Skip to main content

Emmy-Nominated Editor Tom Jarvis on the Joy of Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke

U.K. native-turned-Angeleno Tom Jarvis brings wide-ranging experience to the editing room, thanks to a series of gigs cutting a variety of TV programs, including British series Big BrotherBritain’s Got Talent and The X Factor and stateside shows including The Grammys, the MTV Movie Awards, Dancing with the Stars, and America’s Got Talent. Since 2016, he’s been with The Late Late Show with James Corden, editing more than 360 episodes of the popular late-night show — comedy sketches, interviews and musical performances as well as the show’s famous Carpool Karaoke segments, in which Corden drives around town with big-name musical guests, alternately talking shop and singing along jubilantly as the artist’s most famous songs blast from the radio. The segments simultaneously humanize the celebrity singers while celebrating Corden’s fandom, making them reliable viral success stories.

Even so, last year’s Carpool Karaoke with guest Paul McCartney was something special, as the Beatle took Corden on a tour of his old stomping grounds in Liverpool — including a local pub where he surprised patrons by performing with a full band. The results were so nice CBS aired them twice, first as an extended 24-minute segment of Corden’s show, and then as an extended hour-long prime-time special with previously unseen footage, Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live from Liverpool. The special earned him his second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming.

The original Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke segment as it aired on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

StudioDaily: You’re full-time with The Late Late Show now. Could you walk me through what that entails? What’s your typical day like?

Tom Jarvis: It’s sort of split into two parts. During the daytime, I will work on a Carpool Karaoke or a scripted comedy piece or Crosswalk the Musical or any of those bits we do for the show. Around five o’clock, we have a [live] feed coming through to a monitor in each of the edit bays, and the show starts recording. So we have the monologue, chat acts, and these games during the show, like Spill Your Guts, or a musical performance or comedy bits and all that sort of stuff. We’ll each be allocated an act or two, and I’ll make notes as I watch it, either to change certain cameras if they miss a bit, or if I think someone’s kind of flubbed their story I can tidy that up and help them out. We have a talkback system, and executive producer Ben Winston will call down from the gallery and just be like, “Help James out there. Maybe we can tidy that up a bit,” and we’ll do that. We’ve also got to be conscious of time. We have to cut the show down to fit within the time constraints of broadcast. We may be seven minutes or 10 minutes over, meaning we’ve got to either choose a big story of one of our guests to cut or [cut] lots of tiny little bits and get to time that way. But it’s in two parts, and that’s what’s interesting about the job. You’re working on all sorts of bits. You’re doing comedy bits, you’re doing musical bits, you’re doing chat bits, you’re choosing content as well as stylistically changing things.

It sounds like a pretty good variety of work you’re doing day in and day out, so you probably don’t get terribly bored with any one aspect.

No. That’s why I have been there more than three years! [Laughs.] I’ve never really stuck around at a job. I had just been freelancing. When you go from job to job for a few weeks here and a month or two there — six months is the max, but it doesn’t really extend beyond that. And I didn’t really know what to expect when coming on The Late Late Show, but it is the variety that keeps me here. I love it. It challenges you every day. You’re always doing something different. You always have a product that goes out at the end of the night, and once you finish that you’re done and you go home. And then during the daytime you come back in and work on the pieces that are going out the following day, or next week, or whenever.

Right. But those deadlines don’t move. Those are hard and fast, so you have to make them one way or another.

Yeah, it can be pretty full-on and there’s a lot to do in the evening sometimes. But sometimes the show kind of makes itself and the timeline is easy. But you never know what you’re going to get. And I like that part of it.

So Carpool Karaoke is a viral sensation — it’s probably the most famous aspect of the show right now. It’s taken on a life of its own, and you have really high profile guests on. But just to be clear, it is what it looks like, right? It is actually James Corden in a car, driving around with a singer?

[Laughs.]

Correct? It’s not green-screen?

Yeah. [Laughs again.]

A lot of people think it has to be simulated.

I know, I know. Before I came on the show, I was working with a director on an award show and he was like, “No, no no — the car has got to be on one of those trailers …”

Yeah, they’re riding around in a car and you’re towing it.

But that’s not the case. James drives. There is a lead car in front of him, which he follows, and then there’s a car behind, which has myself, Ben Winston, Lauren Greenberg, our head writer, and Glenn Clements, our director. In our car we can see and hear exactly what’s going on. And James drives and has the talent in the car. They shoot usually between two and a half to three and a half hours, and they’ll stop and get out of the car and do other bits. But we’ve then got to boil that down to a nice, cozy 12 to 15 minutes. We’re usually under those kinds of time constraints.

And your Emmy nomination is for the prime-time special, which was longer?

Yeah. The story behind that is we flew over to the U.K. to do the shoot. It was me again, Ben Winston, Lauren Greenberg, and James Corden. It felt like it happened quite quick. We were going to come out to London anyway to film the Les Mis show. We were doing four shows in London last year — we’ve done that for the last three years, actually — and this shoot preceded that. I had a week to cut what would be a sort of normal Carpool for one of the London shows — a “normal Carpool” just meaning the regular one that we usually make for The Late Late Show. Usually I make notes to lose bits, or to highlight bits that I should definitely use. But with this, everything was gold. The pub performance was magical. I knew it was going to be tricky to cut down.

I went from Liverpool back to London the next day and worked with Ben and Lauren in an office for about four days. We had a pretty decent rough cut, but it wasn’t anywhere near the 12 to 15 minute mark. It was more like 40 minutes. And there was still stuff we had left out that we thought was good. So Ben Winston said, “I’m going to talk to CBS, because I just think this is bigger than a segment of our show. I’ll see if we can maybe get some kind of prime-time special out of it.” After editing the segment for the show, we made a 23-minute cut, which is way longer, by 10 minutes, than what we would usually make for the show. And then online we had 86 million views in 48 hours, and CBS gave us the green light to make the special.

And that helped you do a better job telling the story?

It can be tricky with the time constraints of a usual show. For an online audience, as well, you want to keep those bits short and succinct. So we often don’t have the time to show the slow, more emotionally delicate moments, and the McCartney special really gave us that opportunity. I think the special itself has five Emmy nominations, which is fantastic. And to receive one for editing is just the icing on the cake. The Emmy nomination is peer to peer, so it’s voted on by other editors. It’s a real honor.

Even the 23-minute version that originally aired — would there ever be a segment of 23 minutes on The Late Late Show without cutting to commercial?

Nah, that’s never happened before. [Laughs heartily.] We would try to cut it down, and we were sitting with the execs, who were in the room, and they’ve got to plan out the rest of the show. How long do we have for the monologue, we’ve got these two guests and we need enough chat, and are we going to do a comedy bit there? They ended up shortening the goodnights and the credits — they retrofitted the show for that night to fit around this special segment. I think the longest Carpool other than that 23-minute version from McCartney was something like 16 minutes for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They were talking about splitting it into two acts, but we reached the conclusion that it needed to play out in full.

Paul McCartney and James Corden

McCartney and Corden on the street in Liverpool
CBS

What was it like on the day of the shoot? 

We knew it was going to be fun, but once we started moving we realized how special it was. We shot for around four hours, maybe slightly longer, in the car, stopping at Paul’s family home where he grew up, at Penny Lane, and then finishing at a pub Paul used to gig at for a surprise performance. It was a really special day. There was a sound check for Paul, and I came on site and I was just sitting in the pub, sort of hanging out, waiting for the shoot to start, but they didn’t have anyone in there yet. And then he came on with a couple of camera guys and sang “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Love Me Do” and he was just kind of like looking at me while he was jamming away, and I was like, “Well, this is unreal.” I just couldn’t believe it, because I’ve grown up with that music. My dad always used to play their records, and even my wife and I had “In My Life” as our first dance at the wedding. It was just a very, very very cool day.

It must be quite an experience to go from realizing that you’re going to be working with, as you said, one of your childhood heroes who’s followed you through your life in an emotional way, and now that it’s been a year since this originally aired, the Emmy nominations come out. That’s like a callback. Hey, by the way, that part of your life from a year ago that you remember so well? It’s coming back.

I still get people I haven’t spoken to in years messaging me just saying, you know, “I heard you made this thing that made me cry.” I had my old teacher from school message me, and people have been talking to my parents back in my hometown in England. It’s nice that it’s been recognized like that.

Finally, can you tell me about something you’ve seen recently that was a source of creative inspiration?

A little while ago, I’d say Sherlock. The storytelling is wonderful. Shows that I’ve really enjoyed recently? Killing Eve. And, most recently, Fleabag. One thing that those shows do is they mix action and comedy so well, but they also have a lot of heart. Fleabag I just went through in a couple of days. It has just phenomenal writing, wonderful editing, everything about it — and it’s just so funny as well. The style of those shows gets me every time. Watch them both.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Emmy-Nominated Cinematographer Tony Miller, BSC, on Fleabag

Cinematographer Tony Miller had never shot a single comedy when he interviewed for and was swept up into the production of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s tour de force, Fleabag. Based on her one-woman show of the same name and co-produced by BBC Three and Amazon Studios, the series returned for a second season this spring with an even steeper roller-coaster ride of hilarity, connection and cringe-worthy moments of bad behavior. His choice, shooting mostly handheld on the Alexa Mini, was to make it look both cinematic and simple, although he admits it wasn’t easy to shoot at all.

We grabbed Miller on the phone after a long day on set filming an episode of Amazon’s gothic detective fantasy series Carnival Row, which debuts August 30. We talked about his immediate connection with Fleabag‘s star and showrunner and how the camera, itself a main character, helped deliver the show’s message and sell its signature Fourth Wall-breaking format.

StudioDaily: What was your production schedule like?

Tony Miller: The first season was shot as a sort of one-off production, then we added quite a few scenes to it. I basically shot the whole lot from the beginning. This season was seven weeks.

Did you change up your camera kit for the second season?

No, I didn’t. I wanted it to be anamorphic and shot 2.35:1. But comedy ain’t my bag; I’ve never shot it before. We didn’t want this to be comedy, we wanted it to be cinematic. So choosing a 2.35 aspect ratio seemed the right thing to do. If I look to the people who’ve shot comedy who I admire, like Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and the Coen brothers, they all shot 2.35. You have multiple relationships within the frame. I really wanted to play against the genre and make it cinematic. And there was another reason for that, too, which is, Fleabag herself does these ghastly deeds, so we really wanted it to have a naturalism because we wanted all our audience to relate to it themselves. We wanted them to see themselves in this character, and in her behavior, and her neuroses and psychotic behavior at times, so in a sense, it was a contradiction of wanting it to be cinematic and also wanting to be very close to the characters.

How did lighting play into those choices?

To achieve that naturalism, I avoided any form of theatrical lighting whatsoever. I also operated the camera myself, because I wanted us to feel ferally close to Fleabag every time she breaks the fourth wall.  I knew I had to really feel it emotionally and hence I did two things: I decided that it had to be 100 percent handheld, which Harry (Bradbeer), the director, and Phoebe both thankfully backed up. Just about every shot is handheld; there are three Steadicam shots in the entire series. Secondly, that I must light and operate, despite what the union said, because this was a show where I had to be emotionally engaged all the time with the camera.

The chemistry and beautiful dance that arcs in this season between Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag and Andrew Scott’s hot priest is simply divine. It just crackles with intensity. What was important to you, Waller-Bridge and the director when capturing those particular scenes?

I’m very close to Phoebe on two levels. As a person, she is just so generous and empathetic. She wanted her co-stars to have as much time as they need to make it work. She would always let Andrew Scott do 10 takes and then just do one herself because that’s all the time we had left. But because we’re close, I also understand emotionally what she’s trying to do. And I think I did from the get-go. That really helps me light around the characters, and I can literally light around the emotions that are often not said. The second thing is, again, we’re breaking the fourth wall. Phoebe as Fleabag is having a relationship with the camera — and to be clear, not with me but with the camera — and that relationship she has with the camera is at the core of much of series two. In the end, she tells the camera to stay and not follow her. The camera is her shrink and her alter ego, so I wanted every time she turns to me that she look absolutely radiant and at all times I’ve captured it all beautifully. I shot Phoebe in tests from all different lenses and from different heights and ways of lighting her. I did loads of tests on Phoebe’s face, so that I kind of have a shorthand of where to be at the best time when she turns to face the camera. I wanted it to look natural and simple, and it’s not. And I think it’s something I’m very proud of. I found Fleabag harder to shoot than Carnival Row, even though Carnival Row is a massive show, one of the biggest I’ve ever done in my career. But this was hard because it was so sensitive and it relied so much on very careful emotional nuances from Phoebe that I had to pick up as the other main character, the camera. So it was very exciting to shoot, too.

What were some of the lenses you sampled during those early tests?

I tried all of them, really. I ended up using the Cooke Anamorphic because they had a contrasty, good-looking feel to them. I used a little bit of diffusion, but that was it. And the rest was all in the lighting, in terms of trying to strike this balance between being naturalistic and not heavily backlit or using hardly any backlighting at all, and yet still giving it that cinematic look. The audience experience has to feel, immediately, this is a movie. But on the other hand, it has to feel like real life. We have to see our own behavior on the screen. I remember being so embarrassed when I fancied this guy, so I recognized this family’s dysfunctional trauma. And those are the things that I think work because they’re universal for all of us.

What else did you do to prepare for production?

I spent an awful lot of time reading the scripts. That’s an essential part of understanding what Phoebe is after, both the text and the subtext. Sure, the technical experience kicks in, but really understanding the scripts helped us do a lot of things bravely that were pretty tricky. For example, when she’s in the confessional booth, we tried to shoot that as one shot. She’s at her lowest point, almost, and confesses all this stuff that is shocking. If we’d put lots of cuts in it, it wouldn’t have had that impact. Thoroughly understanding where we needed to go helped me encourage that kind of choice, for example. Another example is the scene in Claire’s office. Those long shots between the two girls where we don’t really cut are all handheld. What’s so exciting is that Sian Clifford, who plays Phoebe’s sister, Claire, is such an amazing actor. We’d do these takes and you’d get to take four and realize, every single one is phenomenal. I got very tired, of course, shooting handheld for seven weeks confidently all day through multiple takes. But I had a brilliant crew round me.

How did you work with Phoebe and Harry on set?

We’re very much an ensemble. In addition to being very generous with other actors, Phoebe is also very clear about what she wants and was very much the showrunner and person in charge. Harry helped her with performances, but she’s really running the show. It is a team effort and Harry is very collaborative as well. We sort of work it out. If occasionally things don’t work, we’ll try something else. Phoebe is a force of nature, and she’d be rewriting it every night, then coming on set and performing it. But she so inhabits that part. She’s also so kind and empathetic and just treats people very, very well. She’s a superstar. There’s no one like her. Consequently, there’s a great vibe on set at all times.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Apantac Adds HDMI 2.0 to Broadcast Multiviewers

Acknowledging a trend toward interfacing broadcast equipment with off-the-shelf consumer display hardware, Apantac said it has added HDMI 2.0 outputs to its high-end multiviewers, bringing 60Hz 4:4:4 UHD 4K to HDMI 2.0-compatible displays for the first time.

At IBC next month, the company will demo the Crescent Mi-16-UHD and Crescent Mi-8 12G-UHD, both of them with the same features as their HD-only predecessors, but now including HDMI 2.0 and 12G-SDI outputs for UHD, as well as HDMI and SDI outputs for downconverted 1080p output.

T-Sharp 4-RY modular multiviewer

T-Sharp 4-RY modular multiviewer
Apantac

At the same time, HDMI 2.0 can be added to the customizable T-Sharp multiviewer platform through the introduction of a new UHD output card that can be used instead of or in conjunction with other hot-swappable IO boards, including IP and SFP input cards.

The addition of HDMI 2.0 opens up a world of options for using inexpensive, if not color-critical, consumer UHD displays in a professional environment along with high-quality professional broadcast monitors. “Broadcast-quality multiviewers used with off-the-shelf displays are affordable and effective for a variety of content applications,” the company said in a press release.

Apantac will exhibit these HDMI-2.0-enabled multiviewers and more at IBC stand 8.E43.

Apantac: www.apantac.com

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Cooke Will Bring Two New Lenses to IBC

Cooke Optics said it will premiere two new full-frame PL-mount lenses at IBC, catering to the current trend toward larger-format production.

The S7/i Full Frame Plus is a T2.0 16mm prime lens that sits at the widest extreme of the S7/i line-up. With a 46.31mm image circle, it covers the full sensor areas of the Red Weapon 8K, the Sony Venice, and the Arri Alexa LF camera systems.

At the same time, the Anamorphic/i 135mm Full Frame Plus T2.3 lens will debut as a large-format anamorphic option. Like other lenses in the Anamorphic/i line, it covers a full 24mm x 36mm sensor area, with its 1.8x squeeze factor using about 90% of the available pixels for 2.40:1. Using all pixels, a wider 2.70:1 image would be available.

Cooke Optics: www.cookeoptics.com

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Rohde & Schwartz to Propose 5G Broadcast System at IBC 2019

Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) says it will be spotlighting its vision for the future of 5G Broadcast at IBC, reporting findings from the 5G Today trial deployment of the technology at two field sites near Munich, Germany, and debuting a new system enabling LTE/5G Broadcast content delivery via R&S transmitters.

5G Broadcast refers, generally, to the delivery of media content to smartphones and tablets via terrestrial broadcast technology using the next generation (5G) of digital cellular networks. As part of the 5G Today project, R&S has been investigating large-scale television broadcasts using what’s known as LTE Broadcast, or FeMBMS — an acronym for Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service. R&S claims to be the first company to develop an end-to-end 5G Broadcast system for network operators.

In recent years, media consumption has shifted significantly toward smartphones and other portable devices. Reaching the billions of smartphones around the world will be the future of broadcasting. 3GPP Release 14 is enabling this future by using FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service). As a part of the Bavarian research project 5G TODAY, Rohde & Schwarz is investigating large-scale TV broadcasts in the FeMBMS mode. Using high-power high-tower (HPHT) transmitters allows broadcasters to distribute video over 5G networks in downlink-only mode with all the advantages of classic broadcasting. This provides the high quality levels known from HDTV broadcasting, low-latency live content as well as enormous spectrum efficiency and wide coverage. There is no need for a SIM card in the mobile device.

— Rohde & Schwarz press release

5G Concept Art

5G Concept Art
Rohde & Schwarz

At IBC, R&S will debut the R&S Broadcast Service and Control Center (BSCC), which it says allows R&S Tx9 transmitters to deliver LTE/5G Broadcast content. Multiple transmission sites can be centrally configured at the BSCC, the company said.

IBC attendees will be able to get more details from the 5G Broadcast showcase at the R&S booth B.21 in hall 7.

Rohde & Schwarz: www.rohde-schwarz.com

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Quicklink to Highlight Portable Studio in a Box at IBC

Video-over-IP specialist Quicklink is demonstrating its new ST500 remote production system, nicknamed “Studio in a Box,” at IBC.

Built around a Panasonic PTX HD camera (AW-HE38, AW-HE40 or AW-UE70), the all-in-one offering also integrates a monitor/prompter and built-in lighting. It can be set up anywhere with an Internet connection by anyone with no special technical know-how, the company said. The system is then controlled remotely to capture live interviews with full duplex audio.

Video and still backdrops can be added using an on-board chroma-keyer. Quicklink’s ST100 and ST200 studio servers can receive the audio and video and output as SDI, HDMI or NDI.

Quicklink ST500 Studio in a Box

Quicklink ST500 Studio in a Box
Quicklink

Quicklink’s Manager Portal supports remote control of the camera via Chrome browser, including zoom, focus, exposure, aperture, pan and tilt, brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, gamma, white balance, backlight compensation and gain. Up to five DMX-512 lights can also be controlled remotely, and Balanced XLR and AES audio are supported.

The ST500 is also compatible with SkypeTX, for integration with Skype-ready systems such as the Quicklink TX video call management system and the Panasonic AV-HLC100 IP live switcher. And it can output live content while simultaneously recording MP4 files for automatic upload to cloud or on-premise storage.

The Studio in a Box is also available in a 1RU form factor for use on a rack or desktop with a standalone PTZ camera, monitor and prompter.

The system will be demonstrated at IBC 2019 by Quicklink at Stand 3.B61 and by Panasonic at Stand 11.C45, the company said.

Quicklink: quicklink.tv

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Well, nobody said it was ready for prime time! Watch as an experimental live broadcast from a BBC field correspondent bravely using a next-generation 5G network fails, on air. Stick around for the announcer’s sarcastic chuckle as he informs viewers that, “bizarrely, the 5G line isn’t working properly.”

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Penn Jillette Reviews Magic Tricks in Movies

Illusionist Penn Jillette critiques the movies’ treatment of magic with shoot-from-the-hip commentary on scenes from Houdini, The Prestige, Now You See Me and more.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Emmy-Nominated Editor Vera Drew on Tim and Eric’s Channel 5, the Value of Subversive Comedy, and Showtime’s Who Is America?

Vera Drew is an editorial polymath — in addition to her work in the edit suite, she’s also an accomplished writer and director who knows her way around animation and design. In fact, it was an early interest in animation that helped guide her career path as she came up through the ranks at Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Abso Lutely Productions, where she honed her skills cutting improv-based comedy. That experience helped her land a gig as one of the editors on Showtime’s seven-episode Who Is America?, in which series creator Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno) played fictional characters who interacted, outrageously, with guests who weren’t in on the gag. She is one of six picture editors nominated for an Emmy this year for their work on the second episode, which featured encounters between Cohen and former Bachelor contestant Corinne Olympios, journalist Ted Koppel, former Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney, and Georgia State Representative Jason Spencer — the latter in a particularly damaging appearance that saw him mocking Asian accents, shouting racial epithets on camera and (yes, really) dropping his trousers. Spencer held out only two days after the episode aired before announcing his resignation.

Since that series aired last summer, Drew directed four new series for Channel 5, a just-launched Adult Swim streaming channel featuring classic programming from Tim and Eric alongside new web shows. We talked to her about what she’s learned at Abso Lutely, editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, and how edgy, subversive comedy engages with the absurdity of real life.

StudioDaily: You worked at Tim and Eric’s Abso Lutely Productions. What was that experience like, and how did it affect your sensibilities as an editor?

Vera Drew: I originally started as an intern about eight years ago. I climbed the intern ladder and followed the post-production track because I saw, even early on, that the editors who come out of Abso Lutely are really writer-directors who use editing software. So much of the writing and directing actually happens in the edit bays, stringing together narrative threads from real-life interactions between fictional characters and real people. I had always wanted to write and direct, ever since I was a little. So I saw it as the perfect place where I could kind of incubate as a writer and director doing what I like doing, which is editing.

The perfect example of all that was a show I just directed with them called I Love David. It was hosted by David Liebe Hart, who is this public access legend, but he’s relatively raw and unpolished as a performer, and we were unleashing him out in the real world. A lot of the filming was just grabbing ingredients for post, like a line here or there about his time in the Navy, or eating something disgusting. In the editing it’s all pieced together and, you know, “written,” so I’d say that all of my instincts as a writer and director come from my experience as an editor at Abso Lutely.

In straight documentary film, too, the editorial process is where the story gets put together in a lot of cases. Do you feel that it’s similar to working on a nonfiction documentary film, or does there tend to be more planning in advance to figure out what the narrative threads are going to be?

It all comes from the same tools that you would use in a documentary. I believe Dave Kneebone, the executive producer of Abso Lutely Productions, had a background in documentary prior to working with them. So I’m sure it’s kind of in the DNA there. I edited a show right after Who Is America? that was another politically based reality show called KRFT Punk’s Political Party, and for that they essentially shot three panels and a few days’ worth of what was essentially documentary footage in D.C. When it came time to put together the editor’s cut, I spent a week or two alone in an edit bay working off of their script, which was a rough outline. We were taking the ingredients that you’d get from documentary footage and applying it to the overall story we wanted to tell. The web series An Emmy for Megan is another example where you get handed a few days’ worth of footage that has a documentary feel to it, and then you build your editor’s cut. On KRFT Punk, I worked with director Eric Notarnicola and showrunner Dan Curry for a few weeks after that to make adjustments, incorporate the rest of their vision, and get it down to time. The end result is definitely different from a documentary, but I think it all starts from the same place. Then again, I feel like most people know, by now, that most documentaries are pretty scripted in a lot of ways.

The other difference about what you’re doing is that, as part of the story you’re telling, you’re bringing out the humor and accenting jokes and, you know, keeping things funny. There’s got to be a comic sensibility, so that’s another narrative layer.

Exactly. And it’s really cool — with both Who Is America? and KRFT Punk — to be able to make something that really is outrageously funny and insane and groundbreaking. It’s actually cathartic because of how dark and absurd things are in the country right now. It’s not only funny, but it’s actually saying something, and there’s really nothing better than being on a show that has no problem having a strong point of view and zero qualms about exposing the hypocrisy that’s going on around us.

George State Representative Jason Spencer’s career-ending, ‘N-word’-abusing appearance on Who Is America? is definitely NSFW.

That’s a good segue for me to ask how you actually got the job on Who Is America? That’s high-profile stuff with Sacha Baron Cohen, so I’m sure you knew immediately that it would be quite an experience. How did that come about for you?

It’s funny, because if you look at the credits of Who Is America?, there’s a bunch of Abso Lutely people all over it. I got contacted by Dan Longino, who directed and produced it. We had worked together on a Netflix comedy special for Joe Mande and we just really clicked. When I found out what it was, I was like an instant yes. Sacha had been a comedic hero of mine since high school. It’s funny, because I’m trans and Bruno was, honestly, one of the first LGBTQ+ characters I remember seeing on television — at least as far as the ones that made me laugh. Being that deeply closeted and young and also a comedy nerd, watching somebody play just a fabulous, over-the-top queer character while exposing bigots and making them look foolish was exactly what I needed. That was during a time when gay marriage wasn’t even legal yet. It was like a dream I never knew I had, to work with him, because it just seemed completely out of reach. So when Dan contacted me, it was like of course. Absolutely.

It’s really interesting to me that you found Bruno empowering, because sometimes it’s hard for people to gauge these things. You might say something is in poor taste, but if it’s comedy — I mean it’s just really interesting the way humor works, right? Because Bruno is this very over-the-top kind of character. And I think some people sort of recoiled from that and think that it’s a bad thing to have those stereotypes. But at the same time you can be very attracted to that and say, “This is important representationally.” You know, this is doing something that nobody else is doing and making something visible that would otherwise be invisible.

Yeah, humor for me is like a release of nervous energy. A lot of the projects I do, especially with Tim and Eric, feel like I’m approaching comedic stuff from almost a horror angle. Whether it’s horror or absurdity behind it, I think what Sacha did on his old show and on Who Is America? is a humorous release of a serious, heavy message.

And if you can’t react to the heaviness with humor, it becomes really, really hard to bear, I think.

I have worked almost exclusively with Abso Lutely, and I like that in-your-face comedy. It’s really fun to play with, whether it’s gross, outrageous or controversial. Having come up in a particular part of the comedy community that thrives on edgy, messed-up humor, I want my work to remind people that they can enjoy subversive comedy and still disapprove of unacceptable behavior such as misgendering people or discriminating against immigrants.

Let’s talk a little bit about what you’re using. Are you an Avid editor or do you work in Premiere Pro? What’s your tool of choice?

I strongly prefer to use Premiere. My editing includes a lot of VFX and motion graphics work that requires After Effects, so it makes sense for me to always be working inside an Adobe world. I’m not an official spokesperson for Premiere, but I think it makes sense for the creative brain. I did a Tim and Eric game show called Tim and Eric Qu?z. It was this dystopian sci-fi game show, and there was a ton of 3D animation in it. I never would have been able to put that together in Avid. It would have required a very powerful computer, and it would have been like trying to do the FX on a calculator.

How much 3D work do you actually do? Are you a 3D artist as well as an editor?

No, but I like directing 3D animation a lot and I work with an artist named Ben Granger. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but as far as college goes, I was studying to be an animator. In the back of my head I thought I was going to be an experimental filmmaker and somehow make that work financially. But I quickly realized, by the time I got past my freshman year, “Oh, I will probably need to make a living.” So I began approaching TV and film from an animation background early on. It’s only recently that I’ve returned to it with Tim and Eric Qu?zI Love David has a ton of animation in it as well, because David Liebe Hart is such a talented artist. I had never seen his work animated before, and it was really important to me to do that.

I do want to ask you something about my experience as a viewer of Who Is America?. Some of it is very funny and I don’t know that I necessarily felt sorry for anybody who was on the show, but sometimes it almost sent me out of my skin — made me nervous and tense to see what was going on. It’s such a vivid feeling to have as a viewer. And I was wondering, as an editor, you say you’re a big believer in in-your-face comedy. When you cut, are you specifically thinking of what reaction you’re going to inspire in the viewer? Maybe that’s a dumb question because of course you are. But to what degree are you able to anticipate and understand what the reaction is going to be for viewers who see the end of the process and aren’t intimately familiar with all the material, as you are?

I think that’s largely just the editor’s job in general, no matter what the show is. When I’m editing political comedy, whether it’s KRFT Punk or Who Is America?, the thing I’m primarily concerned with and focusing on is I want the audience to know that what is happening is 100% actually happening, and what you’re seeing on screen isn’t being carefully manipulated to make it look like somebody saying or doing something they aren’t saying or doing. It kind of depends on what the project is but, generally speaking, I am thinking about capturing the realism of a scene. Especially if it’s something that is reality based, right? A lot of times, that’s knowing when to not edit, and when to let a moment breathe in the awkwardness of a wide shot.

It really is just the question of what is the most effective edit for the material — all of those creative decisions you make, every time you choose an edit point.

It’s 100% why I like working with Tim and Eric so much, because for them specifically, I think a lot of it is instincts-based, and that’s where my upbringing at Abso Lutely is integral, because you have to learn to trust your gut and say, “This is funny,” or “This is working,” and roll with it. That requires a lot of confidence.

Tell me again what you’ve been working on since Who Is America? aired last year?  

I just helped put together Tim and Eric’s new online TV network. It’s called Channel Five. In addition to coming up with the overall aesthetic for the network, I put together a bunch of bumpers and interstitials and original content, and I wrote, directed and executive-produced four original web series for that. All of that lives at adultswim.com, where you watch shows on demand or watch the stream playing original programming and old Tim and Eric shows 24/7.

It’s been interesting to see how the purview of the editor — which used to be just cutting film together — now includes a lot of design work. Some editors do VFX and composites with split frames and really elaborate stuff. 

That’s why I’m glad I followed the editing track. Like I said, I’ve known since I was six years old, when I saw Back to the Future, that I wanted to write and direct movies, but I had no idea how to get there. When I figured out how much I genuinely love editing, and I saw that Tim and Eric’s editors were basically writers and directors using Adobe Premiere, I was like, “Oh, this is what I’ve got to do.” It was the right time because that multi-hyphenate editor thing has been going on for a while, but it definitely blew up in the last seven years or so. I think I’m part of it.

Yeah, I really think you are. That’s one of the reasons I was so eager to talk to you — there’s a contemporary sensibility that you’re absolutely right in the middle of. And then with the element of confrontational humor where it’s like, we’re going to confront the dark things that are happening through this kind of work…. You obviously know all of this, but I appreciate what you’re doing. It’s a source of some comfort in dark times. 

I try to never get too full of myself about what I do, but it just feels constructive, which is nice. And I want to feel useful with whatever I’m being creative with. That’s always been very important to me.

Material like this helps people feel sane because we see that other people recognize the insanity that’s going on around us.

But also on an artistic level, one of the most magical things about the stuff we do at Abso Lutely is that it respects the intelligence of the audience so much. A lot of it is lo-fi, and that shows younger filmmakers and creatives that they can do it too, and it breeds a whole new generation of filmmakers, which I think is great. That was definitely the case with me — the first time I watched Tim and Eric Awesome Show when I was in college, it completely blew my mind and I was forever changed, for better or worse.

It’s a feedback loop as these impressions and sensibilities bounce back and forth and amplify over time. We’ve talked about this already, but let me ask you my last question — can you tell me about something that has inspired you creatively?

I’d say my two biggest inspirations are David Lynch and the Wachowskis. David Lynch because Twin Peaks is basically a religion to me, in creativity and also in how it’s informed my queerness, because Twin Peaks had one of the first trans characters that actually portrayed us with dignity, in agent Denise Bryson. And the Wachowskis — I just feel they have been making some of the coolest, weirdest stuff for decades, and it all feels like a queer narrative to me. It’s impossible for me to watch The Matrix and not see it as a trans narrative, especially now. So those are the things that inspire me and inform my work and I revisit them constantly to, like, an obsessive degree that drives all my friends crazy.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.



Fox Searchlight is releasing director Terrence Malick’s latest, A Hidden Life. Cinematographer Jörg Widmer shot with Zeiss Master Prime lenses on the Red Epic Dragon and the Red Epic-W Helium in 6K and 8K,  targeting a 4K DI, per IMDb.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up to receive the StudioDaily Fix eletter containing the latest stories, including news, videos, interviews, reviews and more.