A discussion with editor Kelly Stuyvesant reveals how character development requires specific edit choices, the importance of taking a leap of faith with a music cue to achieve greatness, and creating a safe place for creativity to flourish.

Today on Art of the Cut we’re talking with one of the editors of the Netflix mini-series, Griselda. Kelly Stuyvesant joins us for this conversation. The other editors on the series are Joaquin Elizondo and Christopher Cavanaugh.

Kelly’s credits include work on Agents of SHIELD, Helstrom, and The Sandman. 

Kelly, it is so nice to have you on the show. I’ve been watching Griselda and loving it. Character development seems huge.

Character development was the big overarching thing. We had one director for all six episodes, Andrés Baiz. Griselda’s story was always at the heart of everything and all our conversations circled around that and the journey she goes on.

The North Star guiding light was: how did everything revolve around Griselda and her point of view and how this impacted her and shaped her. For me, it was my favorite kind of thing to cut. I love stuff that has a lot of subtext and character and nuance and every little choice adds up to a larger picture.

You mentioned point of view. You’ve got all this coverage, but the coverage can be focused into a point of view. Is that something you felt like you needed to do?

Yeah, there was a mission statement going into it and reflected in how it was shot, how they wanted to stage the themes. Andrés would make some really interesting choices with blocking about how Sofia might be the focal point.

Andi also really believed in the power of editorial, so he likes to cover everything. He likes to cover his bases. He might have a game plan and an idea, but he’s going to shoot so that there’s lots of options in the editing room and he likes us to kind of do our thing.

He doesn’t want to box us in. That was one of the really interesting things about keeping things from Griselda’s point of view is that we’re also still telling a story of someone who has done some very bad things, so there’s a lot of gray area there and we’re unpacking how someone could make the choices they make and the nuances behind that.

But we’re not validating what she’s doing. I think there’s a lot of engaging with the audience in terms of: “Oh, you were rooting for her, but now look at what she’s done.” Playing it from her point of view doesn’t necessarily mean that you are approving of everything she does.

So there’s a lot of really fun choices we can make in the music or in the juxtaposition of things so we’re inside her head, and we’re approaching things from her angle, but we’re also making a commentary at the same time and we’re making choices to kind of make you question why you might be rooting for her in this moment. 

Or when she gets her comeuppance. You want to be careful how you handle things like that because her getting her comeuppance isn’t a pity party. I think there’s a lot of room to be playful and have fun a little bit.

So when she’s down on her luck or when she’s doing something wrong, you can be a little tongue in cheek because you’re not treating her like this mythic martyr, this great person that does all these things. It is a really interesting world to live in and navigate.

Any scene big or small, we’re always thinking, “Okay, how are we feeling about her as an audience? How is she feeling about herself? How are the other characters feeling about her? What do we want to come away with? What’s the right tone to hit?” I think there’s a lot of responsibility in that too because you don’t really want to glorify this world that she’s living in.

I talked to an editor that said you can’t judge your characters morally ‘cause it’ll affect your choices.

Yeah, that’s a really interesting take. I’ve heard that a lot, especially from actors. I think there’s a lot of fluidity with it. You don’t want to judge them and make choices that are confining you or choices that are discouraging a conversation.

My favorite things to watch and engage in are where people can have conversations afterwards or debates or they can walk away with a different point of view than someone that was sitting right next to them and watching it.

So in that sense, I think, yeah, you don’t want to be heavy handed with your judgment. You don’t want to limit what someone can take away from something. I do think though there is a certain responsibility in terms of understanding what you’re engaging in and what the material is and what reactions you are looking to elicit.

What we choose to shine a light on… what we choose to give people pleasure in partaking in that does affect the cultural discourse as a whole. It affects our values and you want to make something that sits in a space you’re comfortable with, if that makes sense.

You mentioned a few minutes ago the mission statement. What was that? What kind of discussions did you have with the director or the showrunner to say, “This is the direction we’re trying to head” before we start cutting?

Director Andres Baiz

One of the big things hanging over everyone was the Narcos background and the Narcos history and those shows. I came to the table on Griselda as a newbie. A lot of the team - both in production and post-production - had worked on other Narcos shows before. I came as a fan of Narcos and I really liked what they did with those shows.

There was a big conversation about how Griselda came from very similar DNA - similar sensibilities and storytelling - but it needed its own identity. It wasn’t living in the exact same world or universe. We were using actors as new characters.

It was its own story, but you also aren’t trying to deny your roots or deny where it came from. So that was a big part of the conversation early on is: what’s inherent to the DNA of those who are wishing to tell this story and what is different.

I think Griselda is a little lighter, a little funner, a little more tongue-in-cheek at times. It’s a mini series. It has a very closed arc, so there’s a lot of conversations in terms of style, in terms of tone. What was really exciting was that the door was also wide open on that.

There’s a lot of room to find our voice as we went. One of the things that Andrés, our director, did was he was constantly sending us Spotify playlists of music - just things he was listening to while he was working on themes, things that he liked, tones, stuff from the eighties, stuff from Miami, stuff from Colombia, lots of classical music.

It was a way to get into the head space and it helped me very early on to lock into his sensibilities and that he was really interested in being playful and discovering things and trying things and trying the unexpected.

So we had music we could pull from to use in our cuts, even if it was temp. But it also gave a sensibility of his liking so then I could go off and look for music myself that I thought might work well in the cut. Then it was a lot of micro-conversations. There wasn’t one big: “Here’s the blueprint team, here’s the game plan.” 

Andrés likes to keep in touch throughout the shoot. It was a long shoot, all six episodes were block shot, so there’d be a lot of daily conversations, just about little moments, little scenes. “How’s this playing? What reaction is this eliciting from you in the dailies?

What do you think of this?” Every single one was a glimpse into the head space. One of the things that was a real pleasure on the show was how unified everyone was. It wasn’t one of those situations where there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen or differing points of view.

Andrés was one of our point people at the head in directing all of them. Eric Newman was very involved. Andrés would have conversations with everyone, with our writers, with the cinematographer, and helped coalesce all that into one idea, one point of view. It really felt like a unified team all the way through, which was great and a real pleasure to be a part of.

Producer Eric Newman with star Sofia Vergara

You mentioned block shooting. How was the block shooting done, how was the editing done? Did you checkerboard the episodes between editors, or choose contiguous blocks?

Joaquin did the odd episodes, episode one, episode three, and episode five. And I did the even episodes two, four, and six. The entire season was shot across the board as if it was one long six hour movie. We tended to front-load the earlier episodes and the later episodes were on the backend, but it was willy nilly. We had the benefit of having scripts ready to go from the beginning.

There was no traditional schedule like what I’ve experienced on network TV or other episodic TV where you’re in dailies for one episode and maybe in a producer’s cut for another. It’s kind of dailies all the time for months - sending cuts to Andi when we felt good about stuff, sharing things, then he would give us notes while at the same time we were still getting in more dailies.

So we are kind of juggling the mental bandwidth of “All right, I’ve got a couple rounds of notes on these scenes from Andrés that I want to do while they’re fresh in my head. But I’ve also got five hours of dailies that just came in today and new scenes will inform the pacing and the timing.

I think we shot from - I could be mistaken - but I think we shot from around January to July, so for about seven months. Then once we wrapped shooting, Andrés came in and then we refined each cut for each episode. Then after that it seemed kind of a little more traditional structure of going from directors to producers to Netflix and so on.

You mentioned juggling the schedule while you were in dailies. Talk about some of the decisions that you would make about what you wanted to do that day.

It’s a very individual thing and one of the things I really appreciated is that we had some freedom and flexibility to structure our day in the way that we work best. So for me, I have a pretty good sensibility of how I work and where my time is best spent. Was this a day where I just need to put blinders on and really dig into this giant meaty scene.

Do I need to tackle some low hanging fruit and knock some stuff off my plate? Knowing the priorities in terms of the set was helpful. Knowing if there was a scene that was going to inform how another scene was shot would obviously shape the priority for me.

