Meet Commonwealth Alumni/ae: Anne McCabe ’78, Filmmaker

Anne McCabe “fell into the film business,” she says, a seemingly unconventional storytelling path for an English major from Barnard College, Columbia University. After a stretch of post-college travel, she settled back down in New York, working her way up “the hard way” in the film business to eventually become an editor and director. Recent and upcoming projects include editing Hulu’s Boston Strangler; directing and editing the documentary Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage? for Disney+; and finishing the film adaptation of Rachel Yoder’s novel Nightbitch starring Amy Adams. Keep reading to learn more about how this alumna spends her days, what she remembered from her time at Commonwealth, and her advice for anyone interested in breaking into the film industry.

Getting to Know You

What is bringing you joy right now? 

My family! And working on a variety of cool and interesting projects, bouncing between comedy and drama (TV and movies and documentaries).

What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?  

Pride and Prejudice.

What do you think is the most intriguing paradox? 

Maybe not the most intriguing, but, for me, working on a show like Succession—with the most despicable characters you love spending time with—is a paradox.

What are your favorite comfort foods? 

Cuban food, cooked by my lovely sister-in-law.

What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)? 

English class with Mr. Davis—always enjoyable!

When do you feel the most enjoyably challenged? 

Editing a comedy-drama, trying to make people laugh then cry. Also, engaging in conversation with my now adult children, who are fascinating and entertaining.

What never fails to make you laugh?

Parks and Recreation, The Office, 30 Rock, Will Farrell, early Albert Brooks movies, Spinal Tap, my brother, and my husband.

What are people most surprised to learn about you? 

That I adopted three kids.

Pen or pencil? 


Coffee or tea? 


Fall, winter, spring, or summer?


Life During and After Commonwealth

What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how did it map to your experience? 

I was terribly intimidated. I doubted my Intelligence because there were many, many extremely bright and seemingly confident people. I realized later that they weren’t as confident as I previously thought.

When and how did you first become interested in editing?

I fell into the film business. I thought it looked fun and exciting. I had an English degree and studied a lot of music, but for a long time I was a PA, a production assistant, and ran around getting coffee, etc. When I got the chance to actually edit, it was so enjoyable and was a fantastic fit for me, working with storytelling and music.

What does a typical workday look like for you? 

Start early. Be extremely focused.

What’s your advice for young people interested in film editing? 

There are many easily accessible programs now. Practice at home. Learn visual effects (VFX). Listen to music. Watch movies!

What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth? 

Don’t be intimidated: speak up.

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