The Duffer Brothers once again delivered on extraordinary expectations with the finale episode of Season Three of their highly- acclaimed series, Stranger Things, titled “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt.” The ultimate showdown and battle rages on in the Starcourt Mall between Eleven and the team of Mike, Will, Lucas, Nancy, Jonathan and Max, as they clash against the Mind Flayer from up above in the food court. Meanwhile, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray head underneath to the Russian base, and Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Erica make their way to the radio antennae. The Emmy-nominated episode was cut by Editors Dean Zimmerman and Katheryn Naranjo. (Note: There may be minor spoilers for the episode discussed.)
Season 3 Episode 8 was very ambitious and a major undertaking in that it was 30 pages longer than any other script written for Stranger Things. It incorporated a heavy amount of footage, the complexity of the episode itself, wrapping up all the storylines, tremendous visual effects, action sequences, and set pieces. Assistant Editor Katheryn Naranjo was promoted up to editor to co-cut with Dean Zimmerman on this massive episode.
A majority of the editing in the season finale was dispersed as Zimmerman focused on the fight between the monster and kids upstairs, and Naranjo edited the bottom portion with the adults. Zimmerman praised the work Naranjo did. “She built this entire huge fight underground with Hopper and the Grigori with the laser choreography, where I took upstairs and dealt with the monster, the fireworks, and everything with Eleven and Billy. The biggest fear is when we get the sequences and try to integrate them; which is the hardest part is marrying the two, deciding the cut points, and where we’re going to come in and exit action. It was almost seamless and literally took nothing to put together. The greatest part about it is our language and storytelling are the same.”
The emotion of the episode was finding a balance of precision of it all. “That episode is delicately balancing the emotion of all the characters with Hopper’s letter, Eleven reading the letter, and all the vignettes of the goodbyes. It’s really striking that emotional chord, but not hitting it so hard that people don’t believe it. It’s the part where how far do we go or how far do we take people’s emotion. It’s finding that happy medium in picking performances that feel real and the storytelling that we don’t lose the audience. It’s also the music that we choose, the sound effects we use, the environment that we create, all those play factors in striking the right chords to tell the story,” the editor expressed.
The perspective of the last episode is subjective. “The scenes really speak to the perspectives of each different part. With Eleven, it’s really through her eyes. There are times when we switch perspectives, take it out of whoever is telling the story, or whatever the story is supposed to be about. We take it to another person and that will yield a completely different result. Sometimes we do a perspective through the monster’s eyes. We try to keep every character engaging, relatable, relevant, and fresh; but also, dynamic and exciting,” Zimmerman revealed.
The pacing of the entire series is embedded with a certain breakneck speed. The editor stated, “It’s definitely something that we established in season one and has continued throughout. There are times where we can slow down and create more pockets of tension, trauma, or ease for that matter. We try to keep everyone on the edge of their seat, but it’s nice to have a scene breathe for a little bit and have people relaxed. When we do push them over the edge again, slap them in the face with something scary or dramatic, it’s more impactful. When we watch the episodes, it’s not really watching the episodes as a single entity, we equate it to a big eight-hour movie where we try to keep people engaged for that long. We edit to that.
The editing for the series has elevated and become more complex over the years since its pilot episode, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers.” Zimmerman compared, “In Season One, it was the simplicity of just telling a great story, setting the series up for success, developing the characters, showing the audience that these characters are lovable and relatable, and setting the environment of the 80s and the tone. In episode eight of Season Three, the complexity grew by a 1000 percent and the expectations were through the roof. Now we have incredible, massive CG characters interacting with people, inanimate objects, and making them all look real. It’s just so much bigger in scope. The one thing that remains constant is telling the story, making the characters relatable, and making them believable. The biggest success is that some are touting this third season as even better than season one, which is very hard to do. The bar got raised and we delivered.”
Dean Zimmerman won an Emmy award for his editing of the very first Stranger Things pilot episode, “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers.” Zimmerman is also a two-time champion from the Hollywood Post Alliance and holds a nomination from the American Cinema Editors (ACE), all from his excellence on Stranger Things. Stranger Things 3 is nominated in the category of Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series for the episode “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt.”