- LOS ANGELES
Three West Coast-based editors whose lives and work made an impact on their colleagues, their clients and their peers are being honored with posthumous induction into the AICE Hall of Fame at this year’s AICE Awards on May 10 in Culver City, California.
Editors Michael Bartoli of Hybrid Edit, Chris Hafner of Cutters and Eric Zumbrunnen of Exile are all being inducted in recognition of their accomplishments as editors and company owners and their overall impact on the industry. Bartoli passed away in 2016; Zumbrunnen in 2017; and Hafner earlier this year.
AICP West Chapter Board members LaRue Anderson of Apache and Yvette Cobarrubias-Sears of Cosmo Street, who are leading the planning for this year’s AICE Awards presentation, said the process of selecting Bartoli, Hafner and Zumbrunnen for the Hall of Fame was an easy one. “We looked for talents who jumped out as having an outstanding body of work and whose careers were marked by integrity, exceptional accolades and the overwhelming respect of their colleagues,” says Cobarrubias-Sears. “Michael, Chris and Eric checked all of those boxes. Sadly, all of them left us within the past two years, so it’s been an emotional time for the postproduction community here, to see such revered and talented friends and colleagues gone.”
Anderson pointed out that each of the inductees played a unique role in the postproduction community. “Michael was renowned as a mentor,” she said. “From his days at Red Car, then at Filmcore and later at his own shop, Hybrid, he helped turn assistants into editors. There are quite a few editors in our industry today who owe their careers to him. Chris opened his own company, Brass Knuckles, on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice long before the area was considered cool. He had a musical background and brought a real rock and roll vibe to his work. Everyone who worked with him loved him. And Eric started out working on commercials and music videos but leapt into our consciousness when he cut Spike Jonze’s ‘Being John Malkovich’ in 1999. He was a talent everyone wanted to work with.”
Bartoli: A Laugh You Can’t Forget
A California native, Bartoli--widely known simply as Bart--got his start as a runner at Red Car, the legendary editorial company founded by editor Larry Bridges. While there he advanced to the role of senior editor, later joining Mad River Post. He was recruited to join Filmcore by editor Steve McCoy, himself a member of the AICE Hall of Fame, then returned for a second stint with Bridges at Red Car before partnering with editor Susan Munro to open Hybrid Edit.
Munro met Bartoli at Red Car and says the two immediately clicked. “Editors can be territorial when it comes to their clients, but that was not the case with Michael,” she said. “He had no ego. He shared his clients, we shared cuts with each other, he was always very open, collaborative and supportive.” Just as her relationship with him clicked, so did those with his clients, she adds: “He had a great rapport with them and called many his friends. With Michael, it was about more than the work, it was about the relationship. That made him an amazing partner.”
His work for Dreyer’s Ice Cream won a Clio, and he cut for such clients as In & Out, Del Monte and Mountain Dew. Known for his versatility, Bartoli was often brought in early by creative teams to contribute during the creative development process and was an expert when it came to humor and the integration of special effects. He worked with every major agency on the West Coast (including CAA) and many in Chicago and New York, and regularly collaborated with such directors as Bob Giraldi, Jeff Gorman, Gary Johns, Jon Francis and Jordan Cronenweth. He also dabbled in feature promotion, cutting the trailers for Spike Lee’s debut film “Do the Right Thing,” and more recently partnered with the director Chris Robinson on the Kevin Hart skit for BET that launched the parody series “The Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
It was his childhood friend, Bert Kelley, a longtime executive producer (and now partner) at the L.A. agency Davis Elan, who recommended to Bridges that Bartoli might fit in well at Red Car. He went on to edit with Bartoli at each of his career stops, right up until his passing, on spots for clients like Toyota, McDonald’s, Great Call and many others. “Michael was the nicest, most helpful guy, the kind who would go above and beyond for you, and as a result he was loved and respected by everyone he worked with,” Kelley said. “He had his finger on the pulse of life, and was a good person to lead the way. And he did that for a lot of us.”
Chris Gipson, a partner and editor at Republic Editorial in Dallas, might agree. He first met Bartoli during Bartoli’s second stint at Red Car. “Bart was one of those guys who always wore a smile, and when he wasn’t editing he was strumming one of the many guitars that adorned his edit suite,” Gipson said. “He liked to laugh, and had a laugh that’s hard to forget. As an editor he was generous and encouraging. If you wanted his opinion on an edit he would give it, but in a very constructive and helpful manner.” Gipson recalls a time when Bartoli was cutting a large package of spots for Lincoln and, knowing Gipson was young and building his reel, handed off a cut down for Gipson to edit. “Although I looked up to Bart and saw him on a different level as a mentor, Bart saw me as an equal.”
Hafner: The Epitome of an Artist
Chris Hafner attended film school at NYU and was nominated for six Emmy Awards--and won for anti-drug PSAs he wrote, directed and edited--before he’d even graduated. He then joined a New York post facility where he was asked to edit a concert film for Ozzy Osbourne, which opened the door for his career as an editor and director of music videos. He went on to direct and edit clips for such artists as Tommy Lee, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Tupac and Lil’ Kim, while also working on commercials for brands like Microsoft, Gap, Target, Best Buy and others.
