In the history of cinema, there haven't been many collaborations like the one between director Martin Scorsese and his longtime film editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
Schoonmaker has been Scorsese's editor since 1980's "Raging Bull," for which she won the first of her three Academy Awards. Schoonmaker, 74, also picked up Oscars for Scorsese's "The Aviator" (2004) and "The Departed" (2006).
She's won the most Oscars of any female editor and received the most nominations with seven.
"He really feels he makes his movies in his editing," says Schoonmaker of Scorsese. "He has very strong ideas. I don't think enough directors know enough about editing. I don't think you can be a great director without knowing a lot about editing."
Through Scorsese, Schoonmaker met her husband, Michael Powell, who, with his partner Emeric Pressburger, directed such Technicolor classics as 1943's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" and 1948's "The Red Shoes."
Scorsese, who had helped rescue Powell from obscurity, introduced him to Schoonmaker while she was cutting "Raging Bull." They married in 1984, and since Powell's death in 1990, Schoonmaker and Scorsese have been restoring his masterworks.
Scorsese reminded her recently that they have known each other for 50 years. The news took her aback. "That's unbelievable," she says, laughing during an interview. "We are so lucky. I can't even describe what working with him is like. I have the best job in the world."
Schoonmaker traveled to Los Angeles last month for the TCM Classic Film Festival, where she introduced the 1946 Powell-Pressburger fantasy "A Matter of Life and Death."
Schoonmaker graduated from Cornell University in 1961 after studying political science and Russian, then went to New York City. For young women, she says, "it was the most incredible time. Everything was exploding -- poetry, film, art. It was just insane. The world was our oyster. We could get jobs in a gallery, in a publishing house."
Or even an editing room.
One day, she noticed a newspaper ad offering on-the-job training as a film editor. The job was far from glamorous. She assisted an editor, who would hack up classic foreign films to an appropriate length for TV. "It was terrible the way they butchered those films in those days," she says now, but it was where Schoonmaker learned how to cut a negative.
That skill led her to Scorsese. Both were taking a six-week filmmaking course at New York University when the professor asked her to help Scorsese salvage his student film "What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?" which had been butchered by a negative cutter.
Schoonmaker edited Scorsese's first feature, 1967's "Who's That Knocking at My Door," and then they worked together as editors on Michael Wadleigh's 1970 Oscar-winning documentary feature, "Woodstock."
Despite earning an Oscar nomination as supervising editor on "Woodstock," Schoonmaker was told that, if she wanted to become a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, she would have to go back to basics and work as an apprentice and an assistant. She refused.
So for a decade, Schoonmaker worked on various documentaries and small projects, until Scorsese got her into the union for "Raging Bull." They have worked together ever since.
Scorsese relishes the time he and Schoonmaker spend working together in what he describes as "a very singular" work environment. "We literally have the film there and struggle with it, create it, enjoy it, get confused, get tired, get happy, get upset and move on.
"We cut 'Wolf of Wall Street' here in my house in New York," says Scorsese, referring to his 2013 Oscar-nominated hit film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Schoonmaker says Scorsese "is incredibly sharp and so tough on himself and has such high standards." He has the ability "to lay down human beings truthfully, and that's not easily digested for audiences," she adds. "That's why it took 10 years for 'Raging Bull' to even be recognized as the great film that it is."