Superchief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren excerpt

Earl WarrenSuperchief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren was edited and co-written by yours truly, Gary Weimberg.   It was directed by Bill Jersey and Judith Leonard and nominated for an Academy Award, 1989.

Bill Jersey is one of the greats in the history of documentary film.  I am proud to call him a mentor and friend.  I first came to his attention because of the editing I’d done on the documentary Dear America: Letters from American Soldiers which impressed him so much that he came up to me after a screening and suggested he might have editing work for me.

His exact words were: “Send me a doo-dah.”
“A what?” i asked, confused.
“A doo-dah, you know, a resume or whatever …”

Cleverly, he didn’t hire me himself.  He was mentoring/supporting Marilyn Mulford, another wonderful film maker,  by providing her with free office space and the then best-available piece of technology for editing – the Steenbeck flatbad film editing table.  Marilyn needed a new pair of eyes in the room and a pair of hands on the machine.  She hired me and we finished her film together and have been friends and collaborators ever since.  Bill Jersey, by urging her to hire me, got to watch me in action for 5 months on someone else’s film and learn if he liked my work up-close and in depth, without paying a nickel.  Smart guy!

Superchief began with Judith Leonard, who was a lawyer who wanted to be a film maker.  She came to Bill with the idea of a documentary on Earl Warren and the willingness to raise money for it.  In time, I joined their team and off we went – making a very worthwhile film about a very worthwhile man.

It was Judith’s first film.  She raised the money.  She co-wrote the script.  She got Gregory Peck to narrate.  It got broadcast on PBS.  It got rave reviews.  Then it got nominated for an Oscar.
I said Judy, “Don’t get used to this.  It isn’t always this easy.”

     About this excerpt:

They hired a good friend of mine who is a wonderful composer to create the music, Mark Adler.  I had edited the scene you see here using a temporary piece of music from another film, a very rhythmic music cue, more a pulsing beat than an actual melody.  For a couple key jump cuts in the picture,  i deliberately chose to break the rhythm of the music by doing audio jump cuts, totally out of beat, to accentuate the visual dissonance.  Mark couldn’t abide it and despite my pleadings, his score for this scene was … in tempo and in time:  a fine piece of music that always felt wrong to me,  a missed opportunity for an important dramatic scene.

Well, I get the last word here.   The clip uses the temp music I chose, but never saw the light of day, nor left the editing room, until now.  Sorry Mark!

     BUT … (an important word of warning) :

Unfortunately, with temp music comes the temp narrator, who was  … ahem … me.  So, fair warning, you will hear the younger Gary Weimberg as narrator on this clip.

The narrator for the finished piece?  Oh, just some guy by the name of Gregory Peck.

So what you gain in music you lose in voice.

Film making … always a compromise.

     Post post postscript note:

As for Judith Leonard, we got along so well that we partnered up (professionally!) and we made our next 3 films together.  I approached Judy with my idea for a documentary about the mother-daughter relationship and she went crazy for it.  She, Catherine Ryan and I became equal partners in a new company, Original Cinema; and off we went to sell The Story of Mothers and Daughters to ABC … and the world.

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