Art of the Cut: Inside the Editing Room of HBO’s “Mare of Easttown”
HBO’s reputation was built largely from dark drama like Deadwood, The Sopranos, and The Wire, and its latest addition, Mare of Easttown, joins the lineup with moody style and standout performances.
Amy has cut numerous feature films including the remake of Psycho back in 1998, Laurel Canyon, and Lies and Alibis, among many others. She’s also edited TV series including Hunters, The Umbrella Academy, American Gods and Dexter.
Naomi has worked as an assistant editor on numerous series including Grey’s Anatomy and American Gods and also on the Oscar-nominated feature One Night in Miami. She’s also making a name for herself as an editor with features like Sophie Jones and on series like Tagged.
Check out the Art of the Cut podcast to listen to this interview, and stay up to date on all the latest episodes.
HULLFISH: Amy, you were in a documentary that was in Art of the Cut, which was 78/52.
DUDDLESTON: Yeah, it was about the shower scene in Psycho.
HULLFISH: The entire documentary, for those that don’t know, was just about the shower scene. The 78/52 numbers refer to the number of set-ups shot and used in the sequence.
DUDDLESTON: And so, because I had cut Gus van Sant’s remake of Psycho very early in my editing career, he brought me on to talk about remaking the shower scene and how we did that.
It was very strange at first because we did it shot by shot, and we even did it from the original storyboards. He even threw out some of those shots. So we took it all in and cut it, and it was kind of boring to remake something that’s so iconic.
So Gus felt really compelled to make that part his own, because it needed something. It was bizarre because the remake of Psycho was supposed to be this cut by cut conceptual art piece, and a lot of it was all. All of the shots of Marian driving with the background. We kept it pretty close – The shower scene was where we got hung up.
HULLFISH: That’s interesting.
DUDDLESTON: We did so many versions and then Gus finally said, “What about time-lapse clouds?”
And I said, “Why not? Let’s see what happens!” That was great, it was fun to talk about that.
HULLFISH: Before I get over to Naomi, I want to dig into that. I really love that idea that he said, “What about clouds?” because my first instinct is “No,” but that’s a bad instinct for an editor. Right? It’s like improv, you always say “Yes, and.” So I love that you said, “Okay, clouds.”
DUDDLESTON: We needed to do something. This is the thing with editing. Why not start throwing things in? Naomi and I will talk about this later when we talk about the scene in episode 105, where we’re at Wayne Potts’ house, we had the kitchen sink in there. It was in all of the shots, everything. You start with everything—if you have an idea, throw it in.
HULLFISH: You can always take it out, right? The clouds didn’t work
DUDDLESTON: The clouds didn’t work.
HULLFISH: You tried it, though.
FILORAMO: There’s this similar moment in Mare, too. Amy, you may recall there was a passage of time sequence you were working on. And it was like, ‘What about this shot of water?’
DUDDLESTON: Right. The shot of water. I thought, “Okay, let’s try the shot of water.”
HULLFISH: Yeah, you definitely have to fight the instinct to say no.
DUDDLESTON: You just have to fight it. I probably did say no. It came out. I tried a lot of things.
HULLFISH: And Naomi, you have worked on a lot of projects that we’ve done Art of the Cuts on: Grey’s Anatomy, Fury, and I just did an interview about One Night in Miami.
HULLFISH: So you have been around!
FILORAMO: I have! I have worked on all kinds of different films and television series, and I think I’ve been really lucky. I remember when I was finishing film school, it was right around the time the Sopranos ended, and one of the second-year faculty members at AFI was talking about how it’s so easy to get pigeonholed in this business, and to get stuck doing one thing.
It was one of the sort of big-time editors of the Sopranos who had been a feature editor, but then did all seven, eight seasons of Sopranos and then couldn’t get a feature after that because now people saw that editor as a television editor. I think I’ve been really lucky, and I think it’s also been mindful for me to try to really continue to keep my feet in both worlds. I love doing both of them and I didn’t want to get stuck.
HULLFISH: Feature editors get stuck in a genre, right?
DUDDLESTON: I’m kind of stuck in television now. I was a feature editor but now TV is where the most interesting things are. I have a family, so I can’t take the lowest paying job anymore. Television has sustained my family. I would love to do a movie for nothing, it would be amazing. Luckily people like Naomi can…
FILORAMO: …weave in and out.
DUDDLESTON: Weave in and out. Do it!
HULLFISH: I have done the last couple of interviews discussing something I’ve never talked to anybody about, which is agents. So is that something an agent will help you with? “Hey look, you want to make the jump to features. I know you were there before, so that’s not really a jump for you, but do we want to do this to get you back?” Or, “Look, this project is much more high profile and TV. Why don’t you do this?” What’s the value of an agent? Why do you have an agent?
DUDDLESTON: Mostly I got an agent so that I could start finding work. I was still a feature editor and working a lot in indie film, so just having other people advocate for you was a really great thing. Psycho was kind of the film that got me my agent. There was a full-page ad in the newspaper. It brought a lot of things to me, so they just wanted to start building on that. They said, “You’ve worked with Gus van Sant, you were Curtiss Clayton’s assistant!” So they just kind of wanted to go from that, and I would never have thought that, so that was really helpful in the beginning. I’ve found it to be great to have an agent, and Naomi has one.
“I felt I was certainly getting plenty of work on my own, but then I got to a point where I definitely felt there was a ceiling.”
HULLFISH: You do. What’s the value of that agent for you, Naomi?
FILORAMO: For me, it’s funny. It’s sort of a similar story. For a long time I was going back between editing and assisting, and at that time I felt like I wasn’t necessarily interested in having an agent. A lot of my assistant work came to me just through the people I had worked with. I built up a network. I felt I was certainly getting plenty of work on my own, but then I got to a point where I definitely felt there was a ceiling. I was getting some meetings. I would meet with the director on a feature and that director would want to hire me, but then the producers wouldn’t meet with me. I wasn’t legitimate enough. Didn’t have quite the credits, and I didn’t have representation. So if I wanted to see how things were going, I had to be the person to call and check in.
For me, I had a small indie film called Sophie Jones that premiered last fall in competition at Deauville—actually the same week that One Night in Miami was premiering at Venice! It was kind of a crazy deal. Sophie Jones is one of those little films that you believe in, and you put everything you have into it, and you don’t know if anyone will ever see it. But that confluence of that film doing so well and when One Night in Miami of course doing so well became that perfect storm. A friend of mine who’s an editor was talking about me with her agent and she said, “I’d really like to meet her and talk with her.” It was something where I was feeling that it was time at this point to get some help getting in the room.
And I think that’s something that is really essential for me. Also, I found that I actually really love having a partner in my career. Someone to bounce off the different decisions and think about that strategy coming off of Mare. What are we going to prioritize as the next thing? In terms of my long-term goals, what are the ways to help me continue to move in that direction? I really value Dana, that’s her name. I value her insights. It’s really great to just know that I have someone else on my team who is as interested as I am in getting me where I’m trying to get, but also enjoying it along the way.
HULLFISH: That’s great. Did you start as an assistant on this show? I know you edited on this show, or were you an editor from the beginning?
FILORAMO: I was an editor from the moment I joined.
HULLFISH: There are people who do start as an assistant and the editor says, “You cut so many scenes and you’re so good that we’re just promoting you.”
DUDDLESTON: I brought Naomi onto the show, actually. Naomi and I had worked on two other shows together. She was an assistant on the other shows—she was never my assistant, but we became friends. Then I went on to American Gods and my assistant was leaving to work on another show. I thought, “Oh, maybe Naomi can do this!” Then Naomi came on to be my assistant, and then she ended up assisting somebody else. It was a crazy show, American Gods.
I needed help on Mare, because—I mean, maybe we can talk about how I ended up with the whole show. We started the show in 2019 in November. There were two editors. I was one of two. And then when the pandemic hit about a month in, we were just working, finishing up what work we had leftover that they had finished shooting before they had to shut down, and they let the other editor go.
They put me in charge of the entire show, so my job for the next six months was to recut the entire show. And so I did. Then when they finally came back to finish shooting, they had about two months, two and a half months left to go. I said, “I’m going to need help doing this because I can’t do dailies and finish producer cuts,” so I said, “I know the perfect person.”
I got Naomi to come on, it was great. We finally finished shooting and HBO said, “Hey, we want this show in April, that’s four months from now.” So I needed help, somebody else had to start doing producer and director’s cuts on some of these other episodes while I was still doing notes on other things. Naomi came in and that’s how she became the co-editor on those other episodes.
HULLFISH: I want to talk a little about art and craft stuff. We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about careers, which I love. I think people want to know about it and like to know about it.
At the end of episode two—as we go into the big reveal (we won’t say what it is), the scenes are inter-cut. Was that scripted that way? Do you remember whether those scenes were intercut or not?
