Editing the Disturbing Story of Netflix’s “Baby Reindeer”

Baby Reindeer editor Peter Oliver had just one word to describe Richard Gadd’s script when he first read it. That word was “wow”! Viewers of the hit Netflix series can certainly relate to that reaction as the show has resonated with audiences for its ability to delicately blend humor and pathos.

Summary for Baby Reindeer

Created by and starring Richard Gadd, Baby Reindeer is adapted from Gadd’s autobiographical one-man show. It tells the story of aspiring comedian Donnie Dunn, who works as a bartender in a London pub. One fateful day, Donnie offers a cup of tea to a customer, Martha, to cheer her up. Martha develops a strong attachment to Donnie and starts coming to the bar every day. Her fascination and attraction to Donnie rapidly descend into Martha harassing Donnie online and in person.

In our discussion with Baby Reindeer editor Peter Oliver, we talk about:

  • The overwhelming aspect of group Zoom interviews
  • Finding darkness in the lightness, and lightness in the darkness
  • Letting the lyrics be the subtext
  • Pushing in, in post
  • The subtle stitching of three-sixty shots

Listen while you read…

Editing Baby Reindeer

Matt Feury: I thought we would start off talking about something that inevitably comes up during these interviews, and that’s tone. I’ve seen Baby Reindeer described as a comedy, but after you finish the series, “comedy” is not necessarily the first word that comes to mind. Can you describe the tone of this show and any guidelines you used to maintain it?

Peter Oliver: The first time I read Baby Reindeer, I could see it was going to be a dark ride. But as you said, the comedy is in there. Richard Gadd said in an interview that in the darkest places, he’s laughed, and in the lightest places he can find darkness. And he said, “Sometimes, even backstage at a stand-up comedy night, there’s a level of depression.” 

I think that is what comes across in his writing, first of all. My agent, Kate Watson, sent me the script. When I read it, I remember being a little surprised because it was called Baby Reindeer. Kate knows how much I like the darkness rather than the light. When she first phoned me, I thought, “This is probably not the job for me. Baby Reindeer is obviously the title of a Christmas movie.” That was my first stumbling block. But when I read the script, I couldn’t put it down.

The next morning, I told her, “I need an interview. Please get me an interview.” Clerkenwell Films kindly took me on for the interview. I’ve worked with Clerkenwell a couple of times, but I’ve never finished a job with them. The first job I had with them was Cheaters. On that one, we went on lockdown. It was the pandemic. Then, during the second job, one of the actresses fell ill, so I couldn’t finish that one either. 

Then Baby Reindeer came along. I read the script, got the interview, and went in. I was working at a place called Newtopia, which does documentaries. Usually I make sure to arrive half an hour early so I can be zen-like when the interview comes. So I got a room ready, went in, and there were people there. Reception gave me another room, but there was no Wi-Fi, so I went to another room. By the time I switched on, it was two minutes before the interview. 

There was a whole sea of faces in my Baby Reindeer interview. I thought it was only going to be Weronika Tofilska and Richard Gadd, but there were executives and producers and all the rest of it. That was their little surprise for the interview. My surprise was that I couldn’t remember Donnie’s name! All of my sheets had fallen on the floor because I was in such a hurry. In the end, I had to admit that I couldn’t remember the lead character’s name. Richard kindly told it to me, and I thought, “Well, that’s the end of that.” I was a little surprised a week later when my agent phoned me and said, ‘You’ve got it.” It felt incredible. I was dancing around my suite.

The tone of the show was prevalent in the script, so that was never a problem. The actors took to the comedy side of it. I love that switch from darkness to light. Jessica Gunning is great at switching tones. There’s a scene halfway through episode one where she’s talking about her birthday and there’s banter between her and Donnie. She asks him for his phone number, and suddenly everything switches. The whole tone of the scene becomes darker. Richard was always playing with the tone between the two main characters. You kind of fall in love with Martha. Then there are moments where you’re saying, “No, don’t do it! Don’t give her your number!”

