“I just wasn’t brought up in a way to allow it to occur to me that there was anything I could not achieve,” says film editor Terilyn Shropshire. “That’s the gift my parents gave me.”
It’s a quiet Friday afternoon on the Sony lot in Culver City and we’re in Ms. Shropshire’s office on the second floor of the Clark Gable building.
It’s her last day in the space: She and her assistant are packing equipment and personal belongings even as she’s in the final stages of fine-tuning the film Jumping the Broom, which opened May 6. The faces of Broom’s stars — Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Angela Bassett — leap out at you from a mass of images on one wall. The editing bay — three computer screens, one keyboard, a microphone and stand — is against another.
“I still remember the first time I walked onto a lot,” Shropshire says. “And I’m not talking about the Universal Studios tour. I’m talking about the first time as a creative person stepping onto a lot. You feel the history. You realize how big MGM must have been at a certain point, or 20th Century Fox. The thing that’s also interesting is the question of what would I have been back in that day, on the lot? Would I have been a seamstress? Would I have been a janitor? What particular position might I have had on that lot? And now I’m walking on as an editor.”
It’s as an editor that she has helped shape contemporary black American cinema. Her credits include Eve’s Bayou, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, American Violet and The Secret Life of Bees. Born in New York and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, from age 4 to 11 (her father’s job with Philip Morris took the family around the globe), Shropshire attended film school at USC. A film fanatic from a young age, she discovered while working on the films of fellow students that editing “came naturally to me. It was organic. I loved it.”
Having traveled extensively, she says she loves having Los Angeles as a home base.
“You know,” she says, smiling, “the word ‘diversity’ is used a lot, and sometimes it’s kind of overused, but when I think of diversity I think of diversity of the mind. Los Angeles has an acceptance of so many different types of people and lifestyles, and there’s a certain open-mindedness that does not exist everywhere. I think it’s great. I live in Pasadena, so I love the idea of existing in a small town within a bigger city, being able to have a warm day and still seeing snow in the mountains.
“Being the foodie that I am, I love the ability of people to try new things — to go downtown or into different areas of the same city and experience completely different cuisines. One of my favorite places is Palate, a place in Glendale. I feel like it’s my Cheers. I can go in there and they know me. I can have a rough day at work and kind of roll in there and have a glass of wine and a good meal, and all is good.”