Have you ever watched Man With a Movie Camera? If you’re currently a film student, you’ve probably seen it, or are about to see it, at least 12 times. There’s a very well known scene in Man With a Movie Camera in which a woman is shown editing the footage of the movie, cutting the film strips and pasting them together, creating the rhythm, structure, and pacing of the images.
Did you know that when the movie industry began most editors were women? A large amount of those classic, silent, black and white pictures had female editors. And then something happened. Suddenly, women were few and far between in the editing room. What was it that happened? That’s a great question that I’d love an answer to one day. But one thing is for sure, even if women are lacking in the editing room, editing talent is not lacking in women.
Sally Menke was an American film editor with over 20 credits to her name. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts film program in 1977. She is most celebrated for her long-time collaboration with critically acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino, editing every single one of his films. Some of these titles includeReservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, and Death Proof. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her work on Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds.
On Menke, Tarantino was quoted as saying "I write by myself but when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally. It’s the true epitome, I guess, of a collaboration because I don’t remember what was her idea, what was my idea. We’re just right there together."
Tragically, Sally lost her life a year ago today, while on a hiking trip in 100+ degree weather. Still, her work lives on. Sally once referred to editors as "the quiet heroes of movies" and that is exactly what she was. An innovative, creative, and technically skilled professional, Menke has inspired editors and proven to the world once again that the editing room does, in fact, have a seat for women.