Tribeca : Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger / Q&A with Thelma Schoonmaker

Tribeca : Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger / Q&A with Thelma Schoonmaker

©Courtesy of Tribeca Festival

Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger : Martin Scorsese reflects on the influence of filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, whose decades-long collaboration led to a series of classics that made the duo a crucial part of British cinema.
Director : David Hinton
Producer : Nick Varley, Matthew Wells
Distributor : Cohen Media Group
Production : CoBBC Film, Ice Cream Films, Ten Thousand 86
Genre : Documentary
Original Language : English
Release Date (Theaters) : Jul 12, 2024, Limited
Runtime : 2h 11m
Made in England : The Film of Powell and Pressburger
©Courtesy of Tribeca Festival
Q&A with Thelma Schoonmaker, Editor and Wife of Michael Powell


Q: For fans of Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Martin Scorsese here at the Tribeca Festival, we are honored to be hosting the wonderful Thelma Schoonmaker.

Thelma Schoonmaker: Oh, it’s so emotional. This film was made with quite a few people who really love Powell. And it came out of years of Marty sending me home with videos of their movies, educating me about them and talking about them all the time.

The producer of this film, Nick Varley, suggested to me that we make a documentary about them because of the wonderful celebration of Powell and Pressburger last year in England, which I participated in a lot. Now MoMA is doing exactly the same celebration. They’re going to run 50 films of these men.

I hope you will go and see them. Marty and I were working on “Killers of the Flower Moon.” David Hinton, the great director of this movie, “Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger,” had already made a beautiful film about Michael earlier and we picked him to direct this. He had already started doing beautiful work, and when we finished Killers of the Flower Moon with Marty and I started being involved in editing as well, which was a great joy,

I never get tired of these movies, and I was so thrilled to be part of it. Marty’s deep emotion about this movie is just what makes it so strong. Nobody ever did more to bring Powell and Pressburger back to the world than Marty. Many other people — Ian Christie, Kevin Goff Yates, Bertrand Trevernier — many did great work to bring it back.

But it was Marty who really, because of his ability to create publicity for them, made sure that the Museum of Modern Art ran a retrospective many years ago. He also got “Peeping Tom” reissued. All these things Marty did. Then he introduced my husband to me. It’s an amazing thing to share with you all. I do hope you’ll go and see things at the Museum of Modern Art. Yes, definitely.

Q: This is such a fascinating documentary, and for a film history nerd , it’s amazing. As much as it is a documentary highlighting the films of Powell and Pressburger, it’s very much a love story from Scorsese to them. Do you think there’s an urgency to tell this story now? Like you’re saying, the genesis of it came from a few of the retrospectives, is that correct?

Thelma Schoonmaker: It came from a man who was distributing the films of Powell and Pressburger, and I  sort of knew him. But, the interesting thing that happened when I went to the celebration in England was that there were so many young people there. I would look out at the audience, and half of them would be young, and they are coming in droves to these meetings.

They’re rediscovering them. I went up to Toronto to show this documentary, and after that they ran 10 films of Powell and Pressburger. They said it was packed with young people. Michael and Emeric would have been so thrilled to know that. Anytime would have been the right time, but we seem to have accidentally hit a particular moment. That’s wonderful.

Q: You made an interesting choice with the film to highlight just a few of their films. Do you think that there is one film that you could pick that is the most meaningful or most special to you from Powell and Pressburger? 

Thelma Schoonmaker: I hate that question because that’s like saying, which of your children do you like best? I love them all. But my personal favorite is the “Life and death of Colonel Blimp,” which I accidentally saw when I was 15.

We weren’t allowed to watch TV except when our mother chose what we should watch at night. But my mother worked as a nursery school teacher and I got home before her from high school and I turned on this wonderful million dollar movie that Marty talks about in the documentary where they ran the same film nine times in one week.

Marty would try and watch them nine times unless his mother got fed up and stopped him. I just happened to turn on the TV and there was this amazing film, “The Life and Death of Colonel.” I will never forget it. It just marked me so deeply. Little did I know that I would, many years later, meet the director and marry him.

Michael’s personal favorite was “A Matter of Life and Death.” he loved being a magician, and could do anything he wanted in that movie. Create heaven and earth, forget all about continuity and the things we’re supposed to do when we make films. Just do what is right. Of course, Rex Ingram, the director that he worked with at the Victorine Studios when he was young, had inspired him with this love of magic. So that was his favorite.

Q: Talk a bit about the decision to tell the story of Powell and Pressberger’s career through the lens of another filmmaker?

Thelma Schoonmaker: I think David Hinton, the wonderful director of this movie, said that he wanted Marty to be the host. He didn’t want a lot of talking heads. But he said, “No, I just want one person. I want Marty to do it.” Of course, we agreed.

I think he was absolutely right. He’s been a champion for their films for such a long time. You can really feel the love and connection to their films through his films. Yes, I think he’s probably one of the best working filmmakers who can talk about film.

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