I tend to really dig in on my first cuts. I know a lot of editors work best where they cut very quickly and very intuitively and slap something together and then it’s a constant course of refinement, but that’s not me.

I tend to be pretty thorough from the get-go and I take a lot of time and I really analyze. I look at all the dailies. I look at all the performances. I’ll live with a couple different performances while the scene is taking shape, trying to decide what direction I want to go.

It takes some time for me to put together my first cut of a scene and then it really doesn’t change that much after that - micro-tweaks here and there - but it’s pretty solid from the beginning. Then, by the time I would share something, even though we were sharing stuff early, before we had full cuts to scenes, when I was sending stuff to Andrés, it was already in a pretty solid place. 

It already had its shape, its structure, which made the notes part of the process pretty easy and fluid, so that if Andrés had thoughts on x, y, or Z, I had a good foundation to go on. I think that was really helpful for the success of that workflow with kind of knowing how your director likes to work and knowing when is the right time for them to weigh in on a scene. I was really grateful to have that freedom to find the schedule that maximized how we all work best.

Were you under any time constraints on episode length?

No, we weren’t. Though with anything you want it to feel right with pacing and you don’t wanna overstay your welcome. So the goal was always to have a good runtime, have a good pace, have a good feel. No one was very precious. 

There were a lot of things that ended up on the cutting room floor. A lot of things that didn’t make it in, not because we had any hard time that we had to hit, but just because we were looking for the best way to tell the story.

Partial Avid timeline screenshot of Griselda

Talk to me about some of those decisions. If it can be any length and let’s say the performances are always great, you’re not dropping a scene because it’s not a good scene. What’s motivating leaving something on the cutting room floor?

I think a lot of that comes down to what you know and what you are waiting to know. People will get impatient if they’re too far ahead of the story. So if you’re building towards something and it’s clear where you’re headed, people are going to get bored if they’re waiting for you to catch up to them.

But vice versa, if you’re just bulldozing full speed ahead and you can’t wait to get to your destination and you’re leaving people behind, then that’s where you get confusion. And if you don’t take the time to develop a character or let people get emotionally invested, then there’s no hope for a payoff. 

So  those were the conversations always running in our mind, actually finding the sweet spot. Easier said than done. 

I think one of the perks of having multiple episodes in the air at the same time is you get a chance to look at something with fresh eyes by virtue of setting one episodes aside for a little bit and spending time on another one.

Then you can circle back with a little bit of distance and kind of think, “Okay, did we achieve what we set out to achieve in our last round of notes?” 

There was a lot of restructuring, reordering that would happen, moving scenes around, but it was always in service of the bigger picture, the arc, the story, when we give people information and then we would have an opportunity to sit with it for a little bit because we weren’t rushed for time because we weren’t racing towards this hard deadline. 

Then we could circle back to it and think about it and assess how well we were striking that balance.

At the time we were work-from-home for all of production and shooting. Then once that was done, we switched to a hybrid workflow where sometimes I would be working from home, sometimes I would be in an office setting. 

When we were in an office then there was an opportunity, if it was my episode, we might grab Joaquin and the three of us would sit and watch. Just having someone else in the room - it’s always helpful - and vice versa, I would sit in on their watchdown, or Andrés would ping-pong between the two rooms and give us stuff to work on. It’s always a tricky thing, finding that right balance. 

I always circle back to just what do we know? What do we want people to know? Where are we at this point in time?

Did you deliver all six episodes at the same time?

No, it was a tiered delivery structure. It was much more how you would imagine it traditionally, where we would get notes on one and work on it and when they sign off we would lock it and then we would keep working on the others. 

Episodes five and six were the last, you’re starting to think about the six episodes as a whole. So it just kind of made sense to start chronologically knocking them off because you might make some lifts in one that would have ripple effects and ramifications in another.

I just talked to another set of TV series editors and they were talking about looking back at episode one that still hadn’t been delivered, deciding whether: “Now that we know what’s episode five looks like, should we go back and change episode one?”

Yeah, that’s a dangerous game.


I love having the time to be creative and I love not working under a deadline. I think the flip side of that is if you have all the time in the world you can just pick something to death. You’re never going to run outta things to try… ever. There’s always something you didn’t try that you could try.

