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Insights Into Editing 4 Seasons of “Ozark,” Lensing “Hawkeye”

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Cindy Mollo, ACE is a five-time Emmy nominee, the last two coming for her editing on Ozark (Netflix) in 2019 (shared with Heather Goodwin Floyd) and 2020. In ‘19 Mollo actually garnered a pair of nods, the other coming for Deadwood: The Movie (shared with Martin Nicholson and Erick Fefferman). Mollo’s first two Emmy noms came for the telefilm Dash and Lilly in 1999 and an episode of Mad Men in 2009.

Mollo is now once again in Emmy contention for her work on the final season of Ozark. She has been on the show for all four of its seasons, a most gratifying tenure. Looking back, Mollo had a hunch that the show would be a long-term home for her. “At the very beginning of my career, I worked on Homicide: Life on the Street,” recalled Mollo, having cut that series for five-and-a-half years of its seven-year run. “It was a great start to my career. I learned so much. But since then I hadn’t been on a show with that much continuity. Sometimes a show doesn’t last that long. Sometimes a feature comes along. But when Ozark came along, instinct told me that this was a place I could stay around and settle in for awhile.”

She settled in but never settled as the show continually grew in its scope and ambition under the aegis of showrunner Chris Mundy and actor-producer-director Jason Bateman. “We had the same actors for the most part, with great secondary characters in later seasons,” said Mollo. “Basically, though, we had the Byrd family. As an editor, you know their rhythm, the beats you need to get for the story. When you have that tucked under your arm and you’re secure about having that to work with, then you can experiment and play a little bit.”

The foundation and the experimentation to build upon it were due in large part to a cast headed by Bateman and Laura Linney. “The cast was so good you could choose from among almost every take of a scene,” said Mollo. “You can play, put scenes together.” The performances, she said, were “a gift” for an editor.

Mollo never took for granted the vast emotional and narrative range of that gift, noting that Ozark is a drama but at times is funny “because people are just funny. Even in dire circumstances, a character would make a joke. There’s a gallows humor, almost like denying a situation you’re in with a little comic relief. No joke was written. The comedy came from the characters and the behavior. Those conversations about characters with Chris [Mundy} were some of my favorite moments of the four seasons–or talking to Jason about the articulation of the performances. We kept in that tone and style that we had set up. But it never became four years of the ‘same old same old.’ Everyone grew and expanded over the course of four seasons.” 

For Mollo, Ozark was validating–perhaps mostly for the mindset she had when she left Homicide: Life on the Street in New York to come to L.A. for new opportunities. “I said it almost naively–that ‘if I’m going to go to L.A., I’m only going to work on the best writing I can find,’” recalled Mollo. “I left great writing, a great ensemble cast, a wonderful work situation [on Homicide]. I always promised myself I would continue to work with the best writers first and foremost, and the best directors I could find. If the writing is good, then you have a shot at making something wonderful. You also have to be lucky enough to have great casting. I had that for the four seasons of Ozark. I’m grateful the show found an audience–to have people seeing the work and connecting with it.”

Mollo added that the Ozark experience has “given me a nice feeling of confidence, that I’ve made a lot of right decisions and that I can take this great toolbox with me for the next job.”

As for what that next gig is, Mollo at press time had embarked on The Last of Us, a HBO series based on the video game of the same name. The show is co-written/created by Craig Mazin (co-creator of Chernobyl) and game creator Neil Druckmann. The post-apocalyptic tale is a 180 degree shift from Ozark but at its core, said Mollo, the two shows share a bond in that they are centered on “a family in a strange, corrupt world.”

James Whitaker, ASC
Hawkeye (Disney+) episodes were evenly divided between cinematographers James Whitaker, ASC and Eric Steelberg, ASC. The latter lensed all three episodes directed by Rhys Thomas–the pilot, episode 2 and the finale. The other three installments in the miniseries were shot by Whitaker for the directing team of Amber Templemore and Katie Ellwood, aka Bert and Bertie.

Portrayed by Jeremy Renner (reprising his role from the Avengers movies), Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, is a Marvel hero with extraordinary ability as an archer–but not with superhuman powers. He’s a regular guy with a family. Then there’s Hawkeye’s protege, Kate Bishop (portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld), trained to assume the Hawkeye mantle. She too is a master archer, another Hawkeye who is also all too human, complicating Barton’s life. Barton is a complex character with an inner strength. He is an imperfect hero, yet idolized by Bishop.

Steelberg and Whitaker wound up teaming to develop the look and feel of the show which has visual elements of noir and fun–in alignment with the narrative. Steelberg took the lead in that he came on board before Whitaker. And with the pilot slated first, Steelberg handled the lion’s share of crew hiring and setting the themes that were to be focused on. But then Whitaker became involved with Steelberg in contributing to the visual gist of the show when Steinfeld’s schedule changed, necessitating that all her scenes had to be shot first. (Steinfeld had to move on to her role as Emily Dickinson in the Dickinson series.) This meant that Steelberg and Whitaker were shooting for Hawkeye at the same time, a departure from the original plan which had Steelberg lensing the pilot and then the second episode, laying the visual foundation for the subsequent installments of the show.

Shooting out of chronological order meant that the DPs had to know exactly where they were headed in the big picture so that the visual grammar for the show would work properly spanning the beginning, middle and end.

Bert and Bertie reached out to Whitaker for Hawkeye, having teamed with the DP on their feature film, Troop Zero. Also perhaps helping Whitaker land the job was his experience in the Marvel universe, having served as second unit DP on Captain America: Civil War.

Whitaker described Bert and Bertie as “real fans of film” who are “brilliant and extremely well prepared all the time,” bringing “tons of energy” to a project and willing to “lean heavily” on their key people to advance story and characters. “They give me a lot of leeway to come up with ideas. There’s a lot of back and forth, creative juices flowing all the time,” related Whitaker who with Steelberg deployed the ARRI Alexa LF digital camera coupled with Panavision anamorphic lenses for Hawkeye.

Whitaker is no stranger to Emmy proceedings. He was nominated for a primetime Emmy in 2015 in the Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming category on the basis of the documentary Cobain: Montage of Heck.

Whitaker began his cinematography career in commercials and amassed notable credits spanning such brands as Nike, Google, Mercedes-Benz, Amazon, Sony and AT&T. He also shot select music videos for artists including Jay-Z, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Black Eyed Peas, The Crystal Method and Carlos Santana. Whitaker won a D&AD Pencil for his work on a Telepopmusik music video. He made the transition into features with the indie hit The Cooler, which earned him a Best Cinematography nomination at the Sundance Film Festival. He also shot This Country Must, which went on to garner a Best Live-Action Short Oscar nomination. 

Whitaker’s feature filmography includes serving as cinematographer on Thank You For Smoking, Running Scared, King of California and Crossing Over. On the TV front, he has lensed pilots for Breakout Kings and Hostage, and multiple seasons of the Amazon Prime original series Patriot. His work on the EPIX series Perpetual Grace, LTD earned him a Camerimage nomination in the TV Pilots competition.

Justin Kamps
Justin Kamps had big shoes to fill when he became music supervisor on season 2 of Bridgerton (Netflix). He took over for last year’s Emmy-nominated music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, whom he regards as a mentor. Once Patsavas moved in-house at Netflix overseeing music for TV series, the opportunity opened up for Kamps to assume the music supervision mantle on Bridgerton. He made a high-profile mark as a music supervisor on Lucifer, which went from the FOX network to Netflix, and had been doing some music coordination on season 1 of Bridgerton.

Moving up to music supervisor on Bridgerton, Kamps had to live up to not only Patsavas’ Emmy-level pedigree but also the stunning success of the show, which generated a fervent fan base who eagerly anticipated the second season.

Yet while those factors caused him to feel some pressure, Kamps was up to the task and is now in this season’s Emmy conversation. And in that vein, as a counterpoint to any undue pressure felt, he now has a sense of relief that music supervision is even in the conversation when it comes to Television Academy recognition. It was just a scant five years ago that music supervision became part of the Emmy category rundown. “The music supervision community and the Guild of Music Supervisors pushed hard to get recognition from the TV Academy,” noted Kamps. “I feel very grateful for all the hard work it took. I’m glad and grateful that the category exists. Music is such an integral part of the story.”

And music supervision is integral to a show’s soundscape. The supervisor oversees all musical aspects of a production–from finding songs, connecting with composers for original work, attaining the right creative and financial balance between the score created for a show and the songs selected for that same show, working with writers, producers, directors, editors and others on placement of all the elements. Then there’s the matter of gaining rights and necessary clearances for music, coordinating with labels and publishers, all within often challenging budget and scheduling parameters.

Coming in as music supervisor for season 2 of Bridgerton was made easier by Kamps’ rapport with composer Kris Bowers who last year for Bridgerton won an Emmy for Best Original Score while getting nominated (with Michael Dean Parsons) in the Best Original Main Title Theme Music category.

Meeting the show’s high creative bar with season 2 has been particularly gratifying for Kamps–as has another constant of the series. “What I love about Bridgerton is what it does with the classical music covers,” shared Kamps. “We bring this string quartet and classical sound to a new audience that doesn’t necessarily sit and listen to classical music on a regular basis. Working with classical arrangers to create covers that introduce people to a genre of music that I love has been wonderful. As a result maybe they are listening to more classical music on a regular basis. That’s a big takeaway from the show for me.”

At press time Kamps was already starting to contemplate season 3 of Bridgerton. And next month audiences will see and hear Resident Evil, a Netflix series based on the video game of the same title. Kamps was music supervisor on Resident Evil, adding to his other credits in that capacity which include Grey’s Anatomy, Nancy Drew, Another Life and Supernatural.

John Hoffman
John Hoffman and Janet Tobias teamed to direct Fauci (National Geographic). Both also served as producers of the documentary which delves into the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who has led the fight against epidemics over the decades, ranging from AIDS to SARS, Ebola and COVID-19. But times being what they are, Dr. Fauci–a public servant of the highest order, committed to preserving and protecting the health of people–found himself both respected and vilified during the COVID crisis.

While Hoffman and Tobias hadn’t collaborated before, they certainly knew and admired each other. Hoffman in fact recalled Tobias pitching him a project idea back when he was EVP of documentaries and specials for Discovery (from 2015-’18) after nearly two decades at HBO where he was VP of documentary programming. 

Tobias was working on a film about the quest to find the elusive HIV vaccine. Then the COVID pandemic emerged, prompting Hoffman to reach out to Dr. Fauci about a documentary on his life. A liaison in Fauci’s office got back to Hoffman with the doctor’s suggestion that perhaps Hoffman and Tobias should team up. 

Their coming together was fortuitous in that both had insights into Dr. Fauci. Tobias had met the doctor during the making of Unseen Enemy which explored the threat of potential viral outbreaks in 2017. Hoffman’s history with Fauci went back much further as the documentarian had chronicled the AIDS crisis as it emerged in New York during the 1980s. This context proved valuable as the documentary Fauci drew a parallel between his facing the AIDS virus with no known cure and then fast forwarding to current uncertainties posed by COVID-19.

Hoffman added that Tobias was an ideal colleague not only for her storytelling talent but also her commitment which made possible a division of labor between the two filmmakers. Tobias upped and left New York to go to D.C., following Fauci and others for filming at a time when protocols for production were just developing during the earliest days of the pandemic. This freed Hoffman to serve as master archivist, researching, culling through and finding relevant material and footage to provide a historical foundation for the documentary.

Of course, being with Fauci on the frontlines so to speak gave Tobias access to an expert who was very conscious of safety-first precautions when it came to filming during the pandemic. The DGA protocols also helped immeasurably as Tobias and Hoffman adopted their approach and best practices guidelines in the making of Fauci.

Beyond multiple in-depth interviews with Dr. Fauci during different junctures of the pandemic over the course of nine months, the documentary also sought out discussions with assorted others, ranging from President George W. Bush to Bill Gates, Bono, former national security advisor Susan Rice, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden, impactful AIDS activists as well as Dr. Fauci’s family, friends and patients. A lasting mosaic forms that sheds light on Fauci as a person, a man of medical and scientific expertise, as well as a man of great calm, which is necessary to address the fears spawned by a pandemic.

Hoffman cited one interview in particular with Dr. Fauci which went back to the darkest time of AIDS. “I needed him to remember, to open up,” related Hoffman. “I had no way of knowing that he would break down and cry–and then be willing to go further about what he was feeling at that moment. I didn’t know if he would stop and say he wanted some time to regain his composure. Or if he would say he hoped we wouldn’t use a portion of the interview. Instead it was the opposite. He let me push him further. He understood that was what was appropriate.”

Prioritizing what was important, though, became daunting as the news cycle brought in so many seemingly relevant but perhaps also distracting elements. Whatever was happening within the White House Task Force, the contentiousness of Sen. Rand Paul, whatever was making the daily headlines had to be assessed. And often, said Hoffman, the feeling was that the buzz elements were “not going to stand the test of time. It was not what the film was about at the end of the day.”

Hoffman described the documentary as providing him with “a fantastic experience to go back in time and have the privilege to immerse myself in the last 40 years” of Fauci’s public service. “It was a moving experience.”

Hoffman said of Dr. Fauci, “He has lived a good life, a life of purpose.” Hoffman added that it was gratifying “to make a film about a great public servant in these times, and to elevate the notion of public service as a subtext. We are living in a time when the notion of government and the value of public service have been called into question. To see how this man, who could have done anything, remained at the National Institutes of Health for I think over 50 years–40 as director–has been remarkable.”

And in honoring and celebrating Dr. Fauci, Hoffman sees another purpose–inspiration for the next generation of doctors, scientists and researchers.

Hoffman is a four-time primetime Emmy winner as a producer–for Outstanding Nonfiction Special in 2002 for Children in War, Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special in 2004 for Elaine Stritch at Liberty, Outstanding Children’s Nonfiction Program in 2009 for The Alzheimer’s Project which also earned an Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking Emmy that same year. Hoffman also won a Daytime Emmy for The Weight of the Nation for Kids, and a News & Documentary Emmy for Sonic Sea.

This is the seventh installment of a 16-part weekly The Road To Emmy Series of feature stories which will explore the field of Emmy contenders and then nominees spanning such disciplines as directing, writing, producing, showrunning, cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, music, sound and visual effects. The Road To Emmy Series will then be followed by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmy winners in September, and then the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony that month.


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