In late September 2010 I was just two months into my first job as a feature film editor. I had struggled for years for this break and I was finally living my dream and editing a small but beautiful indie film called 28 Hotel Rooms, while living out of a suitcase in the director’s loft in Venice Beach. I was on top of the world. Then I heard about the death of Sally Menke.
Sally Menke is one of the few editors the wider public knows by name. But in case you don’t know she is most noted for being the editor of all of Quentin Tarantino’s films up until her untimely death. She also cut Mullholland Falls and the criminally underrated All The Pretty Horses. This news shook me. She died far too young. She was too great a talent to leave the earth so soon. Was it a sign that a great editor died in Los Angeles while I was there far from wife and home and risking financial security to stake a claim in a tough business?
In turns out this wouldn’t be my last brush with Sally Menke’s legend and legacy. This year I was selected by the Sundance Institute as the 2013 Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellow! It is an unbelievable honor to be chosen from among many editors with fledgling careers to walk in the shadow of such a great. The fellowship was started three years ago by Sally’s husband and family as a way to acknowledge her commitment to mentoring young editors and a way to honor her memory and legacy. I am the third recipient.
When I was first informed that I had been named the 2013 Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellow I was shocked, excited, nervous and extremely honored. Still, I had no idea just how rewarding an experience I was about to embark upon. Being an editor, your work is usually confined to a small dark room with only 1 or 2 filmmakers regularly working with you. Largely, you learn in the process often making it up as you go along. But with this fellowship came an invitation to serve as an editor at the Sundance Directors Lab. I hopped on a plane and was suddenly surrounded by dozens of skilled and passionate filmmakers, not to mention amazingly accomplished advisors, with whom I could discuss my craft and learn valuable lessons from. I had the challenge of working long days on two unique projects with K’naan and the co-directing team of Jyson Mclean and Ian Hendrie. Then I had the joy of sharing the work with the likes of Robert Redford, Kathryn Bigelow, Walter Salles and Sally Menke’s own close friend and colleague Suzy Elmiger, among many others. The value of the wisdom I gleaned from these and other artists is absolutely immeasurable.
At the end of the four weeks at the lab, I didn’t want the experience to stop. Yet I was excited to take what I had learned and begin to apply it in the real world. Plus, as the Sally Menke Fellow I now have a year of mentorship to look forward to. I will have the opportunity to spend valuable time in the edit room with some of the business’s best editors learning by watching them in action. Also, they will be able to advise me on the work I am doing and proffer career advice. Currently I am hoping to be working with the Jay Rabinowitz, Andrew Weisblum and Brian Kates. This Fellowship is undoubtedly a watershed moment in my young career and I plan to make the most of it. I only hope I am able to live up to the great honor it is to be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Sally Menke.