Q4 2018

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52 CINEMONTAGE / Q4 2018 by Laura Almo portraits by Lauren Damaskinos O n their first film as co-editors, Joi McMillon, ACE, and Nat Sanders, ACE, made a name for themselves in the independent filmmaking world with the runaway indie hit Moonlight (2016), as did their writer-director, Barry Jenkins. Aside from receiving the Academy Award for Best Picture — following the most notoriously flubbed "And the Oscar goes to…" announcement in Academy history — and a plethora of other plaudits for the picture and its makers, the film also garnered Oscar and ACE Eddie Award nominations for its editors, as well as the Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing. McMillon and Sanders have recently joined forces with Jenkins again on the much-anticipated If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from James Baldwin's novel of the same name about a young pregnant woman in Harlem who must struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime. The Focus Features film, which had its US premiere October 11 at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem as part of the New York Film Festival, opens in limited release December 14 before spreading wide on Christmas Day. Although this is only their second picture together, the collaboration of McMillon, Sanders and Jenkins actually dates back to when all three attended Florida State University film school at the same time. Sanders was a year ahead of McMillon and Jenkins, but the trio became part of the FSU Mafia — a close-knit group of the school's film graduates trying to break into the film industry. Without the surfeit of connections one might make by attending film schools in Los Angeles or New York, they relied upon each other. This was indeed the case when each moved to LA. "We didn't know anybody in the industry, so when we all moved out here, we only had one another," recalls Sanders. "We've all been really tight for a long time." In fact, at one point he and Jenkins were roommates. Sanders and McMillon got their professional starts in reality television before moving into scripted fare. McMillon's early credits include working as an assistant editor on The Surreal Life (2003-2006), Beauty and the Geek (2005-2008), The Biggest Loser (2004- 2016) and The Sarah Silverman Program (2007-2010). She took a step down to move up. "My ultimate goal was always to end up in feature films, but when I was offered an apprentice editor position on the indie film Talk to Me [2007], I had already been the lead assistant in unscripted TV and was about to make the jump to the editor's chair," she explains. "However, to me, this was an invaluable opportunity to learn the world of feature filmmaking." It was an auspicious move on the assistant's part as well, as the film's editor, Terilyn Shropshire, ACE, became one of her mentors. McMillon credits Shropshire with teaching her not only how to run a feature cutting room but the vital skills of diplomacy and the navigation of cutting room politics, as well. She worked as an assistant on a slew of films, including For Colored Girls (2010), Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013), Good Deeds (2012), Madea's Big Happy Family (2011) and Madea's Witness Protection (2012) — all directed by Tyler Perry and edited by another one of her mentors, Maysie Hoy, ACE. For his part, Sanders' career began editing the series The Biggest Loser and Unan1mous (2006) before moving into features. In 2008, he cut Jenkins' first film, Medicine for Melancholy, and worked his way up through the indie film route. As for mentors, he acknowledges that film school editors and professors like Brandi Bradburn, ACE, and Dan Holland, ACE, were instrumental in his finding a passion for editorial. "They were really formative figures for me," Sanders suggests. "I wanted Talking 'Beale Street' The Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders Interview

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