FILORAMO: They were scripted as intercut, but they were not scripted the way in which they ultimately ended up intercut. That was definitely one of the sequences that we worked on the most in directors and producers cuts because when we put the episode together, we put it together in script order. It’s always so interesting to me: sometimes at the script level, it’s very clear to me, even reading it, that I’m going to move these things around. This isn’t going to stay like this. Sometimes at the script level it’s really working, and then it’s a surprise when you put it together and it’s just not working on a screen the way it does on the page.
I think for me, I didn’t have an instinct at the script stage that we were going to have to really rearrange, but once we got it together it was definitely not quite building up to that reveal in the way that we wanted it to. That was definitely something that got re-envisioned a handful of times, really trying to move some of those pieces around and see which parts of those scenes were the most important. Then, whittling away the certain elements that weren’t serving to continue that tension ramping up as you get to that reveal.
HULLFISH: Can you remind me, since you obviously remember it quite well, what were the two scenes that were being intercut?
FILORAMO: Well, I think there were three. There was Mare and the hoagie, I guess just leave it at that…The Wawa, obviously a big fan-favorite element. There was Lori, Jess, and her mom coming over to talk about some big news. Then there was Dylan and Kenny. Dylan was being led off into the woods by Erin’s father.
HULLFISH: What are some of those elements that, when you’re intercutting and find the script isn’t working, make intercutting better?
DUDDLESTON: You know, it’s just what goes together. With that sequence in 102, just having the pieces of Kenny’s car going down the road, then you go inside the car, and then you cut to Jess and her mom showing up at Lori’s house. It’s just knowing that it’s a balance.
Naomi can tell you, it’s juggling. At some point you’re going to have to stop on that scene with Kenny and Dylan and let it play out. The other scene where they’re in the living room, you’re going to have to let that play out. Then how do you resolve all of that?
It’s like an eighth of a page. Then on film, it’s this big. (Indicates with her fingers that it’s much bigger.)
It’s just trying to manage expectations of how it should feel. Naomi can talk about that sequence a little bit more.
FILORAMO: Obviously we lived with this material—me not even nearly as long as Amy did—but then when it’s finally done, somehow it suddenly becomes so foggy. My recollection is that ultimately one of the elements of the script stage that was not translating is that each thing was given equal weight. Part of what was essential in that sequence was figuring out what is worthy of the screen time and the emphasis that’s going to continue to build tension. Then, what is something we just need to move through? Maybe essential, but it needs to just be explained, delivered, what have you—and then, move past it.
There are a number of big things that happen in that sequence. They can’t all feel as important. So I think that was really understanding, what are the two really big deals that are going to happen here?
You kind of know it when you say, “Well, this giant thing happens and this other giant thing happens, and we need to make sure that these feel like the biggest two moments of the end of this episode. So these other things that were given equal weight in terms of tension-building are starting to drain tension instead of adding to it.”
You have to really whittle those away so that it’s giving the information you need, especially in a series like this where all the information is going to continue to build in the following episode. There are certain elements that do have to be given some time, and you want to make sure that they land with an audience and that they take it in.
I think another one of the things that people had so much fun with on this series was trying to figure it out for themselves, so you want to be laying those breadcrumbs for them and keeping them invested. But some things you had to just get out and keep going to help build up to these other bigger moments that were going to leave that audience with that gut punch feeling.
“There are certain elements that do have to be given some time, and you want to make sure that they land with an audience and that they take it in.”
HULLFISH: I loved the scene in the pediatrician’s office when Mare goes in to talk about the son’s blinking, and her performance is just incredible. I would think you would want to just stay with her at all times.
DUDDLESTON: I talk about this scene a lot because I could not cut away from Kate Winslet, but the actress who plays the pediatrician—I really felt bad because she had Kate Winslet as a scene partner giving it her all.
HULLFISH: That was my take on it. I just loved watching her. I don’t know when you would cut away and when you would choose to be off.
FILORAMO: I think the pediatrician’s performance still, as little as we cut to her, was so strong that her empathy…
DUDDLESTON: The empathy, yeah.
FILORAMO: I think that was actually the essential counterpoint to Kate’s performance. Someone in there who was taken aback by this sudden divulging of a really long and complicated history, but was able to create and hold space for her. It is the perfect extra element to that performance to let Kate’s performance shine even more than it already does.
DUDDLESTON: And she was very gentle: ”Do you think you would want to talk to somebody?”
HULLFISH: I even loved the wide shot that you cut to where she accepts the card. She wasn’t being dismissive, but I thought being on a wide for that moment said something about how she didn’t really want to take it. I thought it was an interesting choice.
