'Stranger Things,' 'Better Call Saul' Double Down on Emmy Editing Nominations

Netflix; AMC/Photofest
'Stranger Things,' 'Better Call Saul'

The Netflix and AMC hits both scored dual nominations in the category, where they'll face off with HBO's 'Westworld.'

No, you're not seeing double. The category for outstanding single-camera picture editing for a drama series includes a double nomination for veteran Skip Macdonald, who won an Emmy in 2014 for the finale of Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad. This year, he's up for two separate episodes of AMC's Breaking Bad spinoff series, Better Call Saul — "Chicanery," for which he is a solo nominee; and "Witness," for which he shares a nomination with Kelley Dixon, who is also a past Emmy winner for an episode of Breaking Bad.

"Chicanery" climaxes in a final courtroom scene that contains a big confrontation between Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and his brother and rival, Chuck (Michael McKean). "It was about building tension and keeping it interesting," says Macdonald. "There were a lot of takes and angles and choices [in the dailies]. I held shots a little longer to build emotion. Chuck was falling apart, but we didn't want him to crack too quickly. Not until close to the end does he finally snap."

Adds Dixon of the "Witness" episode: "We knew we were going to reveal Gus [Fring, Giancarlo Esposito's character from Breaking Bad] in the episode. The reveal was mostly teasing the audience but giving them what they wanted. It was a delicate balance."

She continues, "Originally [director Gilligan] was going to have him walk his way into hard focus. When I got the footage, he also shot a reveal right as Jimmy is digging into trash in a later part of the scene. Gus says, 'May I help you?' It was so iconic. I cut it that way. As Vince looked at it, he decided it was a really cool reveal."

Continuing the theme of good things coming in twos, the Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things also earned a pair of nominations. It was recognized for "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers," edited by first-time nominee Dean Zimmerman, which kicked off the series. "The hardest part for the first episode is engaging the audience and making them want to watch the rest," says Zimmerman. "Give them the threat of the monster and the danger, tee up the characters and their arcs, while setting the tone for the series. I also liked to bring a little more of the comedy — i.e., cutaways or reactions — to give a scene some levity."

Stranger Things picked up a second nom for "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub," in which the storylines of the three different groups of characters — the adults, high schoolers and the young kids — all come together, explains first-time nominee Kevin D. Ross. "Now they know they are all after the same thing," he says, adding that the challenge then became about balancing the storylines. "For instance, we didn't want to stay too long on the kids. When the government agents chase them on their bikes, that chase could have been longer. But we felt it could be trimmed down."

The fifth nominee in the category is Andrew Seklir (a past nominee for Battlestar Galactica), on the strength of "The Bicameral Mind," the season finale of HBO's Westworld. The overall challenge to telling the story of a futuristic theme park populated by androids was the shifting point of view. "You have the world of the park and the [lab]," says Seklir. "And within the park you have the points of view of the hosts and the guests. And you have to move seamlessly from one to another. We were also dealing with multiple timelines."

Seklir also had to handle some big surprises in the 90-minute capper. "The whole season builds up to the reveal that the Man in Black [Ed Harris] is an older version of William [Jimmi Simpson]," says Seklir. "It was important to get that right."

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.