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Paul Hirsch, one of the three editors behind A New Hope alongside Marcia Lucas and Paul Chew, takes a look back at a short-lived but fascinating phenomenon known as the Droid Olympics in this article from 2005, looking fondly back at a fun event for editors to show off their reel skills.

The article was stumbled upon by ILM legend and friend of the site Hal Hickel, who posted it to his page yesterday.

The friendly spirit of camaraderie and community combined with an excitement about the art and craft of film, reached its epitome for me in the event known as the Droid Olympics. There were actually three of them: one in 1978, one in 1980 and one in 1982. I missed the first of these, but was lucky enough to be there for the latter two, and they were among the most enjoyable memories I have of my days there.

The notion for these Olympics came from Murch, who was editing Apocalypse Now for Coppola in 1978, when the first event was held. According to him, “There was a lot of film—1,250,000 feet of workprint—with so much robotic reconstituting of trims, that the half-dozen assistants on the film started calling themselves ‘droids’ in honor of the robots in Star Wars, which had been released the year before.

Image courtesy of Walter Murch

“In June of ’78, my wife Aggie had put on a horse show for the local kids in Bolinas,” Murch continued. “And I was eyeing the ribbons and trophies when the idea came to me to throw a similar event for the assistant editors on Apocalypse, to celebrate their skills.”

These are all arcane abilities today, largely forgotten in the wake of the now 10-year-old digital revolution in the professional cutting room. The games were staged at times when there were enough feature films cutting in the area to supply teams to compete, usually four or five. There never was much of a film industry in San Francisco, and the activity ebbed and flowed. But when there were enough pictures working at the same time, the “Games” were held. In those days, editing crews ran from three or four assistants up to eight or more.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Thomas G. Smith (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 279 Pages - 10/12/1987 (Publication Date) - Ballantine Books (Publisher)