2019 Emmy Prime/Cuts: The Human Touch
Whatever the type of show, scripted or unscripted, the human element and emotional truths are usually at the core of the picture editor's storytelling work. That was the takeaway when a panel of five editors, all 2019 Emmy winners or nominees, gathered for the 13th annual Emmy Prime/Cuts, a public program presented by the Television Academy's Picture Editors Peer Group Executive Committee to explore the art and craft of picture editing.
On the panel, held October 12 at the Academy's Saban Media Center in North Hollywood, were Emmy winners Bob Eisenhardt, ACE (nonfiction, NatGeo's Free Solo); Tim Porter, ACE (single-camera drama series, HBO's Game of Thrones); and Alessandro Soares (unstructured reality program, CNN's United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell); and Emmy nominees Vera Drew (variety programming, Showtime's Who is America?) and Cindy Mollo, ACE (single-camera drama series, Netflix's Ozark, and single-camera limited series or movie, HBO's Deadwood: the Movie). Shawn Ryan, executive producer of CBS's S.W.A.T., returned as moderator.
Mollo, for instance, focused on a crying baby, the son of the man holding Ozark's two lead characters at gunpoint, in a five-minute scene where the couple tried to convince him to let them go.
In thinking initially about music for the scene, "I zeroed in on the baby crying," Mollo recalled. "We had to orchestrate the baby crying as music. I cut in a lot of crying, then selectively took crying out. the adult voices raised up, so the crying raised up. It was a fun scene to craft."
Porter worked with footage from 55 nights of filming in "The Long Night" episode of GoT, which depicts an epic battle between the living and the dead. With all the dragons, monsters and visual effects, it was still the emotional truth he looked for: "It's following characters, not keeping the audience away from people for too long, keeping everyone's stories alive and trying to connect people," he explained.
Sometimes, that truth is ugly, such as in a segment of the political satire Who is America? in which a disguised Sacha Baron Cohen conducted a supposed focus group that turned out to be anti-Muslim. Said Drew of the participants, "We never included anybody's name. We were very careful about what we chose. ... But racism has not been solved. at the risk of sounding cruel, I feel no sympathy for anybody that was in that room."
Soares' United Shades episode explored the story of the Hmongs, an ethnic group who fought during the Vietnam War for the United States, but were then abandoned and forced to become refugees, many eventually settling in Minnesota.
"We come in thinking about, what are the central elements of the story that is going to be told during that particular show?" Soares said. An hour-long interview might become a five-minute scene, which connects to several other edited scenes. "It's a very organic process. We don't set ourselves to say, 'This interview is only going to tell this element.' We're always shifting around, putting that puzzle together to see what's the best version of the arc we're trying to build in telling the story."
And Free Solo's Eisenhardt focused not only on Alex Honnold's successful attempt to become the first person to climb Yosemite's El Capitan free solo – i.e., without a rope or harness – but on Honnold's emotional distance from his girlfriend and others. During the daunting climb, he included reaction shots of high-altitude cinematographer Mikey Schaefer, here forced to shoot instead from the ground due to an injury, because, as Eisenhardt said, "He was the audience."
Scott Boyd, ACE and Michael Ruscio, ACE are the governors of the Academy's picture editors peer group.
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