Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker: Mary Sweeney

On Breaking Into the Film Industry

One piece of advice I give to people of both sexes in this business is don’t let anyone abuse you—life is too short.

On the Number of Women Working in Film

I am frustrated at how poorly represented women are in the film industry. I don’t know how to change that. Many more qualified and stronger women than I have tried and failed.

On Balancing Roles

As an editor, one only sees one dimension of the process and doesn’t have access to the shooting or writing. So until I started producing and writing, I didn’t really get behind the scenes. I would say The Straight Story was the richest experience in this respect, and additionally so because it was so simple but had to be done in exactly the right way… which David did.

On the Downside to Digital Technology

I worry that people trained as editors on AVID and other digital systems will not work material as hard as it can be worked. There seems to be a tendency to make quick decisions and quick changes. The process seems to be less thoughtful and have shorter attention spans. [It] feels more restless to me, more agitated.

On Collaborating with David Lynch

David is a strong filmmaker. He shoots very close to the script, and the coverage he gives me for a scene indicates what he’s looking to do: where he wants close-ups, etc. I always make a first assembly that doesn’t really reflect choices I might make, but is as close a reading of his intentions as I can get-and I’m not always right.

On the Five Films Any Aspiring Editor Should Watch

1. Battleship Potemkin
2. Nosferatu (1922)
3. Just about any Hitchcock film, but especially North by Northwest
4. Bonnie and Clyde
5. The Usual Suspects


Top image from Mulholland Drive courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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