Oscar-nominated ‘I, Tonya’ editor on gender equality and inspiring young women
Tatiana Riegel is still "amazed and stunned" at her first Oscar nomination for her work as an editor in the acclaimed film, "I, Tonya."
After almost 30 years in the business, working on films like, "The Way Way Back," "Bad Words" and "The Finest Hours," Riegel is more than ecstatic about the possibility of taking home an Academy Award Sunday night.
Riegel, the only woman nominated in the editing category this year, spoke to ABC News about her path to the Oscars, finding her professional match in director Craig Gillespie and what the future holds for women in Hollywood looking to work on the technical end of things.
Riegel's family consisted mainly of academics, like professors — not editors, directors or anyone else working in anything close to motion pictures. But she said growing up in Los Angeles, California, is how she caught the editing bug.
"I just really liked movies and I knew I wanted to get into it somehow," she said.
After graduating with a degree in political science, Riegel started to try out different professions within the film industry.
"After crossing everything off the list, that left post-production," she said. "I liked the combination of creative and technical."
In the early 1990s, she started in smaller films like "Denial" and "Doppelganger" before she started working on big-budget pictures.
"In post-production, you deal with all aspects of filmmaking," she said. "You are involved a little bit in pre-production, but then you're involved in the production, you have to deal with all of the different departments… Then through the post-production, you're involved with sound, music, re-shoots and, obviously, the editor works the closest and the longest with the director."
Riegel worked as an assistant for years for another legendary editor, Sally Menke. She said watching the relationship she had with Quentin Tarantino really inspired her to find a professional equal in a director.
"I sit in the room with the director eight to 12 hours a day for months on end," she explained. "It's highly collaborative and challenging. I often describe myself as the first audience of the film."
She continued, "Sometimes you are working on pace, sometimes it's the story, sometimes sound, and every time I watch it, I'm only looking for something else."
During the production of "I, Tonya," Riegel was not only moved by the script but by working with Gillespie, whom she's worked with off-and-on for a decade.
She admits, at first, she thought the prospect of a Tonya Harding movie was a bit strange.
"I kind of went, 'Whoa, really? Why do we want to do that?'" she said. "[But] there is a wonderful emotional variety to the film. It's emotional, it's tragic, it's funny… it's absolutely not what you would expect it to be. It's opening you up to people in ways you didn't understand before."
She added that after watching Menke and Tarantino for years, she realized a quality director wants to have an editor that is a sounding board and can facilitate good, healthy discussions about changes to a film.
"I've always wanted that sort of relationship with a director," she said. "I feel like I've found that with Craig."
There's been a lot of conversation this past year on gender equality, especially with movements like Me Too. After a quick glance, it's easy to see that Riegel is the only Oscar-nominated woman in the editor category this year.
There's no doubt that in the film industry there's a lack of women behind the scenes. In 2016, women made up only 17 percent of editors, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, Variety reported. In spite of the numbers, Riegel says, there have been notable women to break into and make a splash in the profession.
In addition to Menke, Martin Scorsese often worked with editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
"I think in editorial, we are doing better than in some of the other fields," she explained.
Still, she thinks younger, talented female students of the industry need to see women, like herself, nominated to know they can be an Oscar contender, too.
"I think it's easier for someone when they see someone that's in a position, and they can imagine themselves in that position," she said. "The more you see that, the more you believe in yourself. It used to be for a big action movie, you gotta get a guy to cut it. But I think now with all the conversations, people are taking a breath and thinking outside the usual box."
The 2018 Oscars are set to air at 8 p.m. EST this Sunday on ABC.