How Oscar-nominated ‘King Richard’ editor Pamela Martin aced the tennis scenes [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“Little Miss Sunshine” and “Slums of Beverly Hills” editor Pamela Martin was almost two decades into her career when she first worked on a sports movie. But following her success on 2010’s “The Fighter,” which earned Martin her first Oscar nomination in the Best Editing category, Martin has thrived when cutting films about competition. She reteamed with “Little Miss Sunshine” filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for “The Battle of the Sexes,” and got back on the proverbial court last year for Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard.” 

“I learned on my first sports movie you really have to know what story you’re telling in every match,” Martin, an Oscar nominee this year for “King Richard,” tells Gold Derby.

For the tennis drama about Venus and Serena Williams, Martin says the key to editing the project was making sure the matches and tennis sequences served the story of the Williams family. That meant taking an approach that eschewed observation and put the viewers right next to Venus and Serena as they struggled to make an impact in the early days of their now-legendary careers.

“We don’t have sports commentators. They were not live televised events,” Martin says of cutting the tennis matches. “There were no existing commentators we could go to, and we didn’t want to make it up. We had to rely on music, sound, and cutting for the action and arc of the drama in the scenes without that tool.”

Despite her familiarity with tennis after “The Battle of the Sexes” and an interest in the sport and particularly the Williams sisters, Martin says she had some initial reticence about signing on for the project. But her desire to work with Green, whom she had met at the Sundance labs in 2017, and her appreciation of the Oscar-nominated script by Zach Baylin, made the decision that much easier.

“Any of these sports movies I’ve done, they’re not sports movies,” Martin says. “They have sports in them, but they’re not really sports movies. They’re about the people. I just thought this was an incredible story.”

Set in the early 1990s, “King Richard” finds its entry point into the Williams family through the patriarch, Richard Williams (Will Smith), who came up with a 78-page plan that foretold the success of Venus and Serena. The Warner Bros. film is a major awards player this year and is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Smith), Best Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), Best Original Screenplay, Best Song, and Martin’s Best Editing recognition. But of those six nominations, only Martin could potentially win her Academy Award away from the Oscars ceremony. In a controversial move, the Oscars recently announced that eight categories, including Best Editing, will be awarded in the hour before the ceremony officially begins. Speeches by those winners will then be edited into the official show, a result that Academy president David Rubin suggested would lead to a “tighter and more electric” television broadcast. Asked about the decision, which was denounced by the American Cinema Editors among other guilds, Martin says she is “disappointed” but that it doesn’t diminish the achievement of being an Oscar nominee.

“It’s an incredible honor. It doesn’t take away from all the hard work. It doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel incredibly appreciated by my fellow filmmakers and the people I made the movie with. That’s a beautiful thing,” she says. ‘Unfortunately, the way it was done, it doesn’t make you feel [good]. It’s a little disheartening. They presented it in a way that was like, ‘Oh, the way it was going to play on the show is the same experience for everyone.’ If it was the same experience for everybody, they wouldn’t have chosen those categories, they would have pulled them randomly out of a hat.”

Martin says she’s heard from academy members who have told her they won’t watch this year’s ceremony because of the move, which came on the heels of the academy’s much-criticized decision to bestow an award this year on a “fan-favorite” movie as voted upon by Twitter users. 

“I don’t think they’re going to gain more viewers by doing this. People who don’t watch the Oscars are not interested in this sort of thing,” she says. “So it’s a little disappointing. And the fact that they’re spending more screentime on Twitter-voted best awards at the expense of the production designers or editors or short films being in the live show in the way we’re accustomed to is disappointing as well.”

But despite the way it was handled, Martin says she can’t wait to celebrate her nomination and “King Richard” at the ceremony next month. “I’m going to go out there and have a really fun night no matter how they do it,” she says.

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest predictions

More News from GoldDerby