DUDDLESTON: Well, it’s just a good end for the scene because you’re in that emotional moment for so long. It’s kind of like, “Okay, take a breath.”
HULLFISH: It’s a release, right?
Tell me a little bit about the montage. There’s a montage of high school witnesses that come in to talk.
DUDDLESTON: Naomi worked on that!
HULLFISH: It was just a lovely thing how it built up to a moment that was important.
DUDDLESTON: I cut the dailies for weeks. I did it basically the way it was scripted. The beats the writer wanted, that Brad (Ingelsby) put in there. Then I tried to throw in a few other little things to make it funny. They were all pretty funny. Then I did another pass with Craig, and then that was when I had to hand off the episode to Naomi to finish things off. Then it really evolved, and she can talk about that.
HULLFISH: Before we get into Naomi’s part of this, you were saying that you basically cut it as scripted, which I’m assuming is not the way we saw it.
FILORAMO: No, part of Craig’s approach was that he shot it really documentary style. I never actually asked him about the conversations he had with the actors, but he must’ve had conversations with the actors because there were actually only a handful of scripted lines for that montage. There was a lot of ad-lib material to work with. One of the things that was essential actually was our apprentice, who is fantastic. He had been largely responsible for ScriptSyncing our dailies, but there was no script for this so I asked him—feeling pretty terrible about it—to create transcripts for me, and that became essential as the process continued.
I think that tone on this show is one of the things that’s so complicated, and I think that that sequence is a really excellent example because these kids, they really didn’t see much, and they don’t know much, but they’re teenagers so they’re going to give you their information with that teenager saltiness. They all have an opinion.
HULLFISH: They all have a personality that is very evident.
FILORAMO: Yes. So in the producer’s cut stage Brad had some ideas, but he wasn’t quite sure how he wanted it. So I said, “Brad, just talk to me about the overall feeling that you’re looking to get from this, and then just give me some time. Let’s just talk about what you’re hoping to get out of this, and then let me take it.” He really wanted to emphasize that these kids don’t know anything, and the detectives aren’t going to get any information from these teenagers, and he wanted it to be fast and funny.
So that was the first pass that I did, but it was too funny. I don’t mean that as a humblebrag, that it was too funny, but it didn’t work.
There needed to be levity and there needed to be laughs, but there needed to be some specific information that got communicated both to the audience and the detectives.
Then when we needed to transition into the interview with Jess, Erin’s closest friend, and she’s the one person who’s truly distraught. That was something that Brad had talked about. You really wanted to feel that difference, that justice, the one person who actually cares about Erin in this situation and in this montage. I want to really feel that, so I went back in to retool it a little and got rid of some of the more ancillary laughs, and tried to get in a little bit more of the information about what had happened so that it could be an easier transition into the conversation with Jess and losing her best friend.
It was one of those moments where you get to see some of that great comedic work from Evan Peters and Kate Winslet, but then also when you get to see that humanity that Mare has, and that ability to connect with someone who is hurting, and to try to get them to open up, because it’s so important to do so.
That had to be kind of worked into, but you didn’t want to miss out on those great moments of these kids and their inanity.
HULLFISH: That’s a difficult thing for an editor, too, that transition from something that’s funny to then this moment. You’ve got to ease your way in.
DUDDLESTON: You do have to ease your way in because the scene originally started with Jess. Then it went into the montage so, tonally, that was incorrect. That was one of the things that we were bumping on when I was working with Craig. I think they found the solution was to put her at the end and shift the tone that way, because you have this little breath scripted. It started with Jess, and then it went into the other thing, and it got flipped.
HULLFISH: Sometimes I see a shot that makes me think, “that’s the way you get into the scene,” right?
The one that I’m thinking of is when Mare arrives at the book signing party, and there’s this great shot tilting up the stairs, and it just does a lot for revealing things. When you see a shot like that do you think, “That’s how I get in?” Or were there a billion other choices that were just as good?
DUDDLESTON: There were a lot of choices in that scene. The secret to that is that there was another actor who was cast in Guy Pearce’s part, Ben Miles. So in that scene where Kate comes up, everything with Guy Pearce was shot at a completely different time, and all of the stuff with Kate was shot earlier. I had to kind of glue it all together. We had to do a VFX on the poster for his book because she’s sitting next to it. All of that I had before, and I was just waiting for the Guy Pearce parts. That scene has some great parts, too, where she’s sticking the pate under the couch cushions.
She orders a vodka soda at the bar and it’s $12, and she’s offered this pate. But she wanted a Rolling Rock, and they said, “There’s no beer here at this bar.” That got cut out, but the cushion stayed.
