Oscars: “The Fighter” editor Pamela Martin on David O. Russell, “Raging Bull” and her first nom

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: You never can tell when that first Oscar nod will arrive. So on the morning that nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards were announced, Pamela Martin admits that she was in bed with the TV off.

“When I heard my husband’s cell phone ping at 6 a.m., and then I heard mine downstairs start going ping ping ping, I figured there was some good news,” Martin said with a big laugh.

The best kind of news, in fact. Martin received her first Oscar nomination for her work editing David O. Russell’s Best Picture-nominated “The Fighter.” And while she was able to bask in the glow of industry recognition for a few minutes, reality immediately pulled this grounded professional right back down to earth.

“I work full-time, and I’m a mother,” Martin said. “Even the morning of the nominations, I started getting phone calls from friends and family, and while I was on the phone with someone who was congratulating me, I finally had to say, ‘You know what, I have to go make my kids’ lunch now!’ I’m still a mom, you know?”

Ironically, Martin’s first gig editing a feature arrived back in 1994 when she cut Russell’s debut picture, “Spanking the Monkey.”

“We cut ‘Spanking the Monkey’ on film in his apartment in New York,” she recalls. “We didn’t have Avids back then, so we spent a lot of time tearing apart scenes. That meant talking something through for hours and really planning how you were going to do it, because you were going to rip apart all of the film and potentially put it all back together again if it didn’t work. Now it’s a lot more free form because you can try any whim. It’s so quick, cutting in the digital age.”

“Monkey” was the first of several dark comedies on Martin’s resume, which includes Mark Waters’ “The House of Yes,” Tamara Jenkins’ “Slums of Beverly Hills” and the Oscar-winning “Little Miss Sunshine.”

“I love dark comedies. They are the kinds of scripts I respond to most,” Martin said. “And I personally think all good dramas have a little comedy in them, anyway, because real life is kind of funny. … David’s philosophy is very similar to mine, which is that if you play people in a real way, the things that people actually say and do to each other is funny, Tragedy is funny. If you can’t laugh at life, you’ll just be depressed all of the time.”

But Martin recognizes that both she and Russell have matured in the 16 years since their first collaboration. They both, in her words, have lived full lives, which helped Martin relate to human nature and appreciate the flawed characters in Russell’s film.

“I find that I had a lot of love for all of the people in ‘The Fighter,’” she says. “And maybe I wouldn’t have 17 years ago. But life experiences help influence things. And I think the same holds true for David. He had his ups and downs. He made four movies in between us working together again. He got divorced. He ha a lot of things happen in his life and I think he had to come out fighting this time. And I think the movie really resonates personally for him in that way, because it’s about fighters.”

As for “The Fighter,” Martin said she was a little bit surprised that she’d even be allowed to collaborate on such a picture because of the subject matter. “It’s very rare that women get a shot at doing a sports movie, first of all,” she said. We immediately start discussing Thelma Schoonmaker’s work on Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull,” which Martin admits to watching several times while working on “The Fighter.”

“It’s amazing. I watched it many, many times,” Martin said. “The only boxing scenes we had in the movie that are similar in style is the short montage we have when [Micky] starts coming back and winning a few fights. And they were shot in a very stylized manner, like ‘Raging Bull.’ But the rest of the boxing scenes have no real resemblance to ‘Raging Bull’ because of the way they were shot. The only other way that ‘Raging Bull’ influenced us, though, was how Scorsese’s film made you experience that neighborhood, how real and gritty it really was. You could draw parallels to ‘The Fighter’ and how ‘Raging Bull’ was put together. The boxing is really just a backdrop to a complicated family drama.”

The Oscar nomination, meanwhile, has made Martin “crazy busy” in the short term as she attends most of the events held during the run-up to the awards program. In the long term, however, Martin’s anxious to see of Oscar can help open fresh doors.

“Hopefully what it will do for me is that I’d love to do more dramas, so hopefully I’ll get some interesting meetings out of this for some future projects,” she said.

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