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Q&A – Lynne Willingham (Editor)


Emmy-winning editor Lynne Willingham discusses her second nomination in a row for Breaking Bad, explains going amateur for the Narcocorridos video and describes the best scene she’s ever cut in’s exclusive interview.

Q: Congratulations on your second Emmy nomination for Breaking Bad. Where are you going to put all these trophies?

A: I don’t know. First I have to win it, and then we have to worry about it. I’m not sure, because my husband has three also.

Q: What is it about the show’s editing that it keeps getting noticed for awards?

A: It obviously all starts with the story, and the story is so good. And then you add the fantastic actors that we’ve got. It’s a perfect storm; everything is right there. When you’ve got great story, great acting, great photography, it honestly does make it easier. And you don’t have to jack things around to tell a story. You’re not making up for people’s mistakes — you’re just enhancing it.

Q: Did you change your style at all this season over Season 1?

A: I think we kept the integrity from the first season to the second season. Having that Narcocorridos video at the beginning [of Episode 7] was very new. That was difficult because we needed it to look authentic — we needed it to look like it was an amateur video. I was able to go in and really go to school on another style and change how I would cut it as a Hollywood film editor. I would have a tendency to do it completely differently. And it was really fun, and daring.

Q: The season finale, “ABQ,” was singled out for the Emmy nomination. What about that episode makes it so special?

A: Here’s the interesting thing: It isn’t the flashiest show that I’ve done. It isn’t the one that has the most unique editing tricks going on. It’s like a simple conclusion to a complicated story. There are two scenes that stand out to me as being the best things to edit in the world: One of them was the scene between Jesse and Walt when Walt finds him in the crack house — it’s just heartbreaking. The performances were so good it just sticks with you. And then there’s the scene between Skyler and Walt when Skyler leaves. It sums up the whole season and is so satisfying because it answers a lot of questions and it’s putting all the characters in such different places. For that reason it’s a really extraordinary episode.

Q: You were editing the “teddy bear” teasers before you even knew about the plane crash. Was that strange to put together a sequence without knowing the end game?

A: I think that happens in a lot of series where they’re very protective about their finales. I didn’t know anything about the plane crash until maybe half way through the season. But I worked on The X-Files for five years, and I had no idea where that was going. Even from season to season you weren’t quite sure. It doesn’t make a lot of difference usually. I did have to ask when I was doing the first sequence, “Should I know more about this yet?” In the first episode Walt walks into the living room and turns on the television set he starts watching news. So we had to find a little clip of a news broadcast and throw it on a television. And I said to somebody, “Am I supposed to know there’s a plane crash? What’s he listening to on the television set?” And they said “No. Find something else.”

Q: You guessed it was a crash right away?

A: I sort of thought, “Oh this must be some sort of a crash because stuff like that doesn’t just fall into a pool.” And they went, “Just find another news clip; it has nothing to do with the teddy bear.” [Laughs]

Q: What was your favorite scene to edit this season?

A: I don’t know. I loved the scene with Skyler at the end. There was miles and miles of film — two hours of dailies on that. [Bryan Cranston] was really good, but that scene is more about Skyler’s determination, and [Anna Gunn] was just a lion in that scene. To me that was one of the best scenes I’ve ever cut.

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