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Q&A – Lynne Willingham (Editor)

Editor Lynne Willingham talks with about her Emmy nomination for Breaking Bad‘s first episode and the brutal beating that just had to be the finale.

Q: How did you get involved with Breaking Bad?

A: Vince Gilligan and I had worked together on The X-Files for five years, and I was lucky enough to do a couple of things he had directed. We just had a really nice working relationship — if you’re lucky to have a relationship with a director when you’re an editor you have a shorthand and it makes things all that much quicker. You’re not learning each other, you can get into their head with them, and take it one step further and create a project together. Vince is so good that if you’re lucky enough to get a call from him, you make it work.

Q: What in your mind makes the Breaking Bad pilot unique?

A: It’s got so many different elements, the first of which is a
beautiful story of a man whose world is falling apart. But also in the
story you’ve got drama, you’ve got comedy, you’ve got pain, you’ve got
happiness, you’ve got action. There are a lot of television shows where
you can go, oh that’s an action-drama or that’s a sitcom, but with a
show like Breaking Bad it’s just covering so much area of
emotion and experience you can’t pigeon-hole it. And I think when
you’ve got so much going on, then as an editor you’re able to show a
lot of different things. It’s one of those golden moments that clicks,
and you’re just lucky to be there for it.

Q: Was there any aspect to the show that you found particularly challenging?

A: The X-Files was a great training ground for being able to get a lot of experience across the board. And Breaking Bad was such a labor of love that I didn’t find any of it overwhelming. It just was fun. I’m sure much of it was challenging, but it’s like when you give birth to a child and you know went through something that was pretty painful, but you never remember it because the outcome was so beautiful. All of it was just a joy.

Q: What’s your favorite moment in the first episode?

A: I love the opening. I love the teaser. I think it just rocks. I love how it was written, I love that the pants fly into the scene and we’re off. It’s like, what the heck is going on here? I think that teaser’s my favorite scene of the whole show. I also love Jesse falling off the roof.

Q: The last episode of the first season was not meant to be a finale. Is there anything you had to do with your editing to make it feel more final?

A: To be honest, it had very little to do with editing. They figured it out before they started shooting that we would be two episodes short. That said, I think the emotional impact of the beating became an editing thing. Vince knew what he wanted, he knew he needed it to be violent, and to put Walt and Jesse into a place where they felt totally out of their element. So in editing we asked, how do we make that beating so horrific that we realize these guys have stepped into hell? That helped build us up to a cliffhanger.

Q: This is your second Emmy nomination. Your first was for an episode of The X-Files called “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” How do the two compare?

A: I just think they were unique, well-written, and well-acted. When you’re lucky enough to have a show that’s recognized, the show has to be outstanding on a lot of levels. Film is very rhythmic, the way people talk is rhythmic, so the editing has a lot to do with pacing: Do I cut to this person or stay on another? What does an audience want to see? The overall effect is the editing should disappear, and you should be happy to be in the story. And in both of those episodes I think that happened, and that’s what made them noteworthy. The editing didn’t get in the way.

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