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'The Voice,' 'Duck Dynasty' Editors on Big Challenges, Crafting Stories

EditFest L.A. kicks off with the editors behind "Beyond Scared Straight" and "So You Think You Can Dance" describing the toughest parts of their jobs and wading through thousands of hours of footage.

The Voice Pharrell Williams May 6 - H 2014
NBC
"The Voice"

American Cinema Editors’ annual EditFest L.A. program kicked off with a session focused on non-scripted TV — what moderator Jason Rosenfield (Law & Order: Crime & Punishment) reported has been the fastest-growing genre in TV for the past decade, now constituting roughly 25 percent of primetime.

Speaking Saturday at Disney’s Frank G. Wells Theatre, the panelists represented two types of non-scripted programming: competition and character-driven series. Both involve shaping a story incorporating interviews, music and massive amounts of footage. A season of The Voice, for instance, starts with 3,200 hours of footage, according to Robert M. Malachowski Jr., an Emmy-nominated supervising editor on the series.

Jody McVeigh-Schultz, who cuts Duck Dynasty, said one thing is certain with non-scripted series: “You plan in advance, but you also plan to make a ton of changes and restructure in post.”

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And interviews are generally key elements. “We use the interviews to drive the story by developing the characters,” reported Malachowski.

A challenge specific to certain competition shows is that the early episodes need be in the cutting room before the editors know which competitors are advancing to later rounds. “We are really blindly editing,” Malachowski, admitted, saying that on The Voice, “when [cutting] the blind auditions is finished, they still have to shoot the battle round. So we treat those segments independently because we don't know where the story arc is going to go.”

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So You Think You Can Dance editor Jennifer Gillaspy described a similar process. “We just cut the best stuff,” she said. “That's what gets into the audition shows.”

McVeigh-Schultz describes Duck Dynasty as a “sitcom about real people.” He complimented the comedic chops of the talent, and added that the timing and pacing of the jokes fully come together in the editing. “You develop how fast you want a rapid-fire exchange, the awkward silences, and the punchlines.”

In contrast to the others, Hilary Scratch-Robertson said cutting Beyond Scared Straight involves more of a documentary style. "We don't use a lot of interviews. What happens is what you see."

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA