‘E.T.’ editor Carol Littleton talks about working in a man’s world, learning new tricks and more

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Carol Littleton. Photo provided

Carol Littleton. Photo provided

In the eight years she worked in the film industry before landing the job as editor on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Carol Littleton dealt with both sexism and nepotism. But she refused to give up on her interesting moviemaking career.

“I think in some ways that may be the Oklahoma part of me. I’m pretty tough,” Littleton told my excellent colleague Nathan Poppe in a recent Q&A for The Oklahoman.

“I’ve never been militant about being feminist, but I am, and I have found ways to work as a woman in the film industry that was, certainly when I started, primarily men. I’ve worked in a man’s world the whole time, and I’ve just learned to be very patient, be very clear about how I see things and not be belligerent. That doesn’t get anybody anywhere.”

Born in 1948 in Oklahoma City and raised in Miami in northeastern Oklahoma, Littleton earned an Oscar nomination for her work on E.T. and a Primetime Emmy for the 1999 TV movie Tuesdays with Morrie. This week, she will return to her home state for her first visit to the 16th annual deadCenter Film Festival. She’ll receive the Oklahoma City festival’s Oklahoma Film Icon award and participate in a panel discussion about editing. The festival runs Wednesday through June 12.

Although she is best known for E.T., Littleton has edited more than 30 films for the big screen and television, including The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and Benny & Joon. She has adapted to the digital age and continued to work in the industry; her latest project is HBO’s All the Way, starring Bryan Cranston reprising his Tony-winning turn as President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I get very angry with people who feel like the times have passed them by, because that’s your responsibility to keep up with it. If you can’t keep up with it, then that’s your fault. Film now is decentralized. We no longer work in studios. We work in offices away from studios. Films are shot all over the world,” Littleton said.

“I’m surviving, and I don’t have to have a government program show me what to do. (Laughs.) I get a little bit provoked by people in other industries who feel like they can only do one thing and they can’t learn anything new. Give me a break. And I’m older than all you guys. I could have retired years ago, and I’m still working. So, an old dog can learn new tricks.”

To read more of Nathan’s interview with Littleton, click here.

Female cinematographers refuse to stay in the shadows

Some new advocacy efforts show that small yet mighty number of female cinematographers working in film are refusing to stay hidden in the shadows.

Writing for the New York Times, Melena Ryzik reports that Autumn Eakin, a member of International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, started in February Cinematographers XX, a website and networking group showcasing the work of female directors of photography.

“Yes, we need to talk about the fact that there are few women, because there are,” Eakin said. “But it’s also important to advocate for people who are there. There have been women shooting, telling stories, for decades, at least. We are here!”

The International Collective of Female Cinematographers, a networking and resource site that started up in April, was formed, spokeswoman told Ryzik, “out of the desire to get rid of the singular excuse we hear so often: ‘There just aren’t enough female D.P.s.’’’ A documentary, Cameraperson, about the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, has been making the festival rounds.

Local 600 also is also working on behalf of its women embers, publishing an ad in the Hollywood trade journals with the names of female directors of photography and camera operators, as a reminder that they exist and are hirable, and convening meetings with studios and producers. Branches of the union have also organized women’s conferences and in January named Xiomara Comrie its national diversity officer, a new post, to coordinate and expand outreach.

Women make up about 12 percent of Local 600’s camera department roster, according to the NY Times report. And the statistics for women cinematographers working in mainstream film are as discouraging as those for women directors: For the 2,000 top-grossing movies from 1994 to 2013, only 1.8 percent of the cinematographers were women, according to a study by the producer and researcher Stephen Follows.

And the overall numbers for technical jobs have actually gotten worse for women since 1994, he said.

Rachel Morrison, a cinematographer who shot the indie favorites Fruitvale Station and Dope, said women have to work harder to prove themselves.

“I’ve had something like seven films at Sundance, one of which won the Grand Jury Prize,” she said. “I’ve noticed male counterparts who had similar successes getting a phone call” to do a big-budget studio film. “I wasn’t getting those phone calls.”

“There’s never a call like, ‘You did great on your $5 million movie, here’s a $100 million project,’” she added. “My experience is that guys get to take the fast route.”

Hopefully, these advocacy efforts will help lead to positive change.


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