Aspects of Editing – Sally Menke Fellowship

As it enters its second decade, the Sundance Institute’s Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship continues to provide inspiring opportunities for nascent editors, through a program formed in remembrance of influential editor Sally Menke, ACE. Each year, a candidate is selected to participate in the immersive Fellowship, with benefits including ACE associate membership and the opportunity to participate in – and actually edit during – the Directors Lab at the Sundance Film Festival, for which Menke was a generous mentor and advisor.

Menke is best known for her longtime collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, which earned her a string of accolades including Oscar nominations for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Her credits for Tarantino also include Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Jackie Brown and Reservoir Dogs.

“Over many years, Sally Menke was an inspired mentor to Sundance Institute filmmakers and editors. As a Creative Advisor at the Directors Lab, she was dynamic, focused, generous and passionate about the creative process and spent hours with our directors and editors in the editing room,” says Michelle Satter, Sundance’s Founding Director of its Feature Film Program. “She used her own experiences and skills to help filmmakers bring their visions to life, and offered her advice with generosity and kindness.” With news of Sally’s passing, Sundance Institute joined with her family, friends and colleagues to launch the Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship, to honor and recognize her brilliance as an editor, her love of mentorship and beautiful contribution to the work of the Institute.

In 2011, New York-based editor Julia Bloch, was selected as the first Sally Menke Fellow, and following her experience in the program, she went on to earn credits that include serving as associate editor on Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life. “My experience as the inaugural Sally Menke Fellow came at a pivotal time in my career, when I was just transitioning from being an assistant editor to editing my first feature. In later years the prerequisites changed; you had to have already cut at least one feature. So I was really navigating that transition for the first time, and the Fellowship was instrumental in helping me turn  around and look at myself and my work from the other side,” she says, remembering her collaboration with directors like Sara Colangelo at the Lab and mentorships with editors Billy Goldenberg, ACE, Barbara Tulliver and Suzy Elmiger. “Already during the application process, and especially once I arrived at the lab, it was obvious what an impact Sally had made on the Sundance community; everyone I met had a story about her generosity as a person and as a creative collaborator, her warmth, and her love of mentoring. It’s inspiring to be part of a fellowship that represents her as a complete person – not only the accomplished editor whose work is admired around the world, but also someone who brought a lot of humanity into the cutting room, and whose love of the creative process extended into her entire life.”

Native South African Debbie Berman, ACE, received the Fellowship in 2012 and also launched a successful editing career. Looking back, Berman – who went on to edit films including Disney/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and Captain Marvel – says “the Sundance Institute creates a supportive environment whereby emergent Directors get to have an in-depth firsthand experience prepping, shooting and editing scenes. They are supported throughout the entire process by legendary industry mentors. It was an incredible experience being able to edit and connect with so many up-andcoming filmmakers at the Lab, and a dream come true to be advised by some of the masters of the industry. It’s a phenomenal community of friends and mentors who all continue to actively support me and my career to this day.”

The 2013 Fellow, Joseph Krings, ACE, is an editor of narrative and documentary films and television, with credits including 2016’s Captain Fantastic, which won best director at the Cannes Film Festival and earned an Oscar nomination for star Viggo Mortensen.

Additionally, Krings edited Emmy-nominated 2013 doc Supermensch, the Mike Myers and Beth Aala-directed story of talent agent Shep Gordon. According to Krings, the Sally Menke Fellowship opened doors to a whole new community of mentors and creative collaborators. “First, at the [Sundance] Lab, I was able to meet other filmmakers and forge lifelong friendships,” he says. “Then, in the mentorship year that followed, I was given the opportunity to learn firsthand from some of my idols, including Brian Kates, ACE, Christopher Tellefsen, ACE, Jay Rabinowitz, ACE, and Tim Squyres, ACE. I went from knowing hardly anyone and hardly anyone knowing me, to being able to talk shop with some of the best in the business.”

Another former Fellow, Los Angeles-based editor Alex O’Flinn, was an editor on Amazon limited series The Underground Railroad for director Barry Jenkins, and received a best editing nomination in 2017 from the Independent Spirit Awards for his work on Chloe Zhao’s The Rider. Moreover, O’Flinn has been an editing advisor for the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Edit and Story Lab, plus Film Independent’s Project Involve and Film Independent’s Directing Lab, and he lectures at UCLA’s Department of Theater, Film and Television.

When O’Flinn was beginning his career, he felt ‘lost in the woods,’ especially as he endeavored to kickstart his career, while learning the core of what it means to become a full-fledged editor. “[It was] a roller coaster of contradictory emotions filled with highs, lows, wrong turns, moments of elation, feelings of stagnation and everything in between,” O’Flinn confesses.

“The Fellowship allowed me the opportunity to meet other editors, who, like me, were early in their careers and thirsty to learn more about the craft. And that’s still the case many years later. It’s a really beautiful thing. I’m so incredibly grateful.”

Fellowship recipient (2015) Erica Freed Marker, ACE, went on to earn television credits including the Emmy and SAG award-winning limited series Fosse/Verdon, the Golden Globenominated limited series The Sinner and many others. She also supports the next generation as an adjunct professor in both the NYU Graduate Film Program and the Feirstein Graduate Film School, where she has been teaching editing since 2014.

