Andrew Mondshein sees famous people. All the time.
He sees them when he’s alone in the dark in his editing studio. They say “hi” to him on the set and on the street, for they need his help. He has the power. He controls their screen time; he touches up their acting; he decides whether the pubic gets to see the better side of their faces. But like Bruce Willis’ character in “The Sixth Sense,” Mondshein, the acclaimed editor of films such as “Chocolat” and “The Sixth Sense,” does not seem to recognize that somewhere along the line, he has in fact become one of them.
If one were to flash back quickly to his story, one would see glimpses of Mondshein at the Academy Awards with his nomination for “The Sixth Sense;” one would see his footnote in film history as the first editor to use a nonlinear electronic editing system; and one would hear the words “winner” and “critical acclaim” for movies such as “Jason’s Lyric,” “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Chocolat,” that have made him one of the most sought-after editors in Hollywood today.
Vineet Dewan had an opportunity to talk to Mondshein after Mondshein entertained a crowded Master’s Tea in Silliman College.
How did you first get involved with the film “Chocolat”?
Mondshein: I had worked with Lasse [Hallstrom] on two of his previous films, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and “Once Around,” and I also did some finishing work on “The Cider House Rules.” We’ve maintained a very close relationship. But I was unable to do “The Cider House Rules” since I had already committed to doing “The Sixth Sense.”
What initially attracted you to the film industry, and is this something you had always wanted to do?
I loved films when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to realize that this was a way that I could be passionate about expressing some things that I loved. Films in that time, some Sidney Lumet films, “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico” and obviously Stanley Kubrick’s work, just moved me in a way that so shocked and transported me in a way that nothing else had.
Did you originally plan to direct?
It was an aspiration of mine — and of course everybody else’s — to direct. I actually directed a film unfortunately titled “Evidence of Blood.” I learned a lot from it. I’m eager to try again, and various people have expressed interest in me directing something, and I’m developing something at the moment, but I love editing. I’ve found a profession that I truly love, and have been more successful in it than I ever expected to be.
After the industry accolades, the string of Oscar-contender movies and your own Academy Award nomination, how has the success and recognition affected you?
I’m actually grateful that it was 20 years of working before this happened. You can’t not be affected by it. I realized how hard I worked on films prior to this that didn’t get that same attention, and that the stars must align in order for you to have the success for it to happen. And you have to know that it may or may not happen again in the future. The truth is that I worked just as hard on films that were failures as I did on films that were successful. But, yes, I am going to the Oscars this year.
Are you planning on working with “The Sixth Sense” director, M. Night Shyamalan again?
We actually spoke recently about another project next year. We’ll see what happens. I’d love to. He’s an amazingly talented man — ridiculously young too.
What is it like working with these superstar directors? Do they trample on your artistic toes?
Editing is the epitome of a collaborative process, and the ideal situation is when the ultimate result is greater than what either of the two people could bring individually. I think with both Night [Shyamalan] and Lasse [Hallstrom] and others I have worked with, that has been the result. Maybe neither of us could have done “The Sixth Sense” alone, but together we were able to do it — and the same goes for my work with Lasse.
What advice do you have for aspiring Hollywood wannabes?
My advice is twofold. One, there is absolutely no substitute for experience. Do everything you can; do what you’re interested in. A great acting instructor once said, “It takes 10 years to do anything right — and to do it well.” And hand in hand with that there’s persistence. When you persevere, you can absolutely succeed in this business.