Watch: Everything You Need to Know About the History of Female Editors in Six Minutes

The future (and past) is female.

[Editor's Note: This video essay is part of our "Everything You Need to Know" series created exclusively for No Film School by Senior Post. To revisit other entries in the series, click here and here.]

While it might be hard to believe, the history of film editing was, once upon a time, a little less exclusive and sexist than other professions in the film industry. In the early 20th century, women helped to splice and tape film reels, as the tedious task resembled, in some higher-ups' thinking, the act of sewing.

It was there that women were able to experiment with the form, discovering, for instance, the power and tension-building ambiance of a close-up. For an early example of this, we highly recommend the work of editor Margaret Booth.

As film editing began to take life as a desired artistic profession, one requiring creative input and a knowing eye, men started applying for (and subsequently taking) the gigs previously held by women. Still, there were several instances of female editors fighting to keep their work relevant, and it was thanks to their persistence and unquestionable talent that some made it through and persevered.

One such example is Dede Allen. While Allen's jarring, confrontational work on Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde almost got the editor fired by the head of Warner Brothers, it was lead actor Warren Beatty who fought to keep her style in the picture. She went on to continue having a successful career editing for the likes of Sidney Lumet and John Hughes. 

To get a crash course in the work of the most prominent female editors, check out our exclusive video below. Remember to take notes (and a few film recommendations)!

As the video also makes clear, the working partnerships between directors and editors is crucial, some of the most iconic being Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke, and David Lean and Anne V. Coates. Once a professional relationship is established and is allowed to grow over several films, the editor becomes a crucial part of the directorial vision we associate with a well known filmmaker's auteurist bent.

Do you have an editor whose work you admire? Any particular examples of great editorial work you wish to recommend? Let us know in the comments below.

Movies referenced

  • All About Eve (1950) dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Anything Goes (1936) dir. Lewis Milestone
  • Argo (2012) dir. Ben Affleck
  • Black Panther (2018) dir. Ryan Coogler
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967) dir. Arthur Penn
  • Boyhood (2014) dir. Richard Linklater
  • Casino (1995) dir. Martin Scorsese
  • Death Proof (2007) dir. Quentin Tarantino 
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975) dir. Sidney Lumet 
  • Eighth Grade (2018) dir. Bo Burnham
  • Erin Brockovich (2000) dir. Steven Soderbergh
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Goodfellas (1990) dir. Martin Scorsese
  • Hail, Caesar! (2016) dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
  • Hereditary (2018) dir. Ari Aster
  • I, Tonya (2017) dir. Craig Gillespie
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009) dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Jaws (1975) dir. Steven Spielberg 
  • Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) dir. David Lean
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) dir. George Miller
  • Mean Girls (2004) dir. Mark Waters
  • Memento (2000) dir. Christopher Nolan
  • Moonlight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001) dir. Baz Luhrmann
  • Mudbound (2017) dir. Dee Rees
  • Mulholland Drive (2001) dir. David Lynch 
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) dir. Frank Lloyd
  • My Darling Clementine (1946) dir. John Ford
  • Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) dir. Robert Wise
  • Pulp Fiction (1994) dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • Raging Bull (1980) dir. Martin Scorsese
  • Serpico (1973) dir. Sidney Lumet
  • The Breakfast Club (1985) dir. John Hughes
  • The Fighter (2010) dir. David O. Russell 
  • The Lady From Shanghai (1947) dir. Orson Welles
  • The Ten Commandments (1956) dir. Cecil B. DeMille

Senior Post is an award-winning Brooklyn-based post house that provides full post production services for film, television, web, and branded content. Their work has screened at Sundance, Slamdance, Tribeca and SXSW and they've worked with clients such as A24, Apatow Productions, Vice, Vevo and Refinery 29 to name a few. 

Your Comment


Just wanna give a big shout-out to Marcia Lucas:

Legend has it she's the reason Star Wars is any good. She also did stuff with Scorsese.

November 2, 2018 at 6:35PM, Edited November 2, 6:35PM


It's not just in Hollywood that women editors have been pioneers. You can see editor Yelizaveta Svilova in action on screen towards the end of 1929 Soviet montage classic 'Man with a Movie Camera' (directed by her husband Dziga Vertov).

November 5, 2018 at 1:03AM

Tom Barrance
Film educator

Mad max fury is my favourite film. Good camera work, film editing is done there. Film editing is not an easy job and this females editors are really doing nice.

November 12, 2018 at 12:47AM