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NAB 2023: Editors Behind HBO’s Euphoria and The Last of Us Describe Workflow Challenges, Dispense Advice

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This year’s NAB conference featured a fascinating panel entitled “Elevating the Edit,” which was the American Cinema Editors’ four-hour-long workshop that did a deep dive into two prominent recent HBO shows — Euphoria and The Last of Us. Mark Hartzell, ACE most recently edited the latter series, while Aaron Butler, ACE edited Season 2 of Euphoria, for which he won an Emmy.

In addition to talking about specific workflow challenges on their two most recent shows, Butler and Hartzell took time to answer attendees’ questions and offer some salient advice about how to elevate their editing careers.

The two editors advised aspirants to do whatever it takes to get their paid union days, regardless of the content. “But at the same time, network as much as you can,” said Butler.

Mark Hartzell
Mark Hartzell image via IMDb

Hartzell agreed. “Get in the door with your union hours, but don’t forget that everyone you meet knows someone,” he said with a glint of wisdom.

Both editors pointed out how remote work has made networking a bit more complicated. “In person, you can offer to do an assistant editor’s busy work,” said Hartzell, noting that these opportunities for in-person bonding don’t happen in a remote editing environment.

On a similar note, Butler mentioned that the looming writer’s strike will also complicate the potential for networking opportunities.

“Get involved with ACE, the Editor’s Guild, and the Blue Collar Post Collective,” urged Hartzell. “And break a leg.”

Another workshop attendee asked for advice on how editors express what they need from the music. Butler stated that with his longtime background in music, working with composers is “second nature” to him. Meanwhile, Harztell encouraged editors to listen to a lot of scores from movies, TV, and even social media platforms.

“If you listen to enough scores, you’ll start to get it,” said Hartzell. “Tik Tok videos have some amazing music as scores, for all kinds of content.”

Butler and Hartzell also encouraged attendees to download stems and play with them. “Break them apart and put them together again,” said Butler. “You have to get your hands dirty.”

Hartzell added that “if you’re editing dialogue or action — it’s all musical” and adds to the editor’s expertise.

Aaron Butler
Aaron Butler image via IMDb

The creative-centric approach of Euphoria was another topic of interest to workshop attendees, with Butler noting that “it’s all Sam Levinson,” giving credit to the show’s Creator, Writer, Director, and Executive Producer. He added that “Sam had less control in the first season.” “It was chaotic and not what Sam wanted,” he said. “But after everyone saw what they had, Sam got more control.”

Butler also emphasized how Levinson truly collaborates with all the departments. “Cinematographer Marcel [Rév] is his right-hand man, and the editing team is his left-hand,” said Butler. “Sam knows how important editing is and he supports us and draws the line when we get a note we don’t want to do.” That kind of creative collaboration and support includes the actors, music, [and] makeup. “He supports us all,” said Butler. “And the creatives all benefit. He picks the best people and then lets them be free.”

Butler and Hartzell each emphasized the importance of the showrunner to the show’s creativity and environment, explaining that good showrunners simply hire the best people, enhancing the creativity, whereas the ones that are lacking can harm a show with their less-than-ideal hires.

“Showrunners are what make[s] a show great,” concluded Hartzell.

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