Front row: Joan Darling, Michelle Satter, Boaz Yakin, Michael Hoffman, Harold Ramis. Back row: Gyula Gazdag, Sally Menke, Peter Medak, Denis Lenoir, Robert Redford, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Photo by Michael McRae.
Sally Menke was a close personal friend and inspired mentor to Sundance Institute filmmakers. A talented and lauded film editor, in 2001 and 2005, she came to the Directors Lab as one of our Creative Advisors. It was a family affair. Her husband, Dean Parisot, a former Sundance Institute Directing Lab Fellow, also came to advise. They brought their young children, Isabella and Lucas, and the kids added their energy and creativity to the Lab as well.
Sally was one of the great Advisors. She was kind, clear-minded, generous, and passionate about the creative process. She loved the editing room and spent hours with the Fellows who sought her out. She used her own experiences and skills to help the filmmakers bring their visions to life. And she offered her advice with generosity and kindness.
As part of the community of creative advisors at the Lab, she utilized her incredible creativity to solve problems that seemed insurmountable. In the gatherings of advisors, she listened carefully to what others had to say about each Fellow. When she spoke, everyone wanted to hear her thoughts because she quickly identified the core problems.
Her solutions were elegant. As with all great editors, a simple change here, a deft cut there and what was confused became effective and moving. She cut for performance, story, and the emotional life of the scene. She also loved the big challenges.
Years ago, I recommended Sally to Quentin Tarantino when he was looking for an editor for Reservoir Dogs, a project he developed with support from the Sundance Institute Labs. Their creative collaboration endured through all of his films and was enormously inspiring to Sally.
Sally was always at the top of my list of Advisors to have back at the Lab. I prized her intelligence and generosity, but she was often working and her first priority was her family. If Sally was available in Los Angeles, I always knew I could call on her to come to a screening of a rough cut of one of our Lab projects. When my son was thinking about the idea of editing as a profession, Sally was the first person to invite him to the editing room.
Sally’s contribution to Sundance will always be remembered and deeply appreciated. In her passing, we lost a great Advisor, but also a good friend, someone who inspired us to love the power of storytelling and to do our very best work. She also reminded us that family and community mattered above all.
Sally’s family have set up an editing Fellowship in her name to honor her memory as well as her love of mentoring. They ask you—her family, friends, and collaborators in the film community—to contribute to the Sally Menke Memorial Fellowship in lieu of flowers or other condolences. Click here to donate to the Fellowship.