Winnipeg-born film editor gets Oscar nod for work on The Shape of Water

Film editor and former Winnipegger Sidney Wolinsky has received an Oscar nomination for his work on the Guillermo del Toro film The Shape of Water, which leads this year's pack with 13 nominations.

Sidney Wolinsky first worked with director Guillermo del Toro on Toronto-shot TV series The Strain

Sidney Wolinsky, right, worked with Guillermo del Toro, left, on the Oscar-nominated horror-fantasy film The Shape of Water. (Submitted by Sidney Wolinsky)

Oscar-nominated film editor Sidney Wolinsky says working with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is different from working with most directors.

Wolinsky, a former Winnipegger, found out earlier this week he has been nominated for an Academy Award for his work on del Toro's film The Shape of Water. The two first teamed up when del Toro hired Wolinsky to edit the pilot episode of his Toronto-shot television series The Strain.

"He likes to come into the cutting room every day and look at cut footage and make changes, which is different," Wolinksy said of del Toro, a past Oscar nominee for his 2006 movie Pan's Labyrinth.

"I think when you first hear that, you feel a little concerned … but I found that Guillermo understands the process very well and if I showed him something and I said, 'Guillermo, I just started working on this, it's not great, I'll fix it tomorrow,' he'd say, 'Fine.'"

Wolinsky has also worked as an editor on TV series like The Sopranos, The Walking Dead and House of Cards.

His television work has already earned him accolades, including an Emmy win for editing the pilot episode of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

He says he was excited to hear he had been nominated for the Oscar.

"It's impossible not to be excited when you find that out," he said. "I believe it would feel really good [to win]. It would complete my award shelf."

Sally Hawkins, left, and Doug Jones in a scene from the film The Shape of Water. Former Winnipegger Sidney Wolinsky received an Academy Award nomination for best editing for his work on the film. (The Canadian Press/AP, Kerry Hayes - Fox Searchlight Pictures)

He says the skills needed to work as an editor in film are not much different from television, except in television the director has much less time to work with the editor on shaping the final product.

"There are more voices involved in a television show than a film, but the skills and decisions are the same."

Born in Winnipeg

Wolinsky was born in Winnipeg, where he lived until he was 12. He went on to high school in Montreal and college in Boston. He originally studied English and American literature as an undergraduate.

"But I was really a film nut and I went to films frequently. I'd see about eight films a week, which was a real challenge when nothing was on video or anything," he said.

He moved to San Fransisco to get a master's degree in film and then briefly lived in Toronto, where he worked at the CBC, before finally settling in Los Angeles to work in film.

It was while he was in film school that Wolinsky found himself drawn toward editing.

"Because it was really more about the telling of the story. It had technical aspects about it, but it was very much about telling the story and finishing the whole project."

'The Guillermo del Toro look'

The Shape of Water is a horror-fantasy set during the Cold War, and tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a strange, human-like creature that lives underwater and is held captive by the American government.

Wolinsky gives del Toro the credit for creating the distinctive look of the film, and describes his own role as trying "to get the most out of the material."

"One of his hallmarks is he keeps the camera moving all the time," he said. "That makes the images, which themselves are wonderful and beautiful and interesting, more interesting because the camera's always revealing something else."

He recalls one difficult scene in the film, in which the main characters attempt to break the creature out of captivity.

"That had a lot of moving parts to it — all the characters were involved in very short scenes. And it just took a long time to get that honed. Guillermo and I worked with it together, of course.

"Editing is a very collaborative experience, it's a very collaborative job, and I can't say that I personally am contributing anything to the Guillermo del Toro look except that I'm working with him to achieve what he wants it to look like."

TheShape of Water leads the pack among films nominated for Academy Awards this year with 13 nominations, including one for best picture and a best director nomination for del Toro.

The awards ceremony takes place March 4.

With files from Julie Dupre