How the Editor of “The Mandalorian” Built an Award-Worthy Career
But here we are again for another Women’s History Month, the time when we take a look at what has (and hasn’t) changed in our industry in terms of gender parity—and to highlight success stories.
What has changed? For the first time in 93 years, two women are nominated for Best Director Oscars.
What hasn’t? If one of them wins, she will be only the second woman to take home the award since Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009. And among the nominees for Best Film Editing, only one is a woman—Chloe Zhao, also nominated for Best Director.
Most of us are already well aware of the history of women editors: how they started as “cutters” because cutting film was considered to be better suited to women, like sewing curtains. How women got creative and pushed the art of editing forward, and men decided that it wasn’t “just” women’s work after all. How men went on to dominate the field, with some notable director-editor pairs like Martin Scorcese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke bucking the norm.
Instead of just rehashing history, we decided to profile editor Dana E. Glauberman, ACE. In addition to collaborating on seven films with director Jason Reitman (including Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air) she’s most recently been recognized by the American Cinema Editors for her work on The Mandalorian.
But no one starts at the top, so we feel lucky to get Dana’s important insights on what it takes to succeed in our industry—no matter your gender.
Discover your strengths
Dana began her career in the 1990s after graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in film studies.
An avid movie goer and photographer as a kid, she’d once queried a neighbor, a man in the industry, about pursuing cinematography as a possible career.
“He basically told me that I might have a hard time breaking into it as a woman,” she says. “This was back in the eighties, and I was a young teenager, and it stuck with me.” It may also help explain why there’s still such a gender disparity in that particular discipline.
But his response might actually have proven to be fortuitous. As someone who grew up loving jigsaw puzzles and movies, Dana ultimately found her perfect niche in the cutting room.
“I’m fascinated by seeing beautiful images and dailies on my monitor, but I truly love what I do as an editor,” she says.
Work your way up
So how did Dana find her way in?
Well, first, she worked hard. Starting as a production assistant for Hearst Entertainment right after graduation, she did what so many of us have done along the way: drove around Los Angeles for hours on end, picking up lunches and running errands while keeping a smile on her face.
“I proved to everyone I encountered that this is what I wanted to do and that I was serious about it,” Dana says.
“I was lucky that I was able to keep living with my parents, because I made very little money. But after eight months of driving around and transporting dailies, I’d met a lot of people in post-production and I asked my boss, Paul D. Goldman, to put me into a cutting room. I was basically an unpaid apprentice, but it was fantastic because I learned so much.”
Throughout the nineties, she honed her skills working on TV movies and series including Northern Exposure and Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman. Dana then transitioned into feature films in 1996 on Mike Nichols’ The Birdcage.
Because she had a background cutting actual celluloid, she was brought on for a couple of weeks to help editor Arthur Schmidt get acclimated to working on Avid—and ended up staying on for several months.
“I knew the film side of things so I was able to dive in to help with syncing dailies and conforming cuts. Toward the end of production, when editorial moved back east, I stayed in LA and acted as the liaison between production and the studio execs,” she says.
“After The Birdcage, Artie brought me on to several other projects and I consider him not just a dear friend but also a huge mentor to this day.”
Then, in 1997, Dana met her two other lifelong mentors, Wendy Greene Bricmont and Sheldon Kahn, on Ivan Reitman’s Fathers’ Day. And so began a long and fruitful working relationship as she “grew up” in that cutting room.
“There’s so much to learn through the filmmaking process, and I feel that it’s important to start at the bottom and climb your way up the ladder,” she says. “I’ve been in this business for many, many years and I still learn new things on every project that I work on. You can’t expect to start at the top—you just have to put in the time to learn.”
Make yourself valuable
One of the keys to succeeding in this business is establishing enduring relationships—and that goes for everyone.
With three career-long mentors and a seven-picture (and counting) collaboration with the same director, Dana is expert level.
“You have to prove that you’re there for a reason, and you have to be helpful,” she says. It’s how she and Jason formed their early partnership.
“I was working in his dad’s cutting room, and Jason was already directing commercials and short films. He’d come in at the end of our day to work on his short films and would ask me questions, and we just struck up a friendship.”
Thank You for Smoking was their first collaboration, and they’re still going strong—Dana most recently cut Ghostbusters: Afterlife (along with Nathan Orloff) set for a November 2021 release.
Her work with Jason has earned her numerous accolades and award nominations, but more than that, she feels so grateful to be part of such a collaborative and creatively nourishing relationship.
“A successful director-editor relationship has to be one of complete trust and honesty,” she says.
“It’s my job to bring any director’s vision to life, but having that absolute trust is essential. It’s funny because Jason doesn’t always want me on set, or close to it, because often he wants me to cut a scene in the way I would cut it with fresh eyes, having not been swayed by anything I had seen or heard on set. Sometimes I’m completely wrong, but I also might come up with something he hadn’t initially imagined.”
It’s all well and good to say that the successful relationship is based on trust, but that’s not something you can buy off the shelf.
Trust has to be earned, the result of hard work and high standards. Different editors have different approaches to projects. Some like to have their assistants go through the dailies, create bins, do stringouts. Dana prefers to do some of that herself.
“I find that if I have an assistant build a stringout of line reads for me, then I miss a lot of great nuances and reactions in between lines. I literally try to watch every single bit of dailies and make my own stringouts of takes and line reads that I like,” she says.
“That ends up being a time-consuming process, but in the end it’s well worth it because I know I have found some wonderful pieces within the performances.”
But it’s a process that Dana feels works for her and clearly earns her the trust of directors. They know that she’ll do whatever it takes to find the best possible moments in order to make their work shine.
