Dan Crinnion, ACE was recently nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and won an ACE Eddie for Best edited drama series for Commercial Television for one of his episodes of Killing Eve called “Desperate Times.” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Dan’s previous work includes episodes of Blackpool, Spooks, Last Kingdom, Downton Abbey, and Silent Witness.
We spoke over Skype with Dan calling in from his home outside of London.
HULLFISH: What kind of a commute does that make for you to get into work to whatever post house you’re at?
CRINNION: Well, into town it’s about 40 minutes on the train, which is about the length of an episode, so I can generally catch up. Most people complain that it takes too long but I quite like it, so it’s perfect for me.
HULLFISH: Where is Killing Eve posted out of? I know there’s a bunch of great London post houses, like Molinare. Is that where you’re cutting the show?
CRINNION: Yeah. Molinare, for the last three seasons actually. The edit’s been there and they’ve done all of the sound and post and picture and everything. It’s all in-house.
HULLFISH: Not a bad guess for a guy from Chicago.
CRINNION: Yeah. Pretty good isn’t it?
HULLFISH: That was a total guess!
CRINNION: Well there you go. Well they’ll be very pleased that you know.
HULLFISH: And it looks like a beautiful place.
CRINNION: Yeah it’s great. I mean it’s a fantastic post house. I’ve got a long relationship there with them over the years as an assistant and as an editor. I’ve sort of spent a lot of time there.
HULLFISH: There are a lot of other shows that cut there. Do you get a chance to hang out and talk shop with other people or do you have your head down and nose to the grindstone?
CRINNION: You know what editors are like. They sort of duck their heads out every now — have a little moan about something.
HULLFISH: “Have a little moan about something.” That could be the quote of the week.
CRINNION: They’ll love me for that! Definitely.
I’ll include myself into that as well.
The second season series we actually shared the floor with The Crown. This year we’re with some guys from AMC — the name of which escapes me at the moment — so they were in the middle of that. So it’s a busy place. Well it WAS.
HULLFISH: It WAS.
CRINNION: It was and then became quiet. Yeah.
HULLFISH: Do you think they’re gonna try to have you edit from home? What are the remote editing possibilities for you?
CRINNION: I think so. I actually finished two weeks ago, so I literally locked episode 8 of Killing Eve the weekend before the shutdown came about, so I finished and I was due to start a job called Pennyworth for Warner Brothers and that got postponed indefinitely.
There’s no filming going on in the UK at the moment for obvious reasons. I do know people who are in fine-cut who are working remotely and all of the post-production of Killing Eve actually is working remotely now. So they’re piecing together the last two episodes completely remotely.
HULLFISH: Congratulations on your ACE Eddie!
CRINNION: Thank you very much. That was fantastic. That was a very wonderful lovely surprise. It was great. And I had a lovely time in Los Angeles. It was a very lovely generous night.
HULLFISH: I just watched the Eddie winning episode so I’m probably even more familiar with it than you are, maybe.
CRINNION: They’re re-showing Killing Eve at the moment in the UK in readiness for the new season coming out and I plonked myself down and actually that episode was on, so actually — for the first time in about six months or so — I actually watched it, so I familiarized myself again with it.
HULLFISH: I did want to talk about some specifics. If you can’t remember particulars then we talk in generalities and I think people just like the conversation about the art.
I love the shot choices in the opening scene — which I called “it’s all going according to plan.” That scene with Carolyn? There’s a great push-in as she says, “It’s all going to according to plan.” And you use some interesting choices instead of working from wide shot to close-up, you go out to another wide shot again. Talk to me about the show’s feel and its tone and some of your choices as you’re trying to edit the show together.
CRINNION: I think that scene in particular was led by performance, dare I say. We work to get a rhythmic performance so that would in some respects make it feel like the shot choices were sporadic. But I think I’m a bit like her anyway. Especially a show like Killing Eve, I think performance is key.
CRINNION: I’m very led by performance in the sense that I really want to go hunting for what Jodie’s doing and what Sandra’s doing and then probably work backwards in the sense of getting some sort of visual rhythm into a bit.
In that particular first scene it was very performance-led — getting the best performances from our actors, and then that push-in on Fiona is just one of those moments when you look at all the rushes and you say, “Whatever I do, I have to put that in somewhere.” Do you know what I mean?
CRINNION: You get scared that if you don’t have that moment in, it’s going to burn into your soul for the rest of your life that you didn’t work it in. You get so much of that from Killing Eve in general.
Then, as everyone knows who edits, we obviously go through a fine-cut process which is then answering questions to producers and execs and bringing time down, and also performance questions from the execs and producers. So sometimes the eclectic nature of the shots may be fed by the fact that people are looking for a different performance.
At the end of this season, I will have cut seven episodes of it. It’s a show that you really get into in terms of being very kind of chaotic almost. Our exec producer, Sally Woodward Gentle, always talks about talks about the fact that she thinks it’s working well when it feels a little bit rough around the edges in some respects.
So whilst there’s lots of beautiful shots which are very stylized and very measured and mannered, there’s also chaos in it. And I think we sort of feed into that a bit, and so sometimes shot choices may feel a little bit out-of-sync or out-of-kilter but in some respects that’s what we’re trying to do sometimes.
That scene at the beginning of the episode is also about control of stuff, isn’t it? And distance and closeness. They’re two spooks talking to each other in a seemingly knowing way. But at the same time there is distance and there’s anger and there’s subtext.
I’d like to say that was completely how I went about it, but also performance.
HULLFISH: And performance-wise and shot-selection-wise, do you only really have a single camera? Or are they shooting a lot of that in 2-cam?
CRINNION: They do a fair amount of 2-cam. Not always, but a fair amount, because of time pressure, probably more than anything.
HULLFISH: And do they favor a two camera set-up that is like maybe a wide and a close on the same person? Or are they giving you the crossing shots at the same time?
CRINNION: You’d largely have probably a low-angle mid-shot and then maybe a high-angle top-shot of the same character, which I kind of like also because it allows you to jump down the line. I know some people don’t, but I enjoy “jumping down the line” (cutting to successively closer shots on the same person) and playing with that as well. Just to sort of emphasize moments and build up energy in a scene. So I quite enjoy it and it’s a lot handier when you’ve got the two simultaneously captured shots on the same person. To me it’s easier to get into a rhythm of trying to cut.
HULLFISH: And to go backwards a little bit — I know we’re really at the beginning of the episode — but the first real scene is Carloyn waiting in the outer office to be let in. I think it’s a wonderful moment. She’s reading a funny magazine and she’s obviously being made to wait, so it certainly has a purpose in the story and it definitely has a purpose in character, but why have that scene in the show?
CRINNION: I love that question. It sorta reminds me of discussions that you have constantly in the editing room.
I loved it particularly because of the character of the guy who’s the receptionist. I think we had it longer for a while. We had another two rounds of stand-off between them. It’s one of those moments where you watch the rushes and you just say, “Oh, this is great!” Then you do that thing where you start to ask, “Oh, but is it telling the story?” You go through those processes. And I think for me, the joy of Killing Eve is actually saying, “You know what? Let’s have it in!” Tonally it’s just another weird “off” moment.
Lots of people try to dissect why it’s a good show or why it’s different — and I think actually, it’s those moments which answer that question. In some respects you don’t really need it. In other respects, it’s completely part of what the show is. It’s the fabric of it. And it just made us laugh out loud.
HULLFISH: Another moment that is both essential and completely tossable is coming out of the office scene where Carolyn simply walks down the street and you watch these emotions play across her face. There’s no dialogue. There’s no locked-down story. It’s just a woman leaving a meeting. On its face, it’s just a woman walking out of a meeting. But it sets the tone for what’s about to come.