Kurt Kulas, managing director of Cutters in Detroit, worked closely with Hafner on the Mazda business during his tenure as an executive producer at Doner’s office there. Kulas explains that as his automotive reel grew, Hafner closed Brass Knuckles and moved to Detroit, where he initially joined GTN, later re-branded as RingSide Creative. When that company was acquired by Cutters he stayed on, later moving to the company’s Chicago office for several years before transferring to its Santa Monica studio in 2012.
“Chris could be like a mad scientist when he worked,” Kulas recalled. “He liked it best when the room was dark, and he could hover over the keyboard. You could tell when he was really locked in--he’d be snapping his fingers on both hands, like he was trying to find the rhythm or the pace, and everyone knew to just be quiet and let the magic happen.”
In addition to editing, Hafner was also represented on the directorial roster of Dictionary Films, the sister production company to Cutters, where he directed spots for brands like Carhart, FootJoy and PwC. “Chris was one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever met,” said Cutters partner and managing director Craig Duncan. “He saw the world in a unique way, and could see things faster than anyone else. He was always enthusiastic and hyper-creative, really just the epitome of an artist.”
“Chris was a tremendously energetic guy, and that would translate into the cut,” said Supply & Demand director Jeffery Plansker, who directed many automotive spots edited by Hafner. “And he’s constantly try and push it. And he was courageous, not afraid that he’d get pushback, and that might have come from his music video background.”
Zumbrunnen: Lighting People Up
Exile’s Eric Zumbrunnen, also a California native, graduated from USC with a degree in journalism before launching his career in post. He worked his way up the editorial ranks, and was cutting a music video for director Tamra Davis when he met Spike Jonze, who would become his friend and creative partner for the next two decades. The pair collaborated on music videos, commercials and features, most notably “Being John Malkovich,” Jonze’s debut feature. Zumbrunnen--known to almost all as EZ--later edited Jonze’s “Adaptation” and co-edited his next two films, “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Her.”
A multiple AICE Award winner, he was also honored by ACE, the American Cinema Editors, with its Best Edited Feature Award for “Being John Malkovich.” More recently, his work on Kenzo’s “My Mutant Brain” spot, also directed by Jonze, won a Bronze Lion in the editing category of the Cannes Film Craft Lions last year. Many of Zumbrunnen’s commercial collaborations with Jonze were honored by the AICP Show, and are part of the Department of Film archives at The Museum of Modern Art.
His advertising work included spots for such brands as, Nike, Apple, EA, Gap, Levi’s and Ikea (his “Lamp” spot, directed by Jonze for CP+B, won the Film Lions Grand Prix in 2003), while his music video reel includes work for such artists as Beck, Bjork, Smashing Pumpkins, Chemical Brothers and of course Fatboy Slim and its Christopher Walken-starring “Weapon of Choice,” yet another collaboration with Jonze.
In the tribute article on Zumbrunnen published last year in “CinemaEditor,” the ACE quarterly magazine, Jonze had this to say: “Eric had that elusive combination of honesty, kindness and immaculate taste that made me feel so loved and safe. And wit...brutal, beautiful, take-no-prisoners wit. He could find a laugh at any time about anything, and do it with grace. Who knows how to do that?”
In the same article, directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, with whom Zumbrunnen edited several music videos, said, “When we hired him to edit a music documentary, we quickly discovered Eric had editing superpowers. As a musician he had an incredible sense of timing and ability to sync music and visuals. Watching a music video cut by Eric you could hear the song better. He had other super skills...he could push the capabilities of the Avid edit system to do effects work no one else knew how to accomplish.”
Shelley Eisner, a senior freelance agency producer, cut often with Zumbrunnen, most recently on Nike’s “The Roger Effect.” She says he stood out “for his insight, his intellect and how he could handle the cocktail party of advertising, all those comments that would come from creatives and clients. He could translate those into an edit that was true to the creative while still responding to what was said. That’s what made EZ so special in our industry; he’d never lose sight of the passion of the creative, and would stay focused on what we were trying to do.
“The passion he felt about everything we worked on, it lit me up,” Eisner continued. “He’d make you excited about what you were doing, and it would affect all of us in the edit bay. He loved what he did, and made everyone around him better because of it. I loved working with him.”
In addition to the Hall of Fame inductees, an ‘In Memoriam’ video will be presented at the awards show to honor three executive producers, well-known and respected in the L.A. post community, who also passed away within the past year. They include Linda Carlson, who co-founded Rock Paper Scissors with her husband, the editor Angus Wall; Angela Dorian, who was an EP at Rock Paper Scissors before retiring from the industry; and Mary O’Gara, a producer and EP who worked at a variety of color grading and visual effects studios, including Filmworkers, Company 3, Carbon VFX and Liquid VFX.
The 2018 AICE Awards, the 17th annual competition for excellence in the postproduction arts, is the first being conducted under the auspices of AICP. It takes place on Thursday, May 10, at Unici Casa in Culver City, California. Tickets are now available; for more information on the event, click here.