This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the oft unsung yet always vital contributions of those working below the line. Join NYWIFT blog contributors Kathryn O’Kane and Mellini Kantayya as they celebrate a few of the many women in history and making history—“Below the Line: A Cut Above.”
By Mellini Kantayya
Joi McMillon made Oscar history in 2018 when she became the first African American woman nominated for Best Achievement in Film Editing for Moonlight. McMillan shared the nomination with Nat Sanders, who she also partnered with to edit the audience and critically acclaimed film If Beal Street Could Talk.
McMillon’s career path is an inspiration for those of us trying to cross over genres and break through barriers. She began her career as an assistant editor in reality TV and then, later, weaved in experience editing narrative shorts (including SMILF, which went on to be adapted to the Showtime series of the same name) and episodic television.
This road to the Oscars wasn’t straight or smooth. She weathered many disappointments before director Barry Jenkins asked her to edit Moonlight. McMillon said, “It’s one of those things where I’d been rejected so often on jobs that I felt were a good fit and the director and I had a good rapport, and the material spoke to me, only to be told ‘no’ a few weeks later. They’d say they’d gone with someone else, and it was interesting because a lot of times…they would say, ‘He is just a really good fit,’ or, ‘We’d worked with him before.’ I was hearing ‘he’ and ‘him’ and I was like, ‘Oh, this is who I’m losing these opportunities to.'”
Moonlight became the first feature film she had edited. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture, making her nomination and accolades all the more impressive. McMillon expressed her appreciation by saying, “We maybe didn’t win in our individual categories…To me the first feature that you ever edit wins Best Picture… I still feel like I sometimes pinch myself. Like is this my life? Is this really happening? Because it’s one of those things where the hard work paid off and that’s sometimes not always the case…I’m so proud of the film.”
Ruth E. Carter is an American costume designer (and NYWFT Designing Women honoree!) with an unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character. And this year she became the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for costume design for her work in Black Panther.READ MORE
This Women's History Month we celebrate women working below the line! Originally from Singapore, Ai-Ling Lee is the first Asian woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for sound editing. In 2016 she was nominated for sound editing and sound mixing for the modern musical La La Land.READ MORE
Diversity Wins: The Oscars this weekend proved historic on several fronts: Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter (one of our first Designing Women honorees)...READ MORE
Thelma Schoonmaker: Congratulations to 1995 NYWIFT Muse honoree Thelma Schoonmaker, who was honored this weekend with a BAFTA fellowship for her incredible 50-year editing career....READ MORE