Sabrina Gimenez loved movies, but she couldn’t imagine a future in film until a light bulb moment during her senior year at the University of Oregon.
For a film studies class, she had created a short, stop-motion animated film about two bicycles that go on a date on campus, culminating in a dorm-room tryst. As she pieced the film together, she found herself completely enthralled. “All of a sudden, I look at my clock on the computer, and six hours had passed right before my very eyes, and I was like, ‘How did this happen?’”
Fast-forward seven years, and the 2013 graduate (English, cinema studies) is now working in Hollywood as an assistant film editor. She has helped produce scripted movies, including director Miguel Arteta’s 2020 comedy Like a Boss, the upcoming Netflix comedy Yes Day, and season two of the critically acclaimed Hulu teen drama series, Love, Victor.
At work, she tackles technical and creative tasks and manages communications and logistics. An average day consists of preparing hours of shooting in an editing program so the editor can quickly access the next scene to review. She then makes the edits her boss has requested; for example, stitching multiple takes into one to capture the actors’ best performances, or adding background sound effects such as birds chirping or children playing. Meanwhile, throughout the day, she communicates with multiple departments to keep the edits on course and troubleshoot problems.
Gimenez, inspired by the likes of the late Sally Menke, renowned for her editing of Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic Pulp Fiction and other Tarantino films, is captivated by this role in the creative process.
Editors help fulfill a director’s vision, Gimenez says, but they also bring their own experiences and sensibilities to the story. And as they chisel the raw material, they have an opportunity to elevate the final product. “The edits should feel intuitive, powerful, and intentional,” she says. “While it’s intimidating and scary to dissect creative choices, a successful partnership will take those moments and create even better art as a result of it.”
Gimenez says editors also have an important role to play in opening doors for others. She hopes to help usher in underrepresented voices that make the film industry more diverse. “The literal control of representation and voices rests on our shoulders,” she says. “I’ve learned from mentors and colleagues that being passionate about this can really help guide directors in making bolder choices and empower them to tell more stories from those we haven’t heard as often.”
Before she worked in feature films, Gimenez spent nearly five years working at Trailer Park, a theatrical marketing agency specializing in movie trailers and commercial work. She landed the job in part through mentors Greg Snyder of Pixar Animation Studios and David Bess of Walt Disney Animation Studios, both 1992 UO graduates who majored in telecommunication and film.
At Trailer Park, she worked on the most meaningful project of her career to date: editing the trailer for Coco, the Disney and Pixar animated film that tells the story of Miguel, a young boy who learns about his family history during the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead.
In a 60-second spot, Gimenez aimed to both tell a condensed version of the movie and highlight funny, relatable moments that would resonate across cultures. “That marketing campaign was extremely personal to me as a Latinx person,” she says, “and I didn’t want to disappoint audiences globally, especially because the film tells such an important story.”
The project drove home the importance of editing—the way an editor can shape an audience’s experience. “The work is intentional,” she says, “and that’s why I love doing it every day.”
—By Emily E. Smith, BA ’10 (women’s and gender studies, journalism: news-editorial), a writer and editor in Bozeman, Montana
Photos courtesy of Sabrina Gimenez