Reprinted from IndieWire by Eric Kohn on December 20, 2016.
When Joi McMillon attended the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of Moonlight, someone asked her if she was one of the film’s stars. On another occasion, she was mistaken for a costume designer. “People would say it was a compliment to me because I dressed nice,” she recalled in a recent phone interview, trailing off with a sardonic laugh that sounded like the best defense against the absurd set of assumptions that have troubled her career for years.
In fact, McMillon is one of two editors on Moonlight, and poised to make history as the first African-American woman ever nominated for a best editing Oscar. “Thinking about it stresses me out a bit,” McMillon said. “Whether you want it or not, the responsibility holds.”
Although Moonlight marks McMillon’s first feature-length editing credit, she’s hardly a newcomer to the field. She attended Florida State University with much of the team behind the film, including director Barry Jenkins, producer Adele Romanski, cinematographer James Laxton, and co-editor Nat Sanders. While Sanders forged a path as a features editor over the past decade — cutting Jenkins’ understated debut Medicine for Melancholy in addition to festival breakouts like Humpday and Short Term 12 — McMillon found herself stuck in the role of assistant editor on the reality television shows where they both got their start. Her early credits included episodes of Beauty and the Geek and The Biggest Loser. …