Tue. May 24th, 2022

Since editors work in postproduction and are close to the final hands on a film, it is their job to make everyone who worked on a production look good. “Two hundred and fifty people make a movie if you count up everybody from the drivers to the director, all the people on the set, and it’s my job to do justice to the incredibly hard work they have put into getting it on film,” Schoonmaker said. Riegel added, “I have to have an understanding of performance, of camera, of all of that. And I want to find the takes and the scenes that are emotionally real to me and assemble them. But the editor has a tremendous amount of influence on what the movie is. There are times where I can take a line reading from one take and put it with the visual of another take. Sometimes I only use a word from another take and put it in. I can manipulate time by expanding or contracting, giving more pause between dialogue to give something gravity or speeding something up to give something tension. People have often described editing as the third rewrite of the script, and you don’t know what that’s going to be until you’re actually in there working on it.”

Friedrich liked to point to George Lucas’ first “Star Wars” as an example of a woman editor’s influence. “Marcia Lucas, George Lucas’ wife at the time, was brought in because his first ‘Star Wars’ wasn’t going so well. She came in and she made it go well. There’s a very interesting video that shows the early edit and then what she turned it into. It’s fantastic,” Friedrich said.

From the silent days to the present, women film editors have proven their skills not just in the Hollywood film industry but in cinema all around the globe. But there is still progress to be made. In 2017, Joi McMillon became the first Black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for “Moonlight,” providing young Black women with a role model much like Booth, Allen, and Schoonmaker have been.

Harris, who serves as co-chair on MPEG’s Women’s Steering Committee, added, “It’s been great to have role models but the problem is that when people think that women are well represented in editing they defend that position by saying, ‘Look, Thelma Schoonmaker, Dede Allen and Sally Menke!’ But the fact remains we are only 25 percent of the guild and the highest paid editors are white males cutting action movies for the most part.”

As people discover editing software on their home computers and Blu-rays offer bonus features highlighting the work of film editors, the cloak of invisibility is slowly being lifted. Hopefully that will lead to not just women editors but all film editors getting the respect and appreciation they deserve.


Edited By Women Film Editors

Women Pioneers Film Project

Cinema Junkie

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