HULLFISH: Yeah, that was a great moment. The casual tucking it under the seat.
I know shoe leather is a derogatory word for an editor, but I’m using this word because we know what it means. What is the value of using shoe leather?
When you do put shoe leather into a show. “Okay, I’m not just going to cut to Mare knocking on a door. I’m going to show her driving down the street. I’m going to show her walking up to the door.” What is the value of that? Why use that?
DUDDLESTON: For Craig, it was getting into Mare’s place of where she is, Mare had a lot going on. It wasn’t just the place she was going to. It was where she was all the time, tracking her emotional state. A lot of it was just that. And also he wanted to show the town. Some of Brad’s thing was wanting to show the community. That was where we had little bits of the interstitials. Naomi found one bit—it’s a Twitter account now, “Dog of Easttown.”
— dogofeasttown (@dogofeasttown) June 8, 2021
Those little parts were the glue. It’s important to see Zabel and Mare across the park and look for clues, because it’s all going to come back later. This is all part of a mystery that you’re trying to build up.
FILORAMO: Talking about going from tone to tone in this series, oftentimes the “shoe leather” is a moment to help you transition, both maybe geographically within the world of the show but also emotionally as a viewer. It gives you a little time for certain things to sink in. Maybe it’s that piece of information that’s now spinning around in your head that Mare’s learned, so you’ve learned it too.
“If it all smashed right up against each other, then nothing really has a moment to land or breathe.”
That makes it a little bit easier than if the next scene has more comedic elements to it. If it all smashed right up against each other, then nothing really has a moment to land or breathe.
We definitely had a lot of beautiful shots to choose from, and I liked the idea that we got to control the case. There’s so many ways to do that, of course, and a beautiful, super-wide shot of two detectives crossing the park is only one of the ways to do that.
I think you almost make a statement with it as filmmakers, that we are going to show you what we want to show you, we’re going to show it to you when we want to show it to you. We’re going to really take you on this ride the way we think it should be taken. Instead of just trying to cram everything in.
DUDDLESTON: Yeah, because it’s a murder mystery. This is the thing with our show: it’s a family drama with a murder mystery thrown in it. That was the thing that we were always trying to stay on top of. Episode three is probably my favorite episode because it has everything in it. It’s so much family drama, and everything ramps up. Suddenly Mare’s ex-husband is a suspect, and the priest is a suspect, but she runs into Zabel at the bar and he pours out his soul to her. Being able to take your time to tell those stories was really important.
HULLFISH: Were you under any time constraints on episode length?
DUDDLESTON: We were. HBO wanted us to bring everything in at 58 minutes. There were a few that definitely went over, especially the ending. We fought to just have it as long as we possibly could. HBO wants it to be an hour long because they still broadcast.
John Oliver‘s not going to be on at the right time if your DVR is set.
HULLFISH: The shoe leather scene that I was talking about was Mare going to the scene of the murder. I feel like you spent the right amount of time, but she does get in the car, she walks down the hill. It takes her some time to get there. You could have just said, the phone call happens and there’s the body.
DUDDLESTON: I had a version of it like that, but Brad said, “No, this is where we’re going to have our title. This is where she’s going to drive down the road, and she’s going to start processing it.”
HULLFISH: Quite literally in the title of the show, the location is a character.
Episode three, there are custody arguments with over-cutting dialogue. Was that over-cutting? Do you remember that, that two people are talking over each other? Did they actually record it like that? Or did you tighten it up?
DUDDLESTON: Some tightening, but they were talking over each other.
FILORAMO: Yeah, regularly. In more than one scene, I cut totally MOS (without sound) first and then went back in to see whether I’d left myself as much space for the dialogue as I thought I had. There definitely was a lot of Altman-esque dialogue happening at one time at various points.
It’s funny because it’s such a headache when you are cutting. It truly is. It’s a headache, it’s a headache, but it does lend something different and organic to the performances that you won’t quite achieve if you just create that overlap editorially. I think because what the actors are giving to each other continues to inform every next moment of overlap as things are getting loud.
It’s a lot of work to make it actually intelligible and clear. Then you get into the real work of the scene.
DUDDLESTON: In 103, there are two conversations: Mare confronting her ex-husband about him lying about talking to Erin and, there’s the other one with Carrie talking about getting custody of Drew. The one with Frank I overlapped a lot, but the one with Carrie they overlapped on purpose because you want to see Carrie get a little unhinged. Then ultimately it leads to Mare doing something that ruins a lot of stuff for her. She made a choice after that.
