Academy Award Nominated Film Editor Joi McMillon Talks the Art Of Assembling 'Moonlight' and 'If Beale Street Could Talk'
There is a poetry in cinema. A moviegoer might not realize it in the moment, but there is something magnetic about the way the dialogue and images bend and twist into one another, creating a narrative and allowing us to fall in love with a character, story, or even a moment. While the directors and actors are often recognized for their work —it’s the editors who work tirelessly during post-production to make sure that the filmmaker’s vision comes to life. Editor Joi McMillon, one of the only Black female feature film editors in Hollywood, is responsible for assembling Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning Moonlight and his latest work --If Beale Street Could Talk.
McMillon’s journey in Hollywood has been fraught with curving roads and alternative paths that began in the editing room for various reality television series. After years of hard work, in 2017, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing with her co-editor Nat Sanders. She was the first Black woman to ever nominated in the category. Now, on the eve of If Beale Street Could Talk’s premiere, McMillon talked with Shadow and Act about her career, how she approaches her craft, and why this is just the beginning for her.
“When Barry and Nat [Sanders], my co-editor, let me know that I was gonna be an editor on Moonlight, at first I couldn't believe it," McMillon remembered. "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 when people were telling me that they were going with someone else, they would say, 'He is just a really good fit,' or, 'We'd work with him before.' I was hearing 'he' and 'him' and I was like, 'Oh, this is who I'm losing these opportunities to.'"
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