CRINNION: It depends on who you’ve got doing it, right? If it’s someone like Fiona Shaw — who walks across that bridge and she covers how many emotions?
She has the moment where you could see her face drop, minutely but perfectly as she thinks, “Oh my God! What am I going to do?” To then, that sort of shrug of her shoulders as she pulls up and then she’s back on the game. It’s another rhythm. I always sort of get bored with talking about rhythms and stuff like that but….
HULLFISH: Well, the fascinating thing there is that that bridge moment — it’s the acting rhythms that are all internal to her performance. It’s a oner.
CRINNION: Yeah. There’s sort of internal scene rhythms and then the overall wider rhythm. So then it feeds into the wider picture of the story. You always have that thing where you assemble a scene and you think to yourself, This is really working! But then, once it’s lumped together with the whole show as a lump and you start to chip away at the whole show itself, the rhythm changes in it because it’s reacting to everything around it.
Its internal rhythm and cutting-wise there’s not much to do, but decision-wise in the wider picture, there’s a lot to think about because we could have cut that down a bit. We could have not had it. We could’ve done lots of things. But it just provided another little moment and geared us up to “what is she about.”
We only see her a couple of times after that in the show in that episode but because we’ve teed her up by that moment, every time we then see her subsequently in the episode, you know that there’s another game going on with her.
And sometimes stuff is just great to look at. You can try and explain it away but it’s just like our receptionist. We just got somebody in that day who just hit the mark and made us all laugh. And everyone kept saying, “I think we should probably take this out.” Then everyone would watch it again and laugh. We had that response enough, so it’s going to have that response elsewhere (meaning for the audience).
And just the fact that she lifts up the magazine — I think it’s called Dirt Wheels or something like that — it’s just so incongruous and wonderful. And then she sort of tees herself up at the end as well doesn’t she? Before she goes in to the office, you see that she’s going into battle. She’s steeling herself.
HULLFISH: Then the next cut, if I remember had to be one where — when you saw it in the rushes, you knew you HAD to use — it’s the great shot of the feet up on the desk with the funny socks RIGHT in your face.
CRINNION: And you’re saying, “Please pull focus! Please focus!” You’ll get the first two takes going, “Oh no. You haven’t pulled focus. What are you doing?” Then they hit it on the third or fourth and you say, “Thank God for that!” It’s those moments that you look for in rushes. It’s that wonderful connective tissue. I’m kind of kind of blessed in that.
HULLFISH: And I’m glad I’m not the only one that talks to the camera operator long after he’s shot the scene.
CRINNION: Yeah. I’m a constant “self-dialogue” in the cutting room. It’s embarrassing. You’d probably lock me up if you heard me.
HULLFISH: Tell me about the really fun licensed music in the show like that Dutch cover of “Angel of the Morning.” (Vlinder Van Een Zomer)
CRINNION: We filmed Jodie — Villanelle’s part — in Amsterdam first. They did everything over there for her. So that scene where you’ve got that move in on the mirror when she starts to cry was filmed in Amsterdam and they didn’t pick up the reverse of the scene — Sandra’s side — until a few weeks later. So I send an assembly out each week to my directors and everyone else. The shot was amazing on its own — just an amazing shot of an actor going through that process. It’s just a long push in. They did about three or four takes, but she was just immense in all of them. And the one we chose was her crying, and then laughing at her own tears. So we thought it was kind of dramatic, and it’s about love and the show’s got a really 60s, 70s kitsch feel to it.
So we’ve got this amazing music supervisor and we just basically said to her, Can you send us a load of tracks, but can you send it in Dutch? And I think she sent us about six tracks and the second one down on list was Angel of the Morning and a thought, “This is a bit special.”
So I stuck the track in and sent it to the director just the track and Jodi’s side and she said, “This is amazing.” Then she had to think about what she was going to do with Sandra on the other side. So by the time we came to shoot the reverse of it, the music was in people’s heads.