HULLFISH: One of the things that I loved was some sound design. Obviously, professionals down the line do that, but you have to speak to that as picture editors.
I loved when Mare drops off her son, and he goes in without even looking back at her. It cuts to this big, gorgeous wide shot and there’s a train howling in the background. There’s some lovely sound design. Talk to me about what you do with sound design and what that helps you with.
“Everybody lives in a different neighborhood in Easttown—where does the train come through?”
DUDDLESTON: I know Brad North put in the trains. They talked about it as a choice. Everybody lives in a different neighborhood in Easttown—where does the train come through? If you’re slightly poor, the train comes through right next door. If you’re more middle-class, it’s way off in the distance.
That was a Brad thing. I know Naomi gets into sound design a lot, it’s one of her favorite things. I asked her to help me with a lot of it because I know she loves it.
HULLFISH: Is it something you hand off to assistants a lot? Many editors do.
FILORAMO: For me, not so much, but I think that’s in part because I have often, as an editor, not had the luxury of having an assistant. Or I have been an assistant doing cutting, and then also needing to do that work for the editor. So for me, I’m just doing that work as I go along.
It was great on this show to have the incredible crew that we did have. We had two assistant editors and an apprentice, and one of our assistant editors ultimately became our VFX editor. He has an immense talent for that. I definitely found it to be fantastic if I was able to suddenly say, “Let me not do this. Let me have a conversation and hand it off.” It’s a great opportunity for assistant editors to have some creative contribution to the work at times, especially when you’re overloaded with outputs and things like that. I know when I was assisting, I always loved getting an opportunity to really help contribute to the story.
I think that scene in particular that you’re talking about is in 106, but 104 is when we first see Carrie’s apartment. Craig and I definitely talked about how she’s just gotten this place, she’s barely back on her feet. What does this neighborhood sound like?
We had a kitchen sink approach. There were a lot of things in my tracks—loud motorcycles, things breaking, kids playing outside even though it was dark. What’s great is when you get into the sound spot, obviously we’ve done too much, but what are the things that you think will really work? One of the things we had talked about was the sounds of people fighting in the apartment next door, that the walls here are thin in this apartment building. That’s something that was carried through.
Early on, when we first get to Dawn’s house I decided, “This is a woman who has wind chimes in her front porch area.” Or she doesn’t, but one of her neighbors does. There are definitely wind chimes that are going to be heard in this space.
I remember thinking, “This might be the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” but every time Craig started to work, he would say, “I love it. I love it.” Then when we got to the sound spot, I said, “All right, Brad, I am ‘ride or die’ for these wind chimes.” It felt authentic to that character and to that location.
It’s not that I’m just constantly throwing in wind chimes willy nilly. It just felt very right for Dawn and her outlook on life. It’s fun. I think it’s fun to explore those elements of the story and create those rich tapestries. One of our assistant editors, Génesis Henriquez, really brought beautiful elements to the temp sound design that carried through, and then worked to the very end.
DUDDLESTON: Genesis came to me and said, “Maybe we should put the documentary back in Mare’s head at the end, when she’s sitting there and everybody’s coming in,” and it was genius. It was genius. Brad Ingelsby was delighted. You want to hand these things off to the assistants. Génesis had a genius idea. Génesis has been my assistant for three years, and I always encourage her to tell me if she has an idea because I want to hear it.
HULLFISH: That documentary was really interesting to me. I was watching and thinking, “An editor is cutting somebody’s editing. That’s kind of interesting. What NLE is that?”
DUDDLESTON: Yeah, good question!
HULLFISH: It’s not an Avid, it’s not Premiere.
DUDDLESTON: It’s a bunch of them. It’s Final Cut Pro meets Avid, meets Premiere. It was mostly Avid. Then VFX took it over and made a whole interface for it, but for the longest time it was just a full screen of the documentary. We said, “Yeah, we have to make an editing system for her.”
HULLFISH: It was fun watching her cut a documentary in the middle of the show. I liked that. I taught my daughter how to edit, but she learned on Avid.
DUDDLESTON: Good for her!
HULLFISH: When they’re talking about the Upper Darby case, there’s a discussion where he says, “You owe me a Coke.” It was very funny. I loved that.
Do you know this term Dragnetting? When you Dragnet a cut it’s when you always are on the person who’s speaking.
HULLFISH: That scene was the opposite of Dragnetting to me. I loved the pace, and it was so not being on the person speaking.
DUDDLESTON: Because it’s people’s lives. Mare’s in this completely different headspace where she’s gone into the evidence room to take something out, you don’t know what she’s up to. And Zabel is telling this story, and he’s telling you very strangely. Especially on this show, everybody’s so great. You really had to have a reason to cut away from somebody.
HULLFISH: I don’t know how we can even talk about the intercutting of the confession with the reenactment of the night. Basically, you have the confession of a character who did it. It’s the final couple of scenes of the final episode, but you’re not just staying with that character. You’re cutting back and forth between that and the re-enactment of the night.
DUDDLESTON: Their point-of-view, yes.
HULLFISH: Talk to me about when you choose those moments to be on the subject in the interrogation room, and when you choose to be out.
DUDDLESTON: Originally I cut it the way it was scripted using various things like voiceover and showing what happened, and it kind of stayed the same. It really did. Some things we needed to make shorter, but it also was a really emotional moment for all of the characters. Knowing everybody in that room was in pain.
The way that scene was written is the way it played out in the end. It was just making sure that if I cut back to Mare, she was doing something to take it all in. Her being very empathetic, but also needing to know every single thing that happened was really important, and you did need to see every single thing that happened. Because it’s heartbreaking, you know? I followed the script, tried to keep the pace going in a way that worked.
I had Stephanie Lowry, our music editor, put in a piece of music. She edited a giant piece of music to kind of keep it all going along. That was really helpful to kind of bring the whole thing together.
HULLFISH: Do you prefer to edit dry, without music?
DUDDLESTON: I do. I put the music in later. Sometimes if it’s an action scene it helps to have a little bit of a soundtrack, but not really. I just don’t do that. I’ve got to cut it dry, and then find out what’s going to work later.
HULLFISH: Naomi, thoughts on music?
FILORAMO: I work a little differently. Some things I cut dry. As I said before, I cut a lot MOS. Actually even if there was an overlapping dialogue, a lot of times I know the dailies so well that by the time I’m cutting a scene together, I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything. Then I’ll put the sound back on once I feel it emotionally just by watching the picture.
I’ve got some scenes I’ll cut with music, some I won’t and I’ll add it in later. For me, it’s really scene-to-scene, and probably also where my creative energy is coming from on a day. Sometimes if I’m not able to unlock whatever it is and I need to access the scene, I’ll put in a piece of music that I think I’m going to want to use and kind of just leave it unlocked on a bottom track so that I can continue moving everything else around. The music’s not going to go anywhere. It’s not going to get chopped up. It’s just there helping me kind of tap into the zone sometimes.
“I have to be careful not to get too deep into the weeds too early on with my music edits because I do enjoy it so much.”
I do love to edit music. Having had such a long assistant editor career, that’s something that was often part of my responsibilities. I do love to work with music, and I have to be careful not to get too deep into the weeds too early on with my music edits because I do enjoy it so much. That can often not really be where you need to be putting all of your focus is getting that perfect music edit.
DUDDLESTON: I asked Naomi to help me on a few sequences, and it was really funny because I chose some music. I thought, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m going to get Naomi’s expertise because she’s really good at it.” She ended up putting in a piece of music that I had tried out, and, for some reason when she did it, it was just better. Maybe I just needed to step away.
FILORAMO: Sometimes we do have to step away.
DUDDLESTON: We used a lot of David Fincher music in some spaces because it’s so ethereal. The Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross stuff.
FILORAMO: We had a great library, and these were from films I had not seen. I do love it when you find a score that is, for whatever reason, just totally tapped in.
I kept going back to that a lot. I was a big fan of that. It’s always helpful when you can find one or two scores that you can really lean on because you’re doing the work that will ultimately be done by creating themes and rephrasing elements. You can do it in your own temp tracks in a way that’s very effective.
HULLFISH: I did a feature and when we were done with it, I had shirts made for the post team that said, “Drop some Dear Frankie on it, and we’re done” because we used the soundtrack from this movie called Dear Frankie all the time.
One final question: Sometimes you have to cross the 180, right? Especially in a complicated scene, a dinner table scene or something like that, where there are multiple people and multiple 180s. Episode seven at the arcade Mare and her mom are talking about Band-Aid and therapy.
DUDDLESTON: I just do it now. If it really becomes a sore thumb, you try to smooth it over somehow. I kind of do the Thelma Schoonmaker “There are no mistakes!”
She’s putting the Band-Aid on in one axis and then Mare looks up on that axis, but then you’ve moved over into the conversation and you just have to do it. There was just no getting around that Band-Aid.
HULLFISH: It was a very complicated scene with a lot of people speaking. So you say, “I have to cross the 180 because that’s where the actors will have a great background.” Because otherwise she’s up against a wall or something. Then you have to switch, and you just have to find some time. There has to be some moment in a scene like that, where you go to switch.
DUDDLESTON: Yeah. I worked on that show In Treatment and sometimes it’s in the middle that we had an axis switch break up that 30 minute conversation.
HULLFISH: In one of my conversations that I loved with Walter Murche, he said, “You blow some smoke over the edit.” I thought that was a great explanation of it. You find something that blows smoke over the edit.
DUDDLESTON: He’s really good at finding a sound effect or something that says, “Look over here.”
HULLFISH: Right. It’s like a magic trick, exactly. Was there anything that you two wanted to talk about with the show, or that you feel like people would really want to know about?
FILORAMO: I think one thing that’s wild is you never know how something that you work on is going to be received. You never do. And you give it your everything every time. You work as hard as you can to make it the best version of itself that it can be.
And then the rest is out of your hands. You know that you’re working with phenomenal performances. We know that there’s so much excellent craftsmanship in the series that we are making, but you still don’t know how it will play for audiences. To have the response that it’s had, it has just been a great moment. It’s mind blowing. It’s truly been mind blowing. Obviously it’s great when something you do is successful, but there was something about Mare of Easttown that was really sparking and resonating with me.
I was texting with Craig Zobel, the director. Amy mentioned the shot with the dog. I had to fight to keep this shot in the show. I said to him, “It really needs to be in.” Then a friend of his took a picture of his TV while watching it circled the dog and texted, “We need to talk about this moment.”
And I thought, “This is amazing!” And now there’s a Twitter account for this one B-roll shot that I just knew had to go in, people are really having fun.
DUDDLESTON: The amount of fun that people had with the show was really the mind-blowing thing. I didn’t expect all the memes. We knew Mare squeezing EZ cheese on the cheese balls was going to be one thing, but the hoagie interface when she’s driving, or the breakfast sandwich, or whatever. So many things.
FILORAMO: My sister texted me angrily about something that we did in the series that had her in a panic.
DUDDLESTON: Right, and I know exactly what she’s talking about.
FILORAMO: There is something about being where we are in what I’m calling ‘the between times’ in this pandemic. We’re not quite in ‘quaran-times’ anymore, but we’re not in the ‘after-times.’
It became this thing that people were able to really get excited about. Amy had sent me something else where some family had made their own murder board for the case. No matter what parts people are connecting with, people were really finding different elements of the show, and it was really bringing people something that they needed.
DUDDLESTON: They needed our show.
FILORAMO: Right, which is wild, and it’s exciting to be a part of that and to feel like we’ve gotten to really take people on a journey. I think that I’ll work just as hard on every other film and television series I make. I don’t know whether this will ever happen again in this way, and that’s okay.
That’s not why I do it, but I’m also definitely trying to appreciate this kind of wild moment that there has been with Mare. What a neat thing to be a part of.
DUDDLESTON: The emails and texts I’ve gotten from people have been tremendous. Your career is a roller coaster in this business, it’s filled with lots of ups and downs and so much hard work that a lot of people just don’t see. It can be depressing. It’s been really great that people responded to this show the way they did.
HULLFISH: So now you gotta get your agents to make the most of it.
DUDDLESTON: That’s right.
HULLFISH: ”Look, there’s a buzz!”
FILORAMO: You know, a friend asked me a couple of weeks ago, someone who doesn’t work in the business, “Are you prepared to do your victory tour?” And I said, “The only victory tour is to get to do it again. The success of this show means I get to keep working, and I get to do it again.” So many people worked so hard, and in a pandemic, to create this series.
DUDDLESTON: Also, we didn’t work in person on this show. I barely worked in person with Craig, maybe one time when I went to Pennsylvania to visit the set and work with him. Craig actually came here to Los Angeles. He lives in Georgia. He came here just so we could all be in the same time zone, and so he could go to some mixes maybe.
Brad lives in Irvine. Mark lives in Hollywood. Jimmy, one of our assistants, was in Chicago. We made this thing happen.
HULLFISH: I might need Jimmy’s name.
DUDDLESTON: You definitely do need his name. He’s the assistant who ultimately became our VFX editor, and is just a phenomenal talent in that regard.
HULLFISH: Ladies, it was such a pleasure to talk to both of you. Thank you so much for bringing this great show to us.
FILORAMO: Well, thank you so much.
DUDDLESTON: Thank you so much, Steve.