We worked a lot into those scenes. When I started, I put laughter in the background of that phone scene. It’s a busy bar scene, and the music was “Helen Fry” by The Felice Brothers. I chose that early on, even in the assembly cut, because it has this lovely line that says “She’s a master of disguise” in the chorus.

The beginning of that scene was a bit of a rollercoaster. It started off fun. There was laughter in the background, and this music was playing out the jukebox in the pub. Then when Martha asked for Donnie’s number the first time, we moved to a front shot of both of them. There was a mad pause and everything dropped out. You just heard, subliminally, this music in the background saying, “She’s in disguise, she’s in disguise”. Then the scene ended with her laughing again, but it was more of a horror laugh. It was a different tone. 

The director, Weronika, and I were playing with that tone before Richard came into the edit suite. I had a pass with Weronika over episodes one through four. Then Richard came in and the room almost became a magnet. We’d get an executive in and they would end up staying. Then the producers ended up staying. It became quite a communal edit. I think the voiceover element had something to do with it.

Ed MacDonald, one of the execs, is very good at wording those. It’s mostly Richard, but Ed would say things like, “Rich, can you record something slightly different?” We didn’t have any other space, so Richard would have to go and record the voiceover in the hallway. I always wondered what people thought as they walked past him doing this bizarre monologue in the hallway. I wonder what people in the other edit suites thought, or down the corridors.

MF: Part of the high-wire act of this show is that Martha Scott can do bad things yet say funny things, and you so delicately manage her. She isn’t a bad person, and even when she’s funny, the humor doesn’t come at the expense of her mental illness. Tell me about how you treated Martha and what it was like working with the brilliant Jessica Gunning. 

Peter Oliver: It came down to Richard’s script. He treated Martha like a lost character rather than an evil character. Martha was always a lost soul, and so was Donnie. You get elements of that through to episode six. I think that’s the last time you see Martha. I didn’t cut that episode, Mike Holliday did. There’s a courtroom scene in it, and I think the audience wonders who is guilty up to the end of that scene. Both Martha and Donnie are in the docks, and it’s filmed so beautifully by Josephine Bornebusch and edited by Mike. You feel sympathy for Martha even though you know what she’s done. 

I think that’s what’s amazing about Richard Gadd. He treats Martha like that through Baby Reindeer. No matter what she does, he still has empathy for her. Jess was just amazing. She said that when she auditioned for Martha, she just kept going and going. I think they were looking for a slightly older actress, but she knew it was her part, so she just kept on at them until they gave it to her. She’s a lovely, beautiful lady. The way she turned in the rushes was amazing. Really beautifully done. 

MF: The funny thing about being an editor is that you work so closely with these people that you’ve never met. You spent hours watching them at their most vulnerable moments. You feel like you know them, and then you meet them for the first time in person. What is that like? Do you feel like, “I know you, but you barely know who I am?”

Peter Oliver: I met Jess once when I went to see Weronika at lunch. The first time I saw her, I went up and gave her a massive hug. It was similar to that. She was kind of like, “Who are you?” But she’s so lovely that she took the hug. Some people don’t. She was a fantastic actress to work with, as was Richard. I call him the Trinity because he wrote Baby Reindeer, starred in it, and executive-produced it. He had all those hats on at the same time. Also, the show is about his life, so it was a hard ride for him. He was very gracious in the edit suite and always complimentary.

MF: When you eventually meet the performers, do they have questions for you about your job or about cutting their performances?

Peter Oliver: I’ve had actors in the room before, but I’ve never had someone who is a writer, actor, executive producer, and is making something about his life. Sometimes I’m a little nervous about having actors in the room. They might start going through takes and saying, “Why didn’t you use this take instead?” That’s why I don’t usually invite them into the edit suite. I invited some when I was working on a show called Teachers early in my career. That was a mistake because they all said, “What about using this take?” and “Use this bit, not that bit!” They didn’t quite understand that it all has to work together as well. 

Richard was always very inquisitive about why we used certain takes. We went through a lot of the rushes with him, but most of the time, luckily, he saw that we’d used the takes that he preferred as well. My worry about having actors in the room is that they’ll get self-conscious about their performances. But Richard was different. He oversaw all of the Trinity. He watched over us all.

