Black Experience

Moonlight: Joi McMillon Becomes First Black Woman to Earn An Oscar Nomination for Editing

Moonlight (released in November 2016), has received praise from viewers and film critics for its brilliant storytelling.

It also scored 8 Oscar nominations (2017), including Best Editing — a historic nod for co-editor Joi McMillon.

She is the first black woman to receive a nomination for editing.

According to IMDB, it “chronicles the life of a young black man [named Chiron] from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.”

The cast includes Mahershala Ali (Juan), Ashton Sanders as (Chiron), Naomie Harris (Paula) and Janelle Monáe (Teresa)

In an interview with WheretoWatch, Moonlight co-editors Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders stated that it was their first time working with the director Barry Jenkins for a feature film:

“Barry’s a very precise filmmaker” McMillon said. “He has a vision of what he wants that’s executed in all aspects of the filmmaking—in the cinematography, the sound, the editing. So when we first got to work, we knew his sensibility and had some idea of how the movie should feel, but it was definitely a process of finding the right rhythm and pacing from each act to the next.”

McMillon on the importance of sound in film editing:

“The way Nat and I work, we feel sound is just as important as picture editing, and a lot of time you can’t find out if a cut is working when the sound’s not matched. So went spent a lot of time on things like how long the audience would hear Chiron being beaten up until it’s just score. Or the ambient tone between acts one, two and three.”

“For a while we had a lot of rustling wind, then eventually Nick [Brittell, the composer] came on and created little pieces for us to put in between them to bridge those acts. In some areas, when you’re first introduced to Miami, it was a little too sparse, and we wanted the audience to hear the difference between Juan and Teresa’s neighborhood [in a leafy suburb], from where Paula and Little lived in the projects. They needed to sound drastically different.”

On watching the film with her family:

“I watched it in Toronto with my sisters, it was the first time I sat with my family and they’re seeing something that’s going to have my name on it as an editor. I was anxious and nervous. Then I watched my sisters to see how they were taking it. At the end it was so great to see how proud they were of me, and Toronto’s audience was so great.”

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