Did you watch Joaquin’s episodes or do you just read the scripts and that’s all you needed?

Oh yeah, definitely. Partly just as a fan that wants to watch, and as coworkers, I think it’s great to be able to talk about each other’s episodes. That’s one of the things I like about cutting television. I love having another editor that you can just talk shop with. Having someone that that completely understands where you’re coming from. 

You have that companionship, but also to inform the story and the cut. Because this was something that didn’t have a template ahead of time, someone might unlock some way to handle something - some tonal thing in one episode - and you want to carry that through-line in yours. 

Joaquin was keeping up to date on my episodes and I definitely was keeping up to date on his because it was fun to see how they evolved. It informed how I cut things. It informed the choices I made. It made sure I was in the loop on what was going on. I think I’m a bit snoopy by nature too. 

I like to see what’s going on with the other episodes, but I also think it’s a great way to come up with a cohesive whole for a series.

You mentioned at the very top of the interview how important the character arc was. So if you’re missing a half of the character arc, that’s kind of hard, hard place to be.

I might have a scene in my episode that carries a lot of emotional resonance because of a scene in another episode, so you really want to make sure that you’re balancing it all appropriately.

Assistant editor, Carlos "Charlie" Viramontes and his wife at editor Joaquin Elizondo’s wedding, which happened during the production of Griselda.

When you get dailies in, what do you tell your assistant to do and then what do you do? You walk in in the morning, and there’s a new bin of dailies…

So my assistant on this episode was Carlos “Charlie” Viramontes. It was our first time working together and he was great. He had an amazing attitude. I’m pretty easy to prep for - but really you should ask Carlos because I think we all think we’re easy! 

Then we find out that we’re a nightmare! I don’t want anything too fancy with my dailies prep. So Charlie will prep the dailies for the day and group any multi-cams that need to be grouped and organize the bin, following the script order.

I reorganize my bin spacially when I start cutting. It’s almost like a tactile urge for me as I’m editing. I just start mentally moving and grouping things in a way that only makes sense to me and I could never translate to anyone else.

Then the way I like to work is at the bottom of the bin I have one sequence that we still call a KEM roll - even though it’s a little outdated - that just has all the media barfed on one long timeline, so that if I ever need to just scroll through - “I’m looking for this one angle, this one thing” - I can just breeze through everything, which usually isn’t helpful until more in the notes phase when we’re starting to really dig and look for little pieces. 

But it also gives me a sense of how many hours I have because I think in terms of hours, not page count for a scene. Then when it’s time for me to cut a scene, I like to watch everything. I tend to work my way backwards. So for example, if there’s five or six takes of a setup, I usually start with take six and work my way back because I like to see where they ended up and then watch where they started.

Part of the reason I do that is I think there’s nothing like the very first time you watch a take or setup, it’s when you’re your freshest and have the most honest impressions. If they did 10 takes of something, there was a reason. 

So I like to start there and then it’s a really interesting thing to see the backwards progression of where they started with. One thing I’ve found is that if they’re doing a lot of takes, they’re really trying to get to the heart of something, but other things can kind of fall by the wayside in the process. So you might get some more honest line reading, some more present performances early on. 

Then if everyone’s very narrowly focused on achieving this one goal, you might need to balance that out. That’s one reason why I like to work backwards and I just happen to work on things with a lot of directors that shoot a lot and do a lot of takes.

So that’s how I keep myself fresh. I do something that is kind of a combination line cut/selects pass - where as I watch everything and I’m putting things in a timeline - everything I like, which is almost everything, I try not to be too picky from the start. 

It’s very rare that I won’t put a line reading in or something unless I just know there’s a reason - if I’m just certain I’m not gonna use it. But I try to be very open-minded, so it’s very similar to a line cut, but I also am grouping things and making little mini-edits and it’s really quick: “Oh, what does this look like if it’s juxtaposed against this?” 

So I’ll end up with a sequence that could be an hour or more long if there are a lot of dailies. It’s just this massive work reel.

Then when I go to start cutting the scene, I go off that sequence and I load it into my Preview monitor and I start going through and looking at performances. Sometimes I’ll leave little notes to myself as I’m going through the dailies like, “Oh this might be a great reaction for this moment.” Or little breadcrumbs to remember. 

So as I’m watching all the dailies and throwing down my selects, it’s kind of percolating in the back of my head how I want the scene to start. It’s really helpful with big scenes to do that process because sometimes I’ll be halfway through cutting a scene and suddenly I’ll have to jump into another episode, then a few hours later I’ll have to jump back in and pick up where I left off. 

Mentally it’s very hard to shift your head space around and sometimes you feel like you have to start at the very beginning.

So for me that process really helps me find a way to dive back into where I was beforehand and not lose track of everything and not lose track of what was shot. And especially when you’re working with coverage that might start on one person but then it picks up another person and then it racks focus to another.

So I don’t want to lose track of all the moments that are tagged and all the things, which is why my first cuts take a lot of time. I do a very kind of ground up, very thorough approach. Then by the time I have a first pass, I feel like I really know the footage really well. 

I really know our options, and from there I tend to have a pretty easy time retooling the scene addressing any notes that are possible. If someone doesn’t like a line read, I’ve already got access to a super-cut of all the line reads that I thought worked really well for the scene.

What are some things that, when you were going through this particular show, that you found were either challenging or really rewarding, or was there something you just loved cutting?

One thing I’m proud about that always gives me joy every time I watch it is in Episode Four of Griselda. It’s a real turning point episode for her and it’s kind of her breaking bad moment. Everyone is telling her “Go out while you’re on top.” 

And it’s her acknowledgement that she’s in it for more than her family and the money. She has a chance to ride off into the sunset, but she wants the victory. There’s this great moment where she burns all this cocaine that she’s been robbing from everyone else. 

She gives this really great speech to the Marielitos and her crew. It’s her coming into her own for the second half and there’s this music cue that I just love. It felt at the time like a big risk putting it in because you’re in your bubble. You think “I love this, but is everyone else going to think, “What the hell are you thinking, doing this?”

I got some really great advice from an editor that I worked with for a long time, Dave Crabtree, who kind of mentored me. One of the things he said was, “Don’t always go for the safe cut. Don’t go for the safe moment, because you’re going end up with something that’s average. 

But if you give it a shot and throw something at the wall and see if it sticks, the worst thing is people say they don’t like it and you go to the safe cut.” But you want to push the edges. That’s part of your job. You’re the one that sees everything. So for the scene where she burns the cocaine, there’s this great cue called “Lullaby in Ragtime” by Harry Nilsson.

It’s not at all the song that you would initially think to put in this scene. There’s just something about it where I thought, “Let’s give it a try.” As soon as I laid it in, I just loved it. Before that I’d been looking for like Badass Boss anthems or Season of the Witch or something that that just felt like we were riding on top with her. 

The way it juxtaposed it was so great because it’s this beautiful mellow melody, but it doesn’t take away any of the energy or the momentum and it goes from there into a couple other scenes. It was just so fun.

I just loved it when it first hits you just get this sense of finality and the decision she’s made and there’s something epic and poetic about it. It’s not celebrating her: “Look at this badass woman.” It’s just: “Well she made that choice and she’s defiant in her victory, but it’s also the beginning of her downfall.” 

I feel like the song kind of alludes to that a little bit. Then you see Dario - her lover that’s been trying to talk her down - and he’s realizing the decision she’s just made, there’s some sadness in that. Then the song carries and we go to one of her sicario’s assassinating someone on her behalf. It’s the suggested violence, but you’ve still got this beautiful song playing. 

You cut to the scene of Griselda savoring her victory as the news report comes on, there’s some mischief there. I think what I loved about it is it let us live in Griselda celebrating her success, but it also somehow juxtaposed that with this melancholy of what that decision really means and kind of alluding to it.

I worked for a showrunner that used to always say with our songs, “We don’t wanna play the house number.” We don’t want this song where the lyrics are telling you what you already know. So I just loved how it fit weirdly in a way you couldn’t really articulate. 

But I had no idea if anyone else was going to like it. Every time the cut got in front of someone, they’d said, “I love that cue!” It was just this little high every time! I was so ready for it to fail and just say, “I tried something silly guys, it’s all right, let’s move on.” 

It was one of those great moments where you couldn’t really articulate all the reasons why it worked. You just hoped that people were in sync with what you were thinking and it clicked for so many people in the same way.

You mentioned: “Don’t go for the safe cut.” I couldn’t quite understand who you said that was.

That was Dave Crabtree. He was an editor on Psych for USA and I worked for him for a long time on a couple different shows and he also is a talented director in his own right. So it was a great position to be in as an assistant editor because when he would go direct something I would get to move up and cut and it was great. Kind of have an opportunity to audition for people and show them what I could do. 

And that’s how I ultimately ended up making the jump to full-time editor, editing for people that I had cut for when I was filling in for him. I’ll be cutting scenes to this day and think: “What would Dave do here?”

What would Dave do indeed? I love the idea of this piece of music that you dropped in knowing, “Hmm, I don’t know if anybody’s gonna buy this” because I my ego would have fought that impulse. But you have to get over your own possible failure for the benefit of the project.

That’s when you’re closest to greatness - when you’re either gonna fail spectacularly or they’re gonna love it.

That is a great quote. I will remember that the next time I’m gonna put in a music cue that I think is great, but no one will believe I’m gonna use it - “I’m so close to greatness here. I just have to pull the trigger.”

Director Biaz with star Vergara

Yes. As someone who could never in my life do standup comedy, I feel a kindred spirit for this idea that you have to be comfortable with bombing in order to do something good. And I will say too, I think it’s also a testament to working in an environment that’s a really safe space.

If you don’t have job security, you can’t take those creative risks. But if you know this is definitely encouraged from day one to play and to find the voice and to do things. So you can take those leaps of faith and you know that at the worst they’re just going to say, “Nah, we’re not feeling you on this.”

That does make a difference, right? The safe space part of it. 

Absolutely. I think it’s our job as editors to encourage anyone that’s in the room with us to feel like it’s a safe space and you hope to get that back. I think people have a lot of respect in a creative field for someone if they know they’re not holding back.

Something we can offer - as an editor - is that when we give them a cut, they know you didn’t hold back. You gave them what you thought was the most exciting, dynamic version of their material. Then the second part of your job is to help them hone it into the vision they had in mind.

That’s true for our assistants too, right? They’ve gotta feel safe or else you don’t get good feedback.

Absolutely. The last thing I want is someone that wants to flatter my ego or just say yes. It’s a really wonderful thing when you have a really honest relationship with your assistant because it’s also a safety net.

For all my bravado about “take the risk” it’s nice to have someone in your corner that you can ask. “Am I insane right now?” especially when you’re trying to convince yourself that the cut works, because it would make your life so much easier if it worked.

How do you promote your assistants? How do you get them to move up in the world of editing?

I love working with assistants that want to cut and have a passion and want to be editors. I benefited so much from people mentoring me. I threw out Dave Crabtree’s name, but I’m very lucky that every editor I worked with really took the time to teach me - to give me opportunities to let me cut.

So it’s definitely something I want to pass on to them and I think it’s a part of the job of being an editor that I continue to try to focus on and get better and better at. Because I think there’s a push/pull when you love what you do and you love cutting and you just wanna do it all the time.

You have to think about the fact that we’re a big community and the best thing we can do is open up doors for other people and give them a shot.

So I always encourage my assistants to cut as much as they want. I’ve worked on a lot of shows that are very demanding on assistants with very hard time schedules.

I try to have honest conversations with them in terms of how much they want to cut and how we can make time for them to find that space because it can be really hard and challenging when their day is a a full day and they don’t have a moment to breathe, but they want to cut and they want to learn and you know, I know there’s a lot of motivated assistants that will cut in their off time and cut in their off hours, but I think you also should try to give them that space during work time and during the job.

How that works out in practice depends on the assistant. It depends on where they’re at and what they want from me.

That’s one of the things I always ask when I interview assistants is what they’re looking to get from working with me. I will ask assistants to cut scenes and they’ll share it with me and we’ll talk about it and we’ll talk about why they made the choices and I’ll give them notes like a director or producer would and give them a chance at addressing notes.

Then if I have an assistant who’s more nervous about cutting or greener or learning, I will tell them, “Just pick whatever scene speaks to you - whatever you like - and cut it and before you watch what I do, cut your own version. Then if you’re really excited, I’d love to look at it, we can talk about the choices we each made and why we each made them.

I’ve worked with assistant editors that are a little further on and they’re ready to move up and their philosophy has been like, I already know how to cut, I don’t need to cut for you. And it’s like, okay great. You let me know what you’re looking to get out of this relationship and I will happily provide it.

I think it’s something you don’t do by accident. So it’s something I try to be mindful of and I think that there’s always room for improvement and always more you can do to give back.

Is that also how you moved up? That you had editors that, who would have those discussions?

Definitely. I always remember a piece of advice that I overheard one time that you should always articulate what you want to people that can help you get there. I try to remember that pretty much every editor I worked for was open to letting me cut for them and it was very much the same thing.

I would cut things when we got to a level of trust and we’d been working together a long time. They would just assign me things to cut and I would cut them and then they would give me notes on them and that would end up in the show! It’s this huge moment when you’re learning to cut where you’re think, “I did that!”

Then you get to follow the process through: you see where the network notes come in, where the director notes are, even if it’s not your hand making the changes, you’re really thinking: “I laid the foundation for this! This is how people responded to it.”

As I got more and more practice, the scenes I was given to cut got more complicated, got bigger, then you become this integral part of the partnership and so you become this resource. I ended up working on shows that had really tight air dates, really hectic schedules.

And because I had this working relationship with the editors I worked for and because I was cutting so much, it was a natural thing for them to say, “Let’s bump Kelly up. We already know what her editing style is. We already know she can do this.

She should get a co-editing credit on this and she can take over this episode.” I also was lucky I worked with some post producers that also really encouraged growth and were really supportive. My first editing credit was on the show Psych.

That whole team was so supportive and the showrunners were really behind me - the post producer, the editors. It’s a really scary thing when you’re an assistant and you’re getting your first episode to cut so it felt nice knowing that you weren’t in a situation where they were looking for you to fail.

You were in a situation where they wanted you to succeed, they wanted to set you up for success and they were encouraging you. Because I came from that - because that’s how I got to be where I am - I feel a lot of responsibility to try to do that for other people as well.

Director Biaz

You mentioned getting notes, like director notes. Did it ever happen with you - maybe as you got more experience and built more trust - that an editor would let you cut the scene, but the director made notes on your scene and then you got to recut based on the director’s notes.

Yes, which was is a great experience and it was a little scary at first because it’s a whole new skillset when you realize that someone is sitting right behind you and you gotta move quickly. 

Then as an assistant, I would also be in the room when we were working with directors or producers and taking notes and my editors would always be very gracious: “Well Kelly cut this scene” which I thought was a really generous way to bring me into the conversation. 

Getting a chance to practice cutting notes on scenes that I did was a huge benefit. And it’s such a different thing than just figuring out how to cut a scene in the first place.

The “process” part of it’s super-important. It’s just a question of whether anybody allows you to do it.

Yes. And knowing the dynamics in a room, knowing how to interact with people. I like my editing room to be a positive space. I like to think of it as a place to explore, you know? So something I’m always very conscious of is not to say no too quickly, not to be negative.

You have to remember that you might’ve been living with this scene for weeks or months or however long, but that person that’s walking through the door, it’s their first crack at it and they are excited to explore it. 

You don’t want to be the Debbie Downer that’s shooting them down or saying, “No, that’s not gonna work. Trust me, I already looked at it.” I really believe in being positive, being open, not being defensive, not having an ego. I think I absorbed a lot of that in the rooms that I was in when I was assisting and watching those dynamics take place, and watching the politics play out.

Director Biaz

When offering that opportunity to your assistant, the trick would be knowing the director.


Is the director willing to do this with an assistant editor or he gonna feel - he or she - like he’s been pawned off?

Absolutely. You don’t want to put your assistant in a position where it’s going to backfire and go poorly for them. You want it to be a safe space. You want it to be a director that is open and encouraging and excited about it. 

That’s also something that I would always say to my assistants if they did cut a scene for me, I’d say, “Let’s wait and make sure that they like it before we say you cut it, because the last thing you want be is to say, “My assistant cut the scene.” 

Then you realize that the director is about to have a meltdown over something that maybe has nothing to do with the scene. You wait until they compliment it and then you say, “Oh, so and so did this.”

I talked to another editor who had their assistant cut a scene, and the assistant asked the editor, “Are you going to tell the director that I cut it?” And the editor said, “I’m gonna tell the director that you cut the scene if they like it. Otherwise I’ll take the heat and we’ll start over again.”

Exactly. Very important.

You mentioned some restructuring that took place, maybe even between episodes. Can you give an example that you can think of about why things juggled outside of the way they were constructed in the script?

The scripts read great from the beginning and then - Joaquin would be able to speak to this better than me because it involves episode one - but there was a lot of time spent on: “How much of Griselda’s backstory do we need to see and live in and experience and how much did we already know what we needed to know to get on with the story and move forward?” 

So there were a lot of scenes where we spent time in flashbacks that were changed or evolved or moved or some were cut. In episode four there’s some intercutting that happens between Griselda giving orders for certain things to be carried out with other scenes. 

Like most things when you read a script that has intercutting, you know that’s gonna find its rhythm once you have everything to work with.

But there were some other scenes in episode four that were moved around. When you read the script, it made perfect sense and then you start seeing things play out and you start thinking about what information you need to give and clarity and how certain scenes play off each other. 

We ended up reordering a lot of scenes in four and now it’s hard for me to work backwards and remember how they even were to begin with, which I think is just a testament to how well it ultimately worked. 

Something I really loved about working with Andrés is every note he got, no matter where it came from or who it came from, he really took it to heart and found a way to use it to improve the show. Even if it was a note that might spark a knee jerk defensive reaction or you might think “I don’t get this note” or “they don’t get what I’m trying to do.”

He really took every opportunity to look at things - nothing was precious - just how can we tell the best story? 

One of the ways we achieved that with episode four was just moving certain scenes around so that Griselda victory might be juxtaposed against another character. Like June - the police officer who’s tracking her down - where is she at in that emotional state? 

They’re not in the same space or the same room together, but there’s a rivalry brewing. So, do we want their victories to marry each other or do we want Griselda to be at a peak, which June’s at her lowest point? How are we setting up this conflict and this contrast? 

Some of it had to do with tracking June putting the pieces together versus the actions that Griselda was taking at that time. Do we feel like she’s hot on her tail or do we feel like Griselda was way ahead of her? So it was just really interesting. 

You feel like even though you’re pitching ideas and you’re trying things, you also feel like you’re discovering so much while you do it. So that scene order was very fluid.

That is one of the most fascinating things to me about scripted television and film: that you can have a great script that you love and it seems to make perfect sense. Then it gets into editing and the pacing needs to change, the structure needs to change.

Yeah, you read a scene that reads really fast and suddenly it’s a five minute scene and you’re think, “Well, this is killing the momentum here, but if I put it over HERE, we’re engrossed in it. Later in the story, we’ll have the time to spend five minutes with these people.”

Or you can intercut it

Or you can intercut it. One of my favorite things about the process is the eureka moments. I love when you are working with a team that’s not too precious. You need a great script, I think, to hit the ground running and to get everyone into the world. 

Then I think you need to be a little un-precious with it on the backend. You need to think about what did that script birth? What material did it give you? And how can you continue to do it justice by putting it together in just the right way?

Kelly, thank you so much for a wonderful discussion. This was a real pleasure talking to you about this show and your approach to the material.

Thank you so much for having me. It was really great to meet you. I’m really happy to be able to participate in this.