MF: You’ve painted a very vivid picture of the interview process with all these different people that you’ve never met before. What did they want to know? What did they ask you?

Peter Oliver: They asked what I thought about the script. In a lot of interviews, I can talk about how maybe I’d restructure it or I’d ask questions about it. But the interview for Baby Reindeer felt very fluid. I come from an arts background, so I try to picture an interview before I go into it. I remember their questions were mainly about the script, but it was such a well-written script already. The voiceover changed, and the picture evolved along with that. That’s why it was so great for Richard to go out, record it, and then come back in so we could have that constant evolution.

MF: As you said, Richard Gadd is the Trinity of Baby Reindeer. He’s the writer, star, and creator. I was not familiar with Baby Reindeer before the TV show. I know it was a play. Were you aware of it before you read the script? 

Peter Oliver: No, and I didn’t know much about Richard either. It came out of nowhere for me. This was the first I’d heard of it.

MF: Did you watch recorded performances of his play, or did the play itself have a script that you read? Did you go back and look at any of those things? 

Peter Oliver: We had a recording of his play in the AVID from the start. It was ingested so that I could always check on different moments. He also had this lovely collage of voices from Martha at the beginning of the play, and he was very keen on getting that into the show somehow. We tried to record lots of different voices to mirror that. I got my wife to record some lines, and lots of different people recorded a version too. Jess also kindly recorded one and sent it in from her phone as well. So, like the stage show, we had that collage at the start but just felt too busy. 

I’d like to say this was Ed’s idea, but I can’t remember. Someone had the idea to take the police station scene from episode four and use it as the cold open for episode one. We were struggling with how we should open the show. Is it a cold opener with Martha walking into the pub? Or do we need to know something beforehand? It just felt right when we took that scene from the police station and put it on the front of episode one. 

Even though you knew exactly what she’d done and why Donnie was reporting her, when Martha walks in, you still feel sympathy for her. We put rain sounds in the background to emphasize how lonely and sad she was. And then she looks up. It was important to Weronika that Martha looked up so that she and Donnie joined eyes. So we worked a lot on that. But apart from that, I don’t think we took a lot from the stage show. Richard did because it evolved into the scripts. But we didn’t use it that much. 

 MF: Where were you cutting? 

Peter Oliver: I was in London, in Soho. The crew was all over the place. The first thing I got was the Edinburgh scenes because The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was fast approaching. They had to quickly send Weronika and a hit squad out to film the street scenes. They got a lot of real Edinburgh performers in those scenes, which probably saved them a lot of money on extras. That was the first scene they shot. The rest was mostly around London, and then it went back to Scotland. That was during the second block, so I don’t know much about where it was filmed. 

MF: Let’s talk about the blocks. You have different DPs, directors, and editors from the first four episodes to the last three. But you kept the same crew of assistants across all seven episodes. I thought that was interesting.

Peter Oliver: The assistants went all the way through for continuity, which I think was a good idea. Our DP was Krzysztof Trojnar, and he had worked with Weronika before. I don’t know much about the rest of the crew. I didn’t meet a lot of them. The script supervisor was the same, which is important. 

MF: The blocks were shot at the same time?

Peter Oliver: There were a couple of weeks where they were shooting together, and a few shots of block two were picked up for us. But I think that was mainly so Weronika could come in and edit. They wanted the crew to be shooting while the episodes were progressing. That’s why there were two blocks. 

MF: Have you ever worked with Weronika before Baby Reindeer?

Peter Oliver: No, I just had that interview with her. I think she thought I was amusing. A lot of people went in for the job and I was interviewed quite late. I was fortunate to get it in the end. But Weronika is brilliant. She’s very thorough. You can see in her direction that she knows exactly what she wants.

MF: I think you just slipped in a good little tip about getting a job. Always interview towards the end so they remember you best. That’s not bad advice. 

Peter Oliver: Yeah, that’s good. But in the edit suite, there were conversations about the beginning of the show. Amazingly, Stephen King said that he knew exactly who the characters were after the first two minutes of Baby Reindeer. That was impressive because those first two minutes used to be eight minutes. We had to bring them down gradually. Also, there were conversations about how long Martha should stare at Donnie in the first scene. I think we did the right thing by shortening it. We didn’t want her to seem too strange at the beginning.

MF: How many of these interesting visual treatments were expressly laid out for you? And how many were discovered in the cutting room?

Peter Oliver: They were mostly discovered in the cutting room. There’s a montage of Martha sitting down at the bar. She comes in and puts her handbag down, and that all was quite choreographed because the camera spins around Donnie. When those kinds of scenes come in, I can see how the director wants to do it. It’s about what costumes we want, her performance, and how to fit the spinning montage scenes in. There’s another scene where Martha opens the doors three times and she is wearing a different costume each time. That’s very much Weronika doing her amazing directing. 

But there are other places where we spent a long time deciding on how long to hold a pause, or how many reactions we should have. Oftentimes with comedy, you can get a few more laughs by cutting to reactions and then coming back, or how long you pause. There’s a great scene at the end of episode two that is a very good encapsulation of what Baby Reindeer does. It’s where Donnie is walking along the canal late at night. You have this jumpscare where Martha appears, blocking his way. Then you have the comedy of what she’s saying. She says, “If you don’t think I’m attractive, you’re either blind or gay, and I can’t see you walking up the stairs holding onto the banister.”

So you’ve got that, and it’s funny. But when she starts chasing him, you find yourself saying, “Oh no, no, no…” It’s that moment of, “No, get away!” and then she abuses him. Those scenes are a joy to work on because there’s so much going on. Then it becomes, “How long do you stay on each of them?” They’re both such great actors. We could stay on either of them for the entire scene. But it’s about when we cut away and when we cut to different characters. I think there’s more of that going on than anything else. 

A big question for Weronika was, “When do we reveal the frontal shots?” In the cafe scene in episode one, we have a lot of profile shots where they’re discussing what they’re going to eat and drink. Then, suddenly, we go into the frontal shorts. 

MF: The characters in Baby Reindeer are sometimes looking into the camera, or almost into the camera. Was that something you talked about with Weronika? Was there a psychological reason for that? Why did she go that route? 

Peter Oliver: I rarely spoke to Weronika when she was on set because she was so busy. These days, I text directors. It’s just easier for them. Most of them just need to hear, “This is amazing. I love this scene.” I think they need words of affirmation. If I had great scenes, which Weronika gave me a lot of, I’d just tell her, “This is so cool” and she would text back a few times asking, “Did this work? Do we need another shot?”

I always have a wish list as well. I always ask, “Can we have this? Can we have that?” and the director can either ignore it or pick it up. Weronika had a sense of what she wanted to do. I sent weekly assemblies out. I didn’t hear anything back from her or anyone really, which I thought was a good thing. Maybe they were just too busy. 

MF: No news is generally good news. 

Peter Oliver: Yeah, exactly. I kept my job at least. 

MF: Baby Reindeer also has these slight push-ins. Sometimes they’re more dramatic where it’s an in-camera zoom. Then there are other times when it’s just a subtle creeping in. Whenever I see that, I wonder, was it shot that way or was it done in post?

Peter Oliver: I do a lot of those in post. Weronika was very giving with that. Most directors take them straight out because they can see that they are digital zooms. You can see the focus change if it’s done in-camera. I always love to put in little creeps, especially on longer shots. I used a lot of those slight push-ins, and I got away with most of them.

MF: There’s a sequence where Donnie is falling for Teri, and you do a 360-degree shot around them. Then later, when Donnie is drinking with Darrien, there’s another 360-degree shot around him. 

Peter Oliver: Yeah, that 360-degree shot in the bar in Scotland was tough to link up. They did it brilliantly on set, but it’s complicated to join exactly the words you want to be linking up in that scene. Eventually, I left because I had to go on to another job. I was doing a job called Eric and I ran out of time. A lovely guy named Benjamin Gerstein came in and finished Baby Reindeer. I think he did a better job on the 360-degree shots. He put a bit more work into the details than I did.

MF: If you can, describe what it is you’re working with. What do you have to stitch together and how do you go about doing it? 

Peter Oliver: For those scenes particularly, they just kept going round and round. You can’t do things too technically because it interferes with the fluidity of the scene. They’re doing pretty much the same rotation, and then in the edit, you have to do a bit of speeding up and slowing down. Sometimes you have to put in some clever wipes if you have any awkward cuts. You can hide a wipe in a passing body that is walking by the camera. Weronika got a lot of rushes, which I loved. Jess, Richard, and all the actors were great at giving slightly different performances. That’s important because you can get a note from an exec saying the scene is not sad enough, or not whatever enough. If you have different performances, you can tweak three or four shots then suddenly everything changes. 

I love having different takes to choose from. I love the nuances and reactions, and I love to keep going through the rushes and finding tiny things. Sometimes I would change just the slightest thing. I think Weronika would realize it, but she was open to not just doing what she wanted to do. If I wanted to tweak some things, she would let me. Richard and Weronika were always up for that, which was freeing. 

MF: You have Richard, who is the writer of this material. On one hand, he’s going to think, “No, we have to stick to what I wrote.” On the other hand, he’s a comedian and it’s all about improv. Where does the truth lie there? Was there a lot of improv in the material you were given, or did everyone stick to the script? 

Peter Oliver: I think everyone stuck pretty closely to the script. I’ve done shows with improv before. With kids, for instance, improv is important. It gives them a sense of playing. But our actors stuck pretty close to what Richard gave them. It must have been quite nerve-wracking for the actors to work with Richard because they probably thought he was watching them. He was acting opposite them the whole time, and it was his script. But he allowed for creativity in the edit suite. I think he allowed for creativity on set as well. On my first pass, I always checked the script against the picture to make sure that all the lines had been covered. The show came out pretty much as Richard had written it.

MF: Another part of the show where the comedy comes through is with the emails from Martha.

Peter Oliver: Yeah, we worked on those. We also had Matt Jarvis, Ed McDonald, and Matthew Mulot in the edit suite. Those were some of the finer details we worked on with Richard. Richard had written the overall emails, but there was a question about pacing, how often we should show them, and if they interfered with the show. Richard always said they didn’t, and he was completely right. Sometimes we’d take some of the emails out, but nine times out of ten, we put them back. Most of the show stayed as Richard had written it. 

Then we had little comedy moments, like when Martha sent Donnie emails about sex. I think I came up with “cunnilingus” because they said Martha could spell some of the longer words perfectly, but she couldn’t spell shorter words. There was some creativity involved with that, but mostly it was Richard’s script. A lot of it did evolve. And because I’m dyslexic, a lot of the time I misspell things anyway. I didn’t even realize that they were misspellings. The other guys had to say, “Oh no, you spell it like this.” 

There was a lot of doing and undoing things in the edit. It was very experimental, which was lovely. I just had to keep up to speed with a few people in the edit suite. You have to undo, then redo, and try things over and over. It takes a lot of concentration. 

MF: The overarching gag in Baby Reindeer is that Martha doesn’t have a smartphone. She uses an old Nokia phone, not an iPhone, but she ends all of her messages with “Sent from my iPhone”. Many times it’s spelled correctly, but there are times when even “Sent for my iPhone” is all messed up. Why would she spell that wrong? 

Peter Oliver: As I said, I’m dyslexic, so I probably didn’t even realize that. Luckily I had a great assistant, Andrew Reynolds. He did a lot of those emails and he also did a lot of the early VFX work. It was also something Richard intended to do right from the start. I think all of the messages were misspelled to start with. Even in the online edit, they were being changed slightly. It was always evolving as we edited. Richard was playing with different words and different ways of saying things.

I was amazed because they were quite long emails. I kept saying that maybe we should shorten them down. In episode four, I didn’t think we could have Richard talking over a black screen for so long. There’s a long voiceover in the middle and I was always thinking, “No, this is too long.” It was a minute and a half, I think, of him saying that he stayed at Darrien’s house. But you needed that moment of black because so much had happened before. The audience needed a pause before carrying on. Richard stuck to his guns and we kept that long section of black in episode four.

MF: We started by talking about how you took a bit of episode four, the part where Richard goes to the police, and put it at the very beginning of the show.

Peter Oliver: That was Richard’s idea. 

MF: He’s a genius. But the nonlinearity of the show seems like something that could get complicated in the editing room. How do you manage all that? 

Peter Oliver: Those moments were mostly scripted. I don’t think we did that on our own very often. It was all kind of linear. I know we go back and forth, but I think there’s a definite linear path throughout the show. I don’t think we changed a lot.

MF: We talked about tone and balancing comedy versus drama. The show gets so dark by episode four that it seems like a huge shift if you’re not dialing down the comedy to a degree. Is that something you talked about with Richard? As you were working through episodes one, two, and three, did you feel like you had to earn your way to episode four? 

Peter Oliver: Yeah, I think so. You can see that Donnie’s anger is rising. The only time he shouts is at the end of episode three when he’s telling Martha to get out of the pub. That’s after she had ripped Teri’s hair out and beaten her up. That’s when everything becomes serious. There are still jokes at the beginning of episode four. There are buttons in the collection pot and all of that kind of stuff. I think episode four is nice because it doesn’t start too dark. Even at the police station, Donnie tries to show the officer proof that Martha is harassing him, but his phone only says “I just had some eggs”. So there are some very funny moments.

But we did keep shifting things around. I know a lot of editors have stills of all the scenes, but I only have lots and lots of timelines. I will duplicate a timeline and label it so that I know what order it’s in. I’ll do that for all of them so if anyone ever wants to look back on things, we can always find it. It takes up a lot more memory, but that’s the way that I prefer to do it. Then I can flip back to a previous version as soon as anyone requests it. 

There was some reshuffling in that episode. We needed to figure out how long Donnie was at Darrien’s house and how much of the abuse happened in one go. Towards the end, there was quite a lot of restructuring as well. We were just playing around in the edit suite. We were asking, “What if we do this? What if we put this scene forward?” Richard was happy to let us play and watch different versions of the show. 

MF: I believe Richard said that the voiceover was first intended to go in episode four. Then, looking at it, he decided it would work in the previous episodes too. Was that something he did before you sat down with him? Had he started working it into the scripts beforehand? Or was that something you had to go back and do after you had already started? 

Peter Oliver: All of the scripts that I read had some form of voiceover already written in. He would also record and send me versions of his voiceovers whenever he got a moment on set. We had some form of voiceover in all our assembly cuts. But I can understand where it came from. When he was writing, I’m sure he got to episode four and then worked his way back. He never told me he did that, but I imagine that would be a clever way of doing things. 

MF: When you’re working with a showrunner who’s also the writer, that’s one element for an editor. When it’s autobiographical and of such a profound and heavy nature, it’s another. What was it like working with Richard in the cutting room on something so painful? 

Peter Oliver: I think the edit took longer because it was so personal to him. I think he needed time to process. Sometimes I sent him a playout, and he would come in later and talk about it. He wanted to watch it at night because he just needed space with it. But as I said, he was very generous in the edit. He would try lots of different things and he’d be very complimentary to me. Sometimes we would just sit with stuff. We had to allow for days when all we would do was discuss the edit and how Richard wanted to go about the show. We had to build in time just to talk about the edit, which I love. 

For me, it’s amazing to go from having so many people on set to then having just a few people in the editing room. It was lovely to have Weronika in after she had been working with all the people on set. She and Richard got to come in just to talk through the show. I would say the edit suite is a confidential place. It’s great to have discussions with Richard and Weronika about how we’re going to progress. We got to talk about what Richard’s feelings are now and what his feelings were at the time. We asked, “Have we got it right? How can we tweak it? How can we feel more like that?” And it all comes across. 

Baby Reindeer is so personal to so many people. Many people have come up to me and said that it’s affected them or they have relatives who have been through similar stuff. I always look for hope in anything that I do. I think it’s hard to see where the hope is when you first read the script. But the charity that comes up at the end of the show, We Are Survivors, had a rate jump of 80%, after the show premiered. And another one, Suzy Lamplugh Trust, went up 24%. So all of these charities are going up because Richard survived it and told his story. 

But it was hard for him in lots of different ways. It was hard on us as well. At times there’s a knot in my stomach. I wept with him on the floor after he’d been abused in episode four. It affected a lot of the cast and crew. And in the edit, that scene went all the way through. Now it’s affecting a lot of people out there, and I think that’s a positive thing. 

MF: Absolutely. The material is so powerful that I think it begs for more time and consideration in the cutting room. Also, it’s autobiographical and the writer and star is in there with you. With so much great material, what got left on the cutting room floor? And what was the biggest challenge you faced in tightening the story without losing any great moments?

Peter Oliver: Everything earned its place because the episodes are only thirty minutes long. Richard was in the edit suite, so if we ever cut out one of his lines, I’d think, “Oh, is this okay?” Normally, I can be Edward Scissorhands, but not on this one. That’s why I had so many different versions so that I could say, “Richard, what do you think of this?”

Again, a lot of the time Richard was very gracious. But there were bigger scenes that had to be cut out to shape who Martha was, and so we didn’t tell too much too soon. There was this lovely scene that had to come out. It was out and in, out and in. Eventually we said, “No, it’s coming out.” It was hard for us to take any of it out, but at times we needed to. 

A lot of time, we had to do a cut and then wait so Richard could go away, watch it, and then come back in the morning. He needed that space. I understand that. Sometimes I go home and watch cuts again on my phone just to see it a different way. That’s what Richard needed to do too. Some of the time he just needed that space to go away and watch things. 

MF: What have you learned from working on Baby Reindeer?

Peter Oliver: Unfortunately, I went to another job before we could fully finish all the episodes. When I went away, I knew it was a lovely show. Sometimes you cut a show thinking, “Will the audience like this? Will they not like that?” but Richard and Weronika resisted. They wanted to tell the story how they wanted to tell it. They weren’t bothered by notes, from me included, saying, “Why don’t we cut this down and paste it up?” They kind of ignored those notes and added their pace to it. I think that’s part of what the audience got hold of. 

But also I think Richard Gadd is an everyman. Donnie is only a man working in a bar. It’s not like The White Lotus, which is brilliant, but that show is about exclusive people. Baby Reindeer shows us that we all have darkness in our lives. All of us have had stuff happen to us. But Richard was brave enough to tell his story, and he only works in a bar, so it’s the everyman story. He’s just working towards his dreams. 

MF: It’s an incredible show on a very challenging subject. I think you all did an amazing job. I’ve saved the hardest question I could ask for last: Is Donnie Dunn funny? 

Peter Oliver: Donnie Dunn can be funny. I think some of his lines are very funny. One of the scenes that took us the longest to cut was Donnie’s first stand-up comedy scene. It was hard to assemble. I remember thinking, “Is this funny or not?” I tried to make it as funny as I could. I made the audience laugh and then Weronika came in and said, “No, they’re not supposed to be laughing.” As an editor, I have to find that balance. I wanted to make it funny because it was a comedy scene. But it was about someone standing up and doing comedy, and the pauses and holding on the awkward silence were brilliant. 

But I think Donnie is funny. And I think he gets funnier. I think it’s very funny when he starts playing the recordings that say, “Donnie Dunn” halfway through the series. I was laughing in the edit suite when I first heard it. So Donnie can be funny, but I also think it’s nice that he’s not funny.

In Edinburgh, we had to decide how funny we wanted to make him. I think he got funnier with the same material because he acted it differently later. The audience in the pub laughed later, anyway. The temptation would be to make him funnier as he went along. Instead, he was performing the same material, and he only delivered it differently and was more comfortable on stage. When he did that, I think it did become funny. So yes, I do think Donnie Dunn is funny. 

MF: Well, you certainly deserve accolades for the work you did on the show. If nothing else, for trying to make Donnie funny. 

Peter Oliver: Thank you very much.

Matt Feury

Matt Feury is host and producer of The Rough Cut podcast, as well as the Sr. Director, Market Solutions – Video & Post for Avid.

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