That was the hardest scene to cut in the whole episode bizarrely, which sounds hilarious. I cut fairly quickly and make decisions fairly quickly but that one I hummed and hawed for a whole day and it’s essentially only two shots. I was in agony because I just didn’t want to get it wrong in any way. It was just painful.
HULLFISH: So for people who haven’t seen the episode — the scene we’re talking about is Villanelle lookging at herself in a mirror in Amsterdam and Sandra Oh in an interrogation room with a two way mirror and it’s cutting back and forth between them and there’s no dialogue or anything to help provide a clue on when to cut. You’ve got to cut based on these little micro-expressions, right?
CRINNION: It’s a battle between the two. It’s about a change in who’s got the upper hand. We’ve come off the back of an episode where Villanelle’s done this amazing kill in Amsterdam just to attract the attention of Eve and she thinks Eve’s ignored her because she hasn’t turned up. Villanelle thinks she’s been stood up for the first time ever and is feeling vulnerable and feeling the sense of her and love and the pain that comes with the idea of love.
So the idea of cutting between them was about getting the moments of watching Villanelle be vulnerable and then there’s a little bit with Eve and Sandra and Sandra does this amazing thing where she puts her hair in and then she seems to roll her shoulders back and stand up straighter. And it’s very minimal and very subtle. So she’s suddenly feeling more confident about herself.
And on the previous episode (episode three) we also end with a mirror, but Sandra on her own with Villanelle’s lipstick and it cuts her lip. It was hard to cut. I still watch it sometimes and wonder if I should have added a couple of frames there. I sit in pain when I watch it.
HULLFISH: Whenever you do, just glance over it your ACE Eddie and say to yourself, “I THINK I got it right.”
CRINNION: Maybe I should just wear it around my neck instead of looking at it. It’s quite heavy.
HULLFISH: Before you went into that song, there is nothing. The scene leading up to the moment where the score comes in, is nothing. There is no music. There is no dialogue. The scene plays with maybe a little room tone or light Foley under it.
What I loved was the moment the music comes in; because the scene plays so quiet and then “boom” — music comes in.
CRINNION: In some respects it’s about the length of the track. We have to cut those down to a listenable track — like a 50 second pop song. I think that whole scene is probably about 55 seconds but the actual track’s about three and a half minutes. So one of the things you’re doing in a really practical way — is you’re trying to get a bit of verse, a bit of swell, bit of growth, a bit of chorus, and then get out on the door slam. So there’s a practical side to the cut.
But then the trouble is — when you do that — you see a moment of change in Eve or Sandra’s eyes where you think, Okay. This is want to started the track because she’s almost giving me the signal with what she’s doing. And then that can sometimes be difficult because then it doesn’t fit the track the way it’s been cut, so then I have to go on sort of a two or three hour mission of cutting down the track to try and fit it. So it’s a constant battle of logistics of making it work and also making the story work.
So the start of the music was a mixture of practical choice but at the same time taking the cue from Sandra and Eve in that moment and I think there’s a little look. She’s very good at sort of tiny little looks. She’s amazing to watch. I think she puts her hair up and then there’s just a little moment. And it seems like she starts to think about something, so it’s there. Practicalities and instinct.
HULLFISH: Hearing you talk it makes me think of an email that I received today from an actor in a movie I cut. He thanked me, which was nice. But I’ve never actually met him at all. But I FEEL like I know him intimately because we WATCH these actors SO closely. I mean we don’t look at out wives that intensely for 12 hours a day.
CRINNION: That’s one of the wonderful things about our job isn’t it. You’re absolutely right. You know the tics — especially I think if you work on a show a really long time. With Killing Eve and the sort of actors we’ve got, you do get it and you get it in abundance. More than you want to be honest with you!
That’s nice that you got a thank you. That’s good.
HULLFISH: Yeah it was nice.
There’s another great scene. I call it the “security guard scene” when Eve comes home and and her husband’s in the house with this guy that he did not expect to be sitting there in his house. Eve’s been given security because of the danger of her job and her husband is not happy.
And there’s a wonderful talk they have. Talk to me about choosing performance and how you build. The husband’s setup as a really nice guy and Eve’s kind of trying to be tough but then he kind of breaks her with telling her how much he loves her.
CRINNION: Definitely. And it’s a real scene. I think on Killing Eve we always talk about — because there’s so much lunacy and cartoonish-ness about in some respects — that you then get these moments of realness which brings everything back down to earth. There’s a little moment where he says, “Come back.” and she’s saying, “This is my job. This what I do.” It’s a very raw, lovely scene.
You’re led by the actors and you almost become the actors in the sense that you’re trying to pierce through him trying to get to Eve and she’s putting up barriers to him. So you’re almost playing the part of him trying to break through her. So you’re creating the arc of that story in that scene.
You have a duty of taking all these brilliant performances and almost becoming like them and asking, “Where do they think the best bits are?” Be led by them and going back to rhythm. It basically boils down to where do you want to be next? When you’ve got all the material and elements in front of us, we’re very privileged that we can do that.
But the key is just watching everything.
HULLFISH: There’s a very off-kilter feeling about most of this series. Villanelle plays a lot of this episode in some weird pig costume. But then there are they beautiful performance moments like in the airport when a stranger sits down next to Sandra-Eve and says I think she’s an addict.
CRINNION: That’s in episode 1.
HULLFISH: Oh that’s right.
CRINNION: It was brilliant. It goes back again to putting on your “normal” drama hat and you think, “Do we really need this?” And then you say, “Yeah” because that’s what makes Killing Eve Killing Eve. You go left-of-center slightly for a bit but it makes sense to do that. And it’s character and it’s it’s all those things, but let it breathe for a bit and enjoy it.
HULLFISH: Why do you think your colleagues felt like this was worthy of nomination and that you should win? (Crinnion laughs) That’s a difficult question.
There’s a great scene in a club where Villanelle is on drugs. Did you cut that mute? Or did you have sound design or music when you were trying to cut that? I don’t know how you cut something that is so formless.
CRINNION: The story behind that one and the music is that there’s a guy hitting drums in the club and singing. He’s actually a friend of the director in Switzerland. He’s a musician. Lisa — the director — sent me two cuts from him and we decided on the one that we used bcause it had a great sound to it but also had a bit of a score feel. It starts off being just atmosphere, then it breaks into the slo-mos and also we did a very heavy soundscape on that as well.
That track does a number of jobs throughout that scene. It also acts as background as she’s recovering in the toilet and then the fight. and then we bring it back again at the end for when she’s holding the girl up.
So we had that from the start because the drummer was going to be in it. So the music was always there. Even if I hadn’t had that I would not have personally cut that scene without putting music to it. I can’t see how you’d get the tone of that right without putting the music in first. I think it’s instrumental to that scene. And I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful a scene without that.
Lisa decided very early on the music she wanted for that scene. Then she sent it to me and we played with it and we made it into the score, effectively, throughout. I certainly would never have cut that without music and without soundscape.
We did a lot work off-line on soundscape and I had a second assistant — I think he’s a first assist now — chap called James Sheen-Stevens, who is brilliant on sound. So I would credit him with creating the ideas around it as well. It just gave an atmosphere to it, because they had to shoot it really quickly and there’s not actually many shots there. We had the clubbers at 50 frames per second. If you look at the shots of Villanelle, they’re largely the same shots. We’re just jumping. So I think the soundscape and the music just allowed us to focus on telling the story.
It was a gift. It’s one of those things where you hear the music and think, “If this scene’s half as good as this music…” Then as the dailies came in I figured that I could use the music all the way through to when Constantine turns up. It became the score effectively. We got lucky, but I think that’s because Lisa had that idea. I think that was very helpful.
HULLFISH: And the sound design definitely sold a lot of the druginess of it and the whacked-out part of it. I was really interested to hear that that was part of your creative cut.
CRINNION: The sound team took that and embellished it and did a lot more amazing work with it than we had, but I personally think approval cuts are becoming more like that anyway — to sell the idea to execs. I think people want and expect a lot more. And I think we have the ability to deliver a lot more in the offline.
Also you just have to not be afraid to get other assistants and people like that involved as well. But also giving them the credit for it. I think that’s key. I tinkered with it but James came back with some great ideas.
You know people in the edit department — the assistants — don’t want to just sync rushes. They want to cut. If you’re confident in yourself you let people do that and you get a much better show and you can deliver something in the offline which is more interesting.
HULLFISH: I just did a little talk yesterday on the web and one of the things that somebody asked me about was, “Editing is so collaborative. What do you do with all these people that HAVE to collaborate with?” My response is that that collaboration is not a burden or a curse, but a huge opportunity and a blessing. As long as you take it from the viewpoint that everybody wants the best for the show then you’re happy to turn it over to an assistant and say, “What can you do with this for me?”.
CRINNION: That thinking is very dangerous. If you think you’re the only person with all the ideas, you’re in a bad place. It’s a collaborative art form and it’s at its best when it’s collaborative. Be confident in allowing people’s ideas in and then other ideas grow from that.
HULLFISH: It reminds me: my wife was complaining about how I cleaned some dish the other day and she said, “You just don’t like having people tell you that you’re wrong” and I said, “That’s my whole job. I hear that all day long.”
CRINNION: I say that to my kids. 95 percent of my time — and I’d say that to assistance as well and people early on in their editing career — that’s going to be your life. It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s annoying but you’ve got to take it and then the have to think that the note is not really what they mean and come back with something else. I don’t mind being pushed actually.
HULLFISH: I’m sure you find that even a bad note can lead you in the right direction?
CRINNION: Yeah. When I started editing, I’d be frustrated by notes, but a mentor would say, That might not be the note. All they’re doing is pointing out a position of pain.
HULLFISH: A problem.
CRINNION: Yes. A problem. They’re not articulating the problem properly, but we probably could come up with something better — but they are highlighting a problem and I think that’s how you approach it. You say, “I’m not just going to do the note. I’m going to work out why they’re not liking it and come back with something better.” I think that’s the way you approach notes. And you’re going get them for the rest of your life… So….
HULLFISH: If you don’t deal with notes well, this might not be the job for you.
CRINNION: Yeah. This isn’t the job for you.
HULLFISH: You’ve got to become a painter.
CRINNION: You are an artist, aren’t you? But you’ve go to give the paint brushes back. They’re not yours. So I think that’s the deal.
HULLFISH: Sometimes you have to paint with the color they tell you.
HULLFISH: I am so fascinated about the music for the show. The second episode of Season 2 there’s a great scene where Villanelle somehow got herself in the trunk of his family’s car and when she gets up and walks away there’s a great track as she kind of tips-toes away in these bizarre pajamas. I had to look it up. It’s “I’m Gonna Haunt You” by Fabienne Delsol. There’s actually a site to look up all of the music:
All the music is just so good.
CRINNION: That’s all down to a brilliant music supervisor. That’s what it comes down to. Left to my own devices I wouldn’t know any of the tracks that they deliver. I love music but there’s no way in the world. David Holmes is the composer as well, so they work closely together.
At the end of season 2 I think they sent us like 300 tracks. I just shoved them on my phone and just would listen to them constantly.
HULLFISH: I want those tracks!
CRINNION: There are some extraordinary tracks in there, and nothing I could come up with. That’s where supervisors earn their money. They understand the show. They’re not just decent tracks. There’s texture and there’s character and all that sort of stuff to it.
There’s one at the end of episode three when she cuts her lip again which is Screw You.
I remember hearing that the first time going, “Oh my God!” And then suddenly think, “Has it been used in any other episodes?” You start to panic because you think somebody used it already. But fortunately that one hadn’t been used.
I think there’s another one in four Where Evil Grows.
Which is the bit when she’s sitting on the bridge in the pink dress and she tells the girl to go away and get a life. And I remember listening to that track and just thinking they’ve just delivered another gem and if we could fit that in in some way would be amazing.
I’m blessed because for all the tracks we don’t use there about 20 or 30 absolute gems.
HULLFISH: And then how are you interacting with that music supervisor? Are you giving him notes, for example?
CRINNION: To be honest Steve, no, because they deliver SO much good stuff. And then they go through a process later on — once we finish the fine cut — they’re heavily involved with the director. They just deliver amazing music plus you’ve got David’s score, so sometimes you just drop a track becaus the score is just fantastic.
It’s people doing their job really well which makes your life easier and makes your stuff look really good and decent.
HULLFISH: One of the things you mentioned at the beginning of the interview was that you were really base things off performance. Can you think of another scene or can you think of more ways that maybe in another episode — how performance drove it or how you were able to enhance the performance through editing?
CRINNION: I’ll talk about two things.
I think editors can enhance performance. I think it’d be wrong of me to directly talk about where and when. Everyone knows we can do that. There’s a scene at the start of episode 3 which is after Villanelle’s killed the guy in the lift and then she walks away down towards the camera and walks off. The first two takes come in and you would have used both of them happily. But in the rushes, I can remember Jodie saying, “I could do this better.” Literally, the one that came after — which was the one we used — was just sort of like 40 percent better.
It’s where she placed herself and her understanding of where the camera was and when to make the smile. She has a little wry smile to herself as she walks away, but she hits the mark — and it’s those moments where you just say, There’s nothing for me to do here because they’re leading.
The only thing you start to do is start to worry that you’ll mess it up, because there’s so much good stuff going on.
The editor’s skill on both sides of that is knowing when you’re going to have to give it a bit of help and you’re gonna have to go hunting. That usually comes from notes from producers and execs saying, “This isn’t delivering what we want.”
The other skill is just knowing when something’s on point and you don’t really need to touch it because it’s working.
HULLFISH: Great advice. One of the tips that I heard you kind of allude to in what you just said earlier was: you watched the first two takes of Villanelle walking towards the camera and you would have used either one of them. But you heard her say, “I think I can do a better” is that correct?
CRINNION: Yeah. You could hear her just saying off-camera, “I feel I could do this better.” And sure enough you know she more than delivered it.
HULLFISH: Sometimes when directors are doing resets without changing a take you can hear directions in what they say between the reset. Like, “Keep it rolling. I want to reset for this purpose” and is that something that you are listening to?
CRINNION: Yeah. I mean, they’re handy. I’m thinking of something I did on this season with a director — Damon Thomas — and I could hear him talking a lot to Jodie for one particular scene and I definitely got a nod thinking, “OK, I see what you’re trying to get at here.” Which is more than you’re going to get from continuity notes. You got a hint of where he wanted the scene to go and you could hear Jodie saying, “OK, I could do this, this, and this.”
You don’t ignore that and go your own way. You just go with it.
HULLFISH: One of the things that I’ve heard some editors do — because the director is evolving the performances throughout the takes and throughout the setups — is when they watch dailies or rushes, they watch them in reverse order. Take 8 backwards to take 1. Because they know 8 is where the director got to where they wanted to get.
Other people do them the other way because then they see how the performances and how the scene evolves.
CRINNION: Oh, I’ve never heard that. That’s interesting.
HULLFISH: You must be a one to eight guy.
CRINNION: I’m definitely a 1 to 8 guy. It probably doesn’t matter either way, does it? Because you go for a scaling system anyway in your head. You’re thinking, “I really love 4.” Or “I really loved three.”
I mark the timeline as I go with my dots (locators). So my timelines are just full of: “Great look there.” “Nice eye flick there.”
I look at eyes a lot. Nonverbal stuff. I try and mark that down. So I’m constantly stopping and marking stuff. Especially with Killing Eve you’ve got actors who are throwing so many good bits at you. I just try and annotate and go back and try and find it. So I’m constantly evaluating the rushes as I go along.
HULLFISH: Putting in locators instead of doing selects reels? Or doing both? Or do you not do select reels?
CRINNION: I don’t do selects reels. I just watch everything and I put locaters on and then go back and have my Locators Window up. It’s just an aid to know that something is there, even if the note makes no sense later.
Once I’ve assembled the scene I then go back over all the locators to see if I’ve forgotten about something. And then just double check just to make sure I haven’t missed something that I really loved.
HULLFISH: What do you do from that point? How do you assemble a scene? Just choosing what’s the first shot that I want to start the scene on and then where do I go from that shot?
CRINNION: It depends on the nature of the scene. It depends on also how you feel in the cutting room. (both laugh) Sometimes you’re just knackered. You’ve got children.
So if you get like a a really long 10 page dialogue scene, sometimes I’ll be like a rabbit in the headlights. I don’t want to touch it at all. So if I get a really long dialogue scene, sometimes I’ll take the two best takes if the scene is between two characters and I’ll cut the scene with just those two shots. I’m literally going to cut the scene in an hour. Then I’ll go back and watch it and think, “Well, that’s very blocky.” Then start to mold it that way and then start to bring in other shots.
Then sometimes I’ll have a scene where I just see a brilliant shot and just start from it. I’m not very formulaic in any way.
HULLFISH: Probably a good thing, right?
CRINNION: Well I’d hope so. I don’t set any constraints on how I should approach anything.
Sometimes we’ve got some music and I’ll play around with that. I try and do things in the process so that I’m not getting bored. Sometimes you can sit in the cutting room and you can drift. So I try to change it around a bit.
I have a really active assembly process. I really thump the material around a bit and try and make it work and get to understand it and all the connectors and what the possibilities are.
It’s like getting your team together and trying to match up — if it’s football — who do I want in midfield? Work out combinations and stuff. I just want to be trying things differently all the time and not get into a panic so that I don’t touch the keyboard.
HULLFISH: Sometimes for me that’s just picking an easier scene.
CRINNION: That’s a really good point as well. People ask me, “When you get a really big scene, like 10 pages, what do you do?” Well, I’ll do the first two minutes of it and then I’ll go off and do something else. I’ll break it down into three small scenes, because I know if I try to do that whole scene on its own, I’ll drift off and I won’t be effective.
So if I have a week to do a big 10 page scene, I’ll do two minutes of that a day and then fit everything else around that and come back to it.
The other thing is: it gives the old idea of “thinking time.”
HULLFISH: Sleeping on it.
CRINNION: Yeah, completely! And coming back to it.
In the old days when they cut film everyone had that by virtue of the process, but I think now we have to artificially create that.
HULLFISH: So where you were waiting for an assistant to bring you a shot, now you’ve got a minute while they bring the shot to you, you’re thinking.
CRINNION: Yeah. Directors would watch an edit years and years ago and give notes and go away for three weeks.
You’ve got to generate thinking time. You can’t just hammer at it all the time.
HULLFISH: I agree. I just thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, Dan. Thank you.
CRINNION: It’s been an absolute pleasure.
To read more interviews in the Art of the Cut series, check out THIS LINK and follow me on Twitter @stevehullfish or on imdb.
The first 50 interviews in the series provided the material for the book, “Art of the Cut: Conversations with Film and TV Editors.” This is a unique book that breaks down interviews with many of the world’s best editors and organizes it into a virtual roundtable discussion centering on the topics editors care about. It is a powerful tool for experienced and aspiring editors alike. Cinemontage and CinemaEditor magazine both gave it rave reviews. No other book provides the breadth of opinion and experience. Combined, the editors featured in the book have edited for over 1,000 years on many of the most iconic, critically acclaimed and biggest box office hits in the history of cinema.