air."

In my next post, I hope to write about the months leading up to my graduation in May, including the production of my senior thesis film You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory

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