Former Maconite earns his first Emmy for eating HBO documentary 1/6/2002 (Charlton McMillan, Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen)
Former Maconite earns his first Emmy for editing HBO documentary
By Joe Kovac, Jr.
Telegraph Staff Writer
Charlton McMillan has made a name for himself. But it’s one of those names that often goes unnoticed. His name flashes in the credits at the end of TV shows. In Hollywood cutting rooms, the Macon-raised McMillan has pieced together segments on television hits like “That’s Incredible” and “Rescue 911.” McMillan’s behind-the-scenes work on an HBO documentary about child beauty queens earned him an Emmy last fall. Even so, an HBO Web site devoted to the film still lists his name as “McMullan.”
But McMillan never went to film school to become a household name. Inspired by his father’s home movie-making in the 1960’s, he just liked telling stories with pictures. And now, as a television editor in Los Angeles, that is essentially what he does.
“It’s tricky,” McMillan says, “because when I say I do TV editing, people think, ‘Oh you’re the guy who cuts movies for TV and takes out all the bad words.’”
No that’s not him.
He sifts raw footage compiled by the documentary makers or the TV show makers and melds it into what is hopefully a logical form.
“We look for the moments that will tell the story the best and develop the story arc. There’s not one particular order that’s right,” McMillan says. “There are many ways a story could be put together. You hope to find the one that tells the most compelling story.”
McMillan’s family lived in the Ingleside Avenue area on Corbin Avenue and later on Rogers Avenue. He took an early liking to his dad’s hobby. E.C. McMillan was a doctor, and he loved making movies.
“When he was in college back in the late 30s he was making little films, kind of silent movie films,” Charlton McMillan, 49, says.
“Then after he had a family it became more just family films. But I took up an interest just watching him work. I was in a high school fraternity, and they had films for their rush parties, and I did that for three summers. At that point I figured it was just a hobby. But then I wanted to go to school and see where it would lead.
He graduated from Stratford Academy in 1970 and went away to Vanderbilt University.
“I think my parents hoped I would stay there and become a doctor, but as it turned out I followed my father’s hobby instead of his profession,” he says.
McMillan later enrolled in film school at the University of Texas and went on to the ABC show “That’s Incredible,” a kind of weird-things-people-do program.
He went on to work on the re-enactment heavy “Rescue 911” hosted by William Shatner. McMillan liked that it “showed normal people doing extraordinary things to help people. … There’s also the element of real-life drama, so that’s the hook.”
And sifting through hours of drama is a lot of what McMillan does. “Basically,” he says, “it’s word processing with pictures. … To me, a film is well-edited when I don’t really notice it so much. If it seems like it flows naturally, or if it seems like it wasn’t very hard to do, it probably was.”
Filmed scenes are fed into a computer, and he scrutinizes them. For his Emmy-winning work, “Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen,” he pared 130 hours of footage into an hour and 19 minutes of story. “You find moments,” McMillan says.
His lucky break, he says, was marrying documentary filmmaker Shari Cookson, who soon started getting assignments from HBO for documentaries. “Living Dolls” was her baby.
“She had been trying to get me on board as an editor with HBO, but they are very particular about who they will allow to work on their shows,” he says. “It just happened that they needed somebody …. and they liked what I did.”
He was in Macon last week for the holidays, visiting his two sisters and an aunt — his parents are deceased. McMilllan says, “I guess L.A. is home but it doesn’t have the same connotation as home in Georgia. I reside in L.A. and I have my professional connections there, and my family and my house are there, but I guess my heart is still here.”
His Emmy is in California, too. He keeps it in a glass case in his office. The statuette, which is the Oscar of television, weighs nearly 5 pounds and is crafted of copper, nickel, silver and gold. It depicts a woman with wings, arms raised, holding an atom. Her wings are symbolic of the muse of art, while the atom represents science.
McMillan says the award — officially for “outstanding picture editing for nonfiction programming” — is just as much his wife’s.
“It’s in a place where we both can see it a lot and be proud of it, but it’s certainly not the reason we’re making films. … It was kind of icing on the cake. I would have been perfectly happy just by the response from the film,” he says. “There are so many good films out there and so many good editors, it’s kind of a stroke of good fortune that it landed in my trophy case.”
And it landed without his name on it.
Turns out, Emmys don’t come with your name on them. At least, not when you get them at the awards ceremony.
“It’s the real trophy but it doesn’t have anything engraved yet. So for a long it was just sitting there without anything written on it. Then they send you an engraved band with your name and the name of the film and you can put it on yourself,” McMillan says.
The engraved band comes with directions for the Emmy-impaired.
McMillan, though, is pretty good at putting things together.
“They actually have instructions that say if you can’t do it you can send it back to the Emmy people and they’ll do it for you. But I was able to handle it.”
The Macon Telegraph
January 6, 2002
Pages 53 and 55
Transcribed By: S Cookson