When George Miller wrapped shooting on "Mad Max: Fury Road," he knew that the 480 hours of film he'd accumulated would need special editorial attention -- from his wife.
"I said, ‘You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie,'" Miller told Vanity Fair of his decision to put the massive, explosive story into the hands of film editor Margaret Sixel, Miller's wife of 20 years.
The cutting room is where all the raw footage a director has shot gets trimmed, selected, and streamlined into a dynamic, two-hour movie; it's the film editor's job to pluck out the right shots and sequence them to make the story compelling.
It's a huge job, one made more complicated when the movie has enormous amounts of action but very little dialogue -- and if you've seen "Mad Max," you know that one of its standout features is that all its characters are men (and women) of very few words.
Sixel confirmed as much herself in an interview with the Huffington Post, saying, "Editing this film was tough because there’s very little dialogue, which is how scenes are structured, so the options are endless."
In other words, it was Sixel making most of the calls that give this movie its shape, and what you see onscreen in "Mad Max" is very much the product of its editor's unique sense for storytelling.
It's an important thing to remember at this moment, when all eyes are on Hollywood's issues with female representation both onscreen and behind the camera. And while the need for more women in more jobs is getting some well-deserved attention, we want to also highlight the work of the women who are already there, making and shaping some of the best films out there from the darkness of the editing suite. Here are eight more ladies whose cinematic surgical skills you've almost certainly seen and appreciated.
If you've seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, you've seen Sally Menke's work; she was the film editor on every on of Tarantino's ultraviolent films, beginning with "Reservoir Dogs" and ending with "Inglourious Basterds." Sadly, we won't be seeing any more movies edited by Menke: "Basterds" was the last one she made before her death from a tragic accident in 2010. (Tarantino dedicated "Django Unchained," the first film he did without her, to her memory.)
Dore excels at cutting movies shot in challenging landscapes, from the shadowy urban nightworld of "End of Watch," to the bombed-out rubble and mud-streaked slogs of WWII period flick "Fury." But when it comes to her talent for slicing and dicing to create the tightest, tensest narrative possible, all you need to know is that she's the editing brains behind "Memento," Christopher Nolan's story-in-reverse about a man who suffers from short-term amnesia.
Directors tend to find favorite editors and then work with them over and over again, which is why you'll see Schoonmaker's deft touch on all of Martin Scorcese's recent films. From "The Departed" to "Gangs of New York" to "Wolf of Wall Street," these stories about debaucherous and deadly boys' clubs were cut by the multiple Oscar winner.
If you loved "The Avengers" and "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," then you can thank Lassek for putting 'em together (and for not cutting away from Black Widow's big moments a single moment too soon.) She's the go-to editing talent for Joss Whedon, having worked with the director on both feature films and TV shows, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Matsumoto is a must-have in the editing suite for your big, fast, vehicle-focused action flicks: She was one of the editors who made sure that the car chases in the "Fast & Furious" movies and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" were on point. But her credits on two "The Mummy" films plus "Van Helsin" show that she's got an eye for a certain flavor of visually-striking fantasy story, too.
The wonderfully, intentionally campy "Starship Troopers" had this talented woman working behind the scenes to make sure that the ghastly gross stuff never went on for too long, and that the comic relief always came in at just the right time.
Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
There's no way you haven't seen the editing work of Brandon and Markey before; they've worked with J.J. Abrams on everything from "LOST" to "Mission Impossible III" to both "Star Trek" movies. They've got a gift for epic narratives with both heart and heart-pounding action -- and yes, they're working on "Star Wars."