“Participating in the 2015 Labs as the Sally Menke Fellow was amazing,” she remembers. “Having never been to film school, I found the stress-free collaboration and creative investigation an unexpected and beautiful experience. Years later, it’s become apparent that one of the greatest gifts is membership in a supportive family of Fellows that keeps growing every year. I feel incredibly lucky to continue to be part of this ongoing tribute to Sally Menke, a true mentor to us all.”

Film and television editor Abbi Jutkowitz, another Sally Menke Editing Fellow, edited As You Are (2016), which was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and Dreamland (2019), produced by and starring Margot Robbie. Jutkowitz was an assistant editor on movies such as Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and documentaries including Super Size Me, and is currently serving as an editing mentor for SFFILM’s FilmHouse Residency program.

Fellow Kathryn J. Schubert has over 30 credits on films of all extractions and has seen her career in post-production vault from assistant editor to first assistant editor to full-fledged editor on films including Marjorie Prime, Above the Shadows and Tesla.

The 2018 Fellow, Kate Hackett, ACE, is a 2020 Emmy recipient and an ACE Eddie Award winner for Netflix documentary series Cheer. She has served as an editor on seasons 4 and 5 of the Emmy-winning Netflix documentary series Last Chance U and has edited six independent feature films, including Amy Adrion’s documentary Half the Picture.

“There are many wonderful aspects of the Menke Fellowship,” Hackett says, “but the most meaningful to me has been that it provides a sense of community and belonging with fellow editors. Emerging editors can frequently be somewhat isolated, especially in our current era of remote work and shrinking crew sizes. Through the Menke Fellowship, I found camaraderie and support from the other Menke fellows, creative guidance and encouragement from my mentor Terilyn Shropshire, ACE, and from the editing advisors at the Sundance Lab – and began a relationship with ACE.”

Reverentially, Hackett has also found much inspiration in the legacy of Sally Menke herself. “The Sundance Lab has many mentors and advisors who knew Sally personally,” Hackett relates, “and I had the opportunity to hear many stories about her as a person and her creative approach as an editor. As I edit, I often find myself guided by these stories.” Editor Mónica Salazar became the 2019 Sally Menke Fellow and went on to earn credits including Mayim Bialik’s As Sick as They Made Us, Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy (winner of the 2019 Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft at the Sundance Film Festival), and the Los Angeles Emmy Award winning documentary Montage: Great Film Composers and the Piano, executive produced by Ben Proudfoot. Salazar has also been lauded as one of Variety’s Up-Next Artisans.

To give back to the post-production community, Salazar serves on the board of advisors for Blue Collar Post Collective, an accessible and focused grassroots non-profit organization that supports emerging talent in post-production. “It’s hard to single out a specific memory from this fellowship when there are so many to pick – either from experiences at the Sundance Mountain, late night chats, lunches with the other fellows and long conversations with my mentors who have graciously shared their experiences and guided me each step of the way.

This fellowship means so much more than one could dare put into words. This has been a blessing, honor and responsibility. I’m forever grateful to Sally Menke’s family and the Sundance Institute for the opportunity, and the community they’ve created to push us all forward in our careers. I don’t take it for granted.”

The program’s 2020 Fellow, Josie Azzam, was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, and attended the University of NebraskaLincoln’s Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. She then earned an MFA in film production with an emphasis in editing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her career in feature film began with work as an assistant editor on such films as Goosebumps, How to Be Single and the aforementioned Black Panther. As an editor, Azzam has worked on a variety of projects including Summer ’03 and Don’t Look Deeper, an original Quibi series directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Additionally,

Azzam serves as co-chair of the Women’s Steering Committee at the Motion Picture Editors Guild and is a junior mentor in the ACE Diversity Mentorship Program. As a pre-vaccine pandemic fellow, Azzam had unlimited access to her Sally Menke Fellowship mentors via Zoom. “There was time to watch all their past work and talk for hours about their careers and creative process,” she says. “My mentors were people I had admired for years, and I’m so grateful that [Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program Founding

Director] Michelle Satter and [Sundance’s Deputy Director] Ilyse McKimmie [had] them talk to me. I’m coming up on two years from my first introduction to my mentors, and we still talk and text regularly; I can’t imagine what my current path would be without them.”.

Most recently, film and television editor Susan E. Kim was awarded the 2021 Fellowship. Her recent work includes Pachinko, an episodic series for Apple TV+, and Two Yellow Lines, an independent feature that will soon be distributed through Universal. Kim began her career as an assistant editor on films including Stanford Prison Experiment, Short Term 12 and American Pastoral. Her credits also include the Emmywinning HBO series Euphoria and the Duplass Brothers HBOseries Room 104. Currently, Kim serves as a junior mentor inthe ACE Diversity Mentorship Program.

On the Fellowship, Kim was reflective about its overall impact on her efforts. “The Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship is, without a doubt, a huge milestone in my career,” she says. “It has brought a greater visibility to my work, as well as the chance to develop friendships with some of my editing heroes. Holding a Fellowship in memory of the legendary Sally Menke – someone who expanded the medium of film – has been an incredible honor. It inspires me every day to develop my craft, nurture my community and do my very best work.

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