Sally Menke

Maybe it’s that my first editing mentor was a woman or that I think editors shouldn’t always slave away in anonymity, but something about Sally Menke’s untimely and unfortunate passing struck a chord with me. I am in LA at DV Expo and initially heard the news with half an ear while getting dressed in the morning. It was only later that the connection was made for me when I was told that the news had been about Menke – an apparent victim of the insane heat wave LA had just experienced.

Sally Menke was a frequent collaborator with director Quentin Tarantino. I’ve been fortunate to have met and interviewed a number of  “A-list” feature film editors. Sadly, Menke wasn’t one of them. Nevertheless, if editing is “the invisible art”, the films that she’s cut have left more of a mark on me than others. Few editors can boast such a body of work – ranging from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill (1 and 2) to Inglourious Basterds. Not only have her films been memorable in many ways – not the least of which is editing – but they’ve made it into pop culture like few others. I’m not sure whether or not these films would have been as good in other hands, but they are all crisply cut and tackle the whole range of editing challenges from dialogue to action.

Folks who might be unfamiliar with Sally Menke should check out this Editors Guild magazine feature, as well as The Cutting Edge DVD, which features several clips by and about her. If you are a student of editing, then Menke’s work is a good place to start. She will be missed by millions who will never even know. God speed and rest in peace, Sally.

©2010 Oliver Peters