“It’s said that every script is written three times,” she says. “First on the page, again during production, and then the third time in the edit suite, where we get the final rewrite. I think taking the time to actually put things together in a way that makes sense helps tell the story in a seamless fashion.”
At a time when there’s a lot of chatter about overly edited movies—cutting for cutting’s sake—Dana opts to let performances shine through and to let scenes breathe. “There’s no need to cut unless you need to cut,” she says. “If the actors are performing, why cut? Why not let the scene play out?”
Which is to say that sweating the details, obsessing over each frame, and having the willingness to experiment are all part of what makes her a trusted creative partner—on whatever film she’s working on.
Stay humble and collaborative
Over the course of her career, Dana has developed trust in her instincts.
But that doesn’t mean she thinks her opinions matter more than others. She’s fiercely committed to being absolutely honest with her director, but she’s also mindful of staying humble, a big part of being a great collaborator.
“I’m not going to lie—working from home has been difficult for me. I already work in a somewhat isolating career, so to be isolated even more is tough,” she says.
“I get so motivated and inspired when I’m surrounded by creative people. I love being with my crew—I’ll call them into my room, have them look at scenes, and we’ll talk about what’s working and not working. Sometimes they come up with ideas I haven’t thought of.”
“I’m all about collaborating, and being able to work with talented filmmakers—and seeing a project through from the script to the finished product—really gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
It’s noteworthy that for an editor whose work has been so highly acclaimed and recognized, Dana chooses the phrase “sense of accomplishment” in lieu of saying that she’s proud of her work, which underscores her humility. What she does say, however, is that each of the movies were special to her in unique ways.
To name a few: “Thank You for Smoking was my first feature with Jason, which kickstarted my career into becoming recognized as a full-fledged editor,” she says.
“Juno, well, there’s so much good to say about this film. Everything about it really fell into place pretty perfectly. Besides the actors becoming their characters, Jason and the crew really helped to make my job as an editor easy. So what’s not to love about it? And Up in the Air? We had an incredibly tight schedule from the start of production to delivery.”
“Given all that we had on our plate—a beautiful and meaningful script, mixing fiction with real people who, at the time, had recently lost their jobs—made it quite ambitious. Plus, I can’t complain about being able to stare at George Clooney’s face for eight months, and then getting nominated for a BAFTA made it extra special.”
“No Strings Attached was unique because Ivan Reitman directed it. Since I had essentially gone from being one of his assistant editors to being his editor, it felt as though I had made my dad proud.”
And most recently, The Mandalorian. “Not being a Star Wars superfan, this is a project and franchise I never thought I would be involved with. But in the end, my job as an editor is to tell a good story.
The list could go on, but every project I work on has taught me something new, and that’s why I value each one.”
Get out of your comfort zone
Dana recalls that when she initially started out, the cutting rooms were mostly occupied by men.
But while working in television, and then in Ivan Reitman’s cutting room, she often worked with other women editors and assistant editors. Throughout her career, she’s both been mentored by and mentored other women.
She’s also never felt pigeonholed into a particular genre or excluded from anything she’s wanted to work on. Dana has cut everything from comedy to drama to satire, and was one of three editors on Creed II. And her work on The Mandalorian just brought her a fifth ACE Eddie nomination, along with a Primetime Emmy nomination.
Dana credits her “incredible” agent, Jasan Pagni at William Morris Endeavor, for putting her up for projects that have pushed her out of her comfort zone, and feels grateful for the variety of the projects she’s had. Any particular genres she’s missed out on?
“I have a huge desire to cut a musical,” she says. “I love seeing Broadway shows, and really enjoy watching musicals on the big screen.”
Acknowledge gender (dis)parity
When you talk about gender parity, there are two schools of thought.
The more prevalent is, of course, that we have to shine the light on both progress and inequities. But the other is that the more we make the distinction between women and men in the industry, the more we play into the “othering” of women.
Every year, industry surveys prove that women are still underrepresented in the various behind-the-camera roles. As of 2020, of the indie films screening at U.S. festivals women represented only 40 percent of producers, 38 percent of directors, 35 percent of writers, 33 percent of executive producers, 28 percent of editors, and only 16 percent of cinematographers.
But what’s most striking about the editor statistic is that women already proved themselves equally capable of holding this position nearly 100 years ago. It was women who basically created the craft as we know it today.
So why are the numbers still so skewed—and why are women editors in the vast minority when it comes to genres like action or horror?
It’s a valid question, and one that even an editor who is a woman, and who has worked with numerous other women, can’t really adequately answer.
Become more inclusive
“I think it has gotten better in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go,” Dana says.
“The more aware of it we are, the more inclusive we can become. And, honestly, it’s not just in this industry. It’s society as a whole.”
Last year, we published a story about The Broken Hearts Gallery, directed by Natalie Krinsky. The cast was intentionally diverse to more accurately represent real groups of friends in present-day New York City.
Natalie told us that she had gone into casting with a completely colorblind approach, making her choices based on the actors’ performances and chemistry. She also had a diverse crew, but when we asked her why she’d elected to work with a male editor (Shawn Paper, ACE) her response was that she had immediately connected with him and trusted him with her story.
“We wanted to have as many female voices as we could, but what was most important to me was that anyone who worked on the film understood what we were trying to do. Shawn wanted to take care of it, not take it over.”
Dana echoes that sentiment. “The world needs to open its eyes more not only about being inclusive and diverse, but also about accepting who is right for any particular job. Gender, nationality, or the color of one’s skin should not matter.”
In a more perfect world, there would be a lot more people who share Dana and Natalie’s view. But, for now, all we can do is share the insights of people who are trying to make our industry more inclusive. Because the more inclusive our industry becomes, the more diverse stories we can tell.
Title imagery courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney.