Nancy Richardson and “catching the film bug”

On Wednesday, March 8th, the Villanova on Set cohort found ourselves on the well-treaded vinyl road of UCLA’s inner campus that led straight to a small movie-theater style room, housing the great film editor, Nancy Richardson. Though it was joked about how her title may seem ostentatious, Richardson is indeed an entertainment industry in every right. Having gotten her start at UC Berkeley as an english major, she explained how taking a class entitled “Shakespeare in Film” became the pivotal event to crafting her future as it lead her to attend UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and ultimately become a “film-maker” (a word that Richardson believes is not in use as much as it should be). She has worked on projects such as “Lords of Dogtown,” “Warm Bodies,” “Twilight,” and most recently, “Divergent” and “Insurgent.”

Richardson gave us some of the most crucial advice in terms of following in her footsteps and one day creating our own films. What I found to be most significant was her explanation of why to wait to apply to film school. According to Richardson, one should “GO WORK” and meet and listen from real-life people with life experiences, and gain some experiences themselves, before applying to film school so that one can be sure to have stories they are passionate about sharing. Once in school, she detailed the importance on knowing what you don’t know and specifically asking for help and never pretending to know. Film school allows you to grow as a creator, but is only for those who have experienced enough of the world to be able to tell their own stories. UCLA in particular is all about helping aspiring  film-makers find their voice. In addition, film school is beneficial as it gives you a network of friends and colleagues who share in the passion of movie making. Richardson herself has worked with fellow UCLA classmates years beyond graduation; one of her first collaborative projects from 1988 was “Stand and Deliver,” which went on to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Edward James Olmos role as the high school math teacher.

Among other topics, Richardson shared why guilds and unions are important to workers – such that the hours are moderately reasonable, workers can gain benefits, and no one dies from exhaustion on working on a project, though it may be a “labor of love” – and the various steps one takes to become a picture editor, beginning with assistant work.

Lastly, an interesting tidbit about Richardson is that one of her pet peeves is when green screens are left on computer and television screens to be digitally and visually manipulated in post production, as these are edits that require thousands of dollars that may be fixed by simply leaving the monitors off. A fact I had previously been unaware of but now cannot un-see whenever it appears in what I am watching.