Editors Aika Miyake and Maria Gonzales chat about rhythm in language and culture, captioning dailies, using your imagination with effects and green screen, and more on the FX’s dramatic miniseries set in 1600s Japan.

Today on Art of the Cut we’re talking with two of the editors of the epic FX Network series, Shogun. With us today are Aika Miyake and Maria Gonzales. Thomas Krueger also edited the series but was unable to join us.

Aika is originally from Japan, where she cut mostly TV spots. Her other work includes Chef’s Table: BBQ, the documentary, Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan, and additional editing on the feature Black is King.

Maria’s credits include TV series including The Walking Dead, Counterpart, See, and The Old Man.

I looked a little bit at both of your IMDB pages to learn a little bit about you and you’ve both edited things other than TV. Is there a difference between editing feature films and TV or editing documentaries specifically and tv? Do those things work different muscles?

MIYAKE: Definitely. I come from a commercial background and I’ve edited a feature film documentary back in 2013, but in 2020 I edited Chef’s Table. I mainly come from a lot of commercials -  400 or 500 hundred commercials - and small, short format projects.

I really feel every project, even within the commercials is very different. When I start editing something new I always come with a fresh mind to find out what’s different or what’s the same thing that I can apply. But I’m always open. I come into a project very open-minded. That’s something that I’ve learned from a lot of different projects that I’ve done in the past.

Maria, what about you? I see that you’ve got a variety of work in your background. Is it a challenge to jump from one format to another, or does it all just feel editing to you?

GONZALES: I assisted for many years - almost 16 years - mostly in feature films. Growing up in those cutting rooms, I definitely wanted to be a featured editor, but the industry around me changed and the opportunity presented itself in TV.

They are different beasts. They both have their pluses and minuses. I definitely think in features - or at least the shows I’ve worked on where we had generous budgets and generous schedules - you definitely have time to really craft a scene and sort of sit on some of your work. We have more time for contemplation basically.

Actually we did have time for it on Shogun because we were on it for 18-19 months, so it was almost like a feature, but you’re cutting 10 hours of tv, not an hour and a half or two hour feature. So in that sense, sometimes you feel there’s more care taken in a feature film.

But what you get to do in television is really craft a character arc or a story arc. A lot of it is so condensed in a feature film, where on a series you get to explore that for a much longer period. I really love that about TV and I actually love having colleagues in the cutting room and running things by people.

You don’t necessarily always have multiple editors on a feature film.  You do in a TV cutting room.


Do you like having that collaboration with your fellow editors?

MIYAKE: Yes, definitely. 

I wanted to add something. When I was  a student, I read Walter Murch’s book “In The Blink of an Eye.” It said something like: “Emotion takes time.” That actually left a mark on me, thinking “how can I craft emotions within commercials for past  13, 14 years?”

And it’s very difficult. I’ve done it, but  it does take time and I’ve always, always felt, “I wish I can have time to bring them deeper emotions.” And  editing shows was something that I felt  I could finally do it. And having Maria as a colleague was amazing.

I reached out even before the job started and we start talking on the phone and went to a couple coffees. I respect her editing and it’s really, really amazing to learn and edit beside her and it was such a pleasure. 

It was a dream come true because in commercial environment you are on a project for a very short time and you work with someone for two weeks then you move on to another project and you’re never really able to build a working relationship liked we did working on Shogun.

We were working  almost 18 months together, talking about the same project all the time and  it was really, really special.

GONZALES: [Editor] Thomas [Krueger] was obviously a big part of that too. I really had to lean on both of them because I didn’t really have any experience cutting footage in Japanese. So a lot of my cuts were basically instinctual. The timing and the language that we used inherently adds a lot of pauses in the line delivery.

A lot of times we had to cut those short because we’re constrained by the amount of time we can be on air. It was also very important to make sure that the flow of the language makes sense to Japanese audiences.

Aika was a big help there for me. We did have a Japanese assistant - Masami - on the crew who I could run cuts by and she would flag things for me, but ultimately I would always ask Aika to watch the cuts and make sure that things are actually making sense, that they are not too tight or that some of the pauses are not too long or whatever it is.

I’ve cut other languages and you can learn some sense of the rhythm of another language. Even if you know you’ve left the right words in, you still wonder, “Is it culturally the right amount of breath?”

GONZALES:There were instances where I’d think, “It takes so long for them to say that last word.” I specifically remember in episode seven, there was one word that had an really long pause and the director of that episode was actually Japanese and he asked for this long pause but after he was done with the show - many months later - I remember tightening it just ‘cause it always felt so long, but when Aika watched it, she said, “No, no, no, no, no!

You have to put the pause back in because it doesn’t make sense any other way.” Sometimes you just have to trust the ones who know. For the most part I was even surprised how well my instinct actually worked because so many times, Aika would watch the episode and it would just be four or five things maybe in the entire episode that would have to shift slightly.

Aika, What about you? I’m assuming that with these period dramas the cultural “Japanese-ness” of the production is different than modern Japanese. Did you feel the kind of formality of the culture from the Shogun era meant you had to edit in a certain way or you needed to have certain rhythms?

Editor Aika Miyake

MIYAKE: I find period Japanese to be even more monotone than the current Japanese that we speak. I really intentionally watched out for it because of that nature. I had a lot of talking scenes, a lot of sit-down dinner scenes. I edited these scene as kind of a battle.

I wanted to bring  that intention  and the intensity to the scene. But the language itself is quite monotone. Sometimes it was really challenging to bring just the right amount of meanness or strength. Also  their presence are very filtered. It’s really subtle.

So how can we bring these subtle expression into talking scenes was pretty challenging and interesting. But I found the language actually very poetic as well. A lot of words in the show are very different from what we speak. Maria and I would joke sometimes,  “Maria, you can use the Japanese that you learned in this show and go to Japan and people are gonna think that you are from 1600s.”

GONZALES: It’s incredibly polite. “Thank you” in our show has the literal translation of, “I don’t deserve to be in your presence and you bestow such kindness to me.”

MIYAKE: We use none of those words anymore. I google the words. When I read the Japanese script,  I was in awe of how beautiful it was. It was a revelation for me to look at my own culture and  find how beautiful it was.

Editor Maria Gonzales.

I love that point Aika made about the restraint of Japanese culture. Did you want to say, “I wish they were more expressive.”

GONZALES: Different actors come with different backgrounds. I actually found that some of the actors were so big and it took me a beat to get used to it. 

There was one specific scene in the first episode that we were watching a year later and I said, “Remember when we thought that that was really over-the-top?” And it actually wasn’t. It just took some getting used to.

Aika mentioned the script being in Japanese and how beautiful that was. Was the script also in English so you could understand it?

GONZALES:Originally the script was written in English, then it was sent out for translation to Japan and then Eriko, one of our producers along with the star and executive producer, Hiroyuki Sanada, did a pass and that was the final Japanese script. But we did have an English version, we even had a transliterated version, where they spelled-out how to pronounce the words.

Aika’s WFH editing setup

Did you have captions on the dailies?

GONZALES: Yes. Initially the workflow was supposed to use Avid ScriptSync, then add translation to the cuts, but it occurred to me that that was not gonna work for me and it really wasn’t gonna work for the producers or the English speaking directors because if they wanna watch a take you’re gonna get lost in the language if you don’t have subtitles. So all the subtitles were actually generated in the cutting room.

In the cutting room during dailies?

GONZALES: During dailies. It was a massive undertaking. Props to all of our assistants: my assistant, Laurie Thomson, Aika’s assistant, Beth Cohon, and Thomas’s assistant, Brian. But we also had Masami Kagayama, who was our Japanese speaking assistant, and Nicole. All of them would tackle the translation and generate Subcaps for us.

So basically we edited from sequences because we had subtitles on everything and that really allowed for me, especially, to take on the project as if it was in English. It really helped a lot. It was so much work at the front end, but it really did pay off because once you’re working with producers and directors, they should be able to understand what they’re watching.

Maria, Mixer Greg Russel, Post Producer Jamie Wheeler, Mixer Steve Pederson, Music Editor Melissa Muik, Sound Supervisor Brian Armstrong,  Associate Producer Heather Turner, Mix Tech Greg Ortiz

Aika, I think you edited episode five. Early on in that episode - the hunting scene, her husband has come back - I was struck by the choice of size of shot and angle of shot during the conversation about the husband returning. Can you talk to me about - when you’re putting a scene together - how are you choosing shot size and shot angle? What is appealing to you that’s saying that’s telling you the shot size to use? Or is it always just performance?

MIYAKE: I am influenced from my commercial and music video background where I get excited when I see something different. Especially in episode two, I remember getting the first Toranaga and Blackthorn meeting scene and the director - Jonathan [van Tulleken] - covered the basics.

We had a medium, a close, a wide - but the main character is not in the middle but is shifted to the corner of the shot. I used those angles specifically to turn the conversation or as a signal in the conversation that the conversation is moving somewhere.

I really, really get excited about these shots with intention to it, so I will definitely try to be a little more playful with it within the cut but also the acting and the performance is the center of the scene.

Maria, you did episode seven? So there’s a surrender scene - not to put too fine a point on it. I want to hear basically the same thing from you. There are lovely uses of unusual camera angles - overheads. What is driving you story-wise to use an angle like that?

Mix Stage 12 at Warner Brothers

GONZALES: My approach on this show was very much influenced by my first reading of the script. When I read the pilot I had to draw a diagram of what was going on because there were so many, unfamiliar names and at times it felt really dense.

My approach in editing was I didn’t want my cut to be in the way of the story. Many of the editors I assisted who influenced me heavily, I was always taught “story is king,” everything needs to service the story. So I primarily look for performances and then if the camera angle is great, awesome.

If it isn’t, I’ll move on to something else. That particular scene that you brought up: almost all the characters are in that scene. So it was just imperative to set up the geography and do some of those things that are very traditional in editing.

I didn’t want any sort of confusion midway through the scene, “Where did this person come from? Where was that person sitting?” So in a way I feel  I took a very traditional approach to all of it. We were lucky that we had really amazing directors and I wanna say Sam McCurdy was the DP on that episode. He just did some really beautiful work. So we just were able to use some really beautiful shots.

I was struck a lot of times - because of the era, with no electric light - the beginning of scenes always felt mysterious to me. You’re on a profile or you’re seeing someone in shadow. I don’t know whether you played into that but I love that sense of a little bit of mystery.

GONZALES: Definitely. We had a scene in episode 10 with the regents and there’s a guy in the foreