A Tribute to Sally Menke (1953-2010)

Sally Menke, Quentin Tarantino’s longtime editor, was found dead today near Griffith Park, Los Angeles, after she didn’t return home from a hiking trip with her dog. No specific cause of death has been reported at the time of this writing, but it seems likely that the extreme L.A. heat was a factor. Sally was 56.

Now, because Sally’s work took place entirely in the editing room, I have no idea what kind of a person she was. I can’t gush about the kind soul of Sally Menke because I never knew her as anything other than a great editor. But man, was she ever a great editor. As someone who has done a fair amount of video editing over the years, let me tell you: the editor is one of the most important people involved in the production of a movie. And the great irony is that, if they’re really good (as Sally was), you’ll never notice their work at all. The best kind of editing is the kind that works fluidly in a movie, keeping you involved in the story and never separating you from it (except when it’s intentional). Sally Menke did that kind of editing. She was a master of it, and I’m actually a bit surprised at how sad the announcement of her death has made me. She’s like an unsung hero in the movie industry, and not many people will truly realize what a great loss the film biz has suffered with her passing.

To really hammer this home, take a look at a list of some of her film credits (I’ve cut out the less interesting ones):
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Four Rooms
Jackie Brown
Kill Bill, volumes 1 and 2
Death Proof
Inglourious Basterds

Holy crap those are some amazing movies, with incredible editing to boot!

One final note to bring this Sally Menke tribute to a close is that, according to IMDb, when working on Kill Bill many of the actors would finish their takes by turning to the camera and saying “Hello, Sally!” in appreciation for Sally’s work in post-production. The actors knew that if anyone could make them look really cool, it was her.

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