Share this article

print logo

Elma native is up for editing Oscar; 'Descendants' work brings family to L.A.

In preparation for the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend, Kevin Tent of Los Angeles went out and bought a new tuxedo, then managed to get a few extra tickets for his unsuspecting family arriving from Western New York.

"If you hear screams in the background, they've probably just found out," Tent, who has nominated for his work on "The Descendants," said Thursday. "They got here today. They don't know yet."

The 52-year-old Iroquois High School alum received his first Oscar nod this year in the film-editing category. In a phone interview, he described the last few weeks as a whirlwind that will culminate Sunday at the 84th annual Academy Awards ceremony.

The accolades have been coming steadily since 1987 when Tent edited his first film. He has been nominated by the American Cinema Editors three times for his editing craftsmanship on the movies "Sideways," "About Schmidt" and "Election." Last week, he won both the prestigious "Eddie" award from the American Cinema Editors and the Writers Guild of America award for best-edited feature film for "The Descendants."

Tent watched the movie at least 60 times over the span of the project. He said the original unedited version of "The Descendants" was about 40 minutes longer than the final cut, which has received a total of five Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best director, best actor, best adapted screenplay and best film editing.

"The challenge of this particular job was getting the tone right, the balance between the drama and humor, letting the characters breathe," he said.

He described his editing work as "the art of keeping an audience engaged."

The Elma native enrolled at Oswego State College in 1978 but eventually left the broadcasting program there to attend film school in Los Angeles, paying his way by working at an auto parts store. His first job after school was editing an educational film.

Tent met director Alexander Payne through a mutual friend and has since edited all of the award-winning director's American films. Payne, who has been nominated for best director, has already asked Tent to do his next movie, "Nebraska," set to start filming in April.

On Oscar night, Tent will be accompanied by his wife, Carole; his 14-year-old son, Charlie; and his brother and sister-in-law from East Aurora, Bryant and Meghan.

Although he is not exactly sure where they will be seated, there was a glow in his voice when he said, "All nominees sit on the floor," referring to the premier seating area filled with movie stars and TV cameras that beam the show to more than 200 countries worldwide.

Back in Western New York, his sisters Colleen Ryan, Laura Tent and Tara Tent-Dakota will be celebrating in East Aurora, watching the lengthy show and waiting for that moment when their brother's name is read alongside fellow nominees and, perhaps, called out as the winner. And that all-important acceptance speech?

"I might write some stuff down, but I don't think I'll need to," Tent said. After a pause, he added, "Let's just say I don't want to jinx myself."