Remembering the Spirit of Sally Menke

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.

Michelle Satter

One year ago, family, friends, and industry colleagues mourned the loss of Sally Menke, an award-winning film editor and an inspired mentor to Sundance Institute filmmakers. To honor her memory, her husband and their children created the Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship at Sundance Institute. With the generous support of her large community of friends, the Fellowship started this year.

We’re thrilled to let you know that Julia Bloch, an emerging editor who worked as an Associate Editor on Tree of Life and an Assistant Editor on Notorious, was selected as the inaugural Fellow. As the first phase of the Fellowship, Julie attended the 2011 June Directors Lab.

Sally would have appreciated Julia’s response to her experience as a Fellow. “I was deeply humbled and honored by the Fellowship and gained a breadth of experience and relationships in the past year. My month at the Directors Lab was my first Sundance experience and it was great. I was able to observe different sides of production and spend time on set, which is something as an editor I don’t usually get to do.” The Fellowship continues through the year as Julia is editing her first feature, directed by Tom Gilroy. Her mentors include Billie Goldenberg (Heat), Barbara Tulliver (Hard Eight), and Andrew Mondshein (The Sixth Sense).

Last year I wrote about Sally Menke’s unforgettable contribution to the Sundance Institute and the art of editing. Those words are as true today as they were then.

In 2001 and 2005, Sally Menke came to the June 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 suddenly what was once 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 Institute 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.

We hope that you will consider giving what you can to help Sundance Institute continue to honor Sally’s memory through the Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship. Your support is very important to us and will ensure that the Fellowship becomes an annual program of the Institute. Click here to make a donation.

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Alexis Chikaeze as Kai in 'Miss Juneteenth,' coming to digital platforms June 19

Channing Godfrey Peoples on a Bittersweet ‘Miss Juneteenth’ Release and the Urgency of Portraying Black Humanity on Screen

After premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Channing Godfrey Peoples’s debut feature is hitting digital platforms this Juneteenth—the day for which the film is named and which is very close to the director’s heart. “I feel like I’ve been living Miss Juneteenth my whole life,” she says.
The June 19 holiday—which commemorates the day slavery was finally abolished in Texas (more than two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was issued)—is celebrated in her hometown of Fort Worth with a deep sense of reverence and community, with barbecues, a parade, and a scholarship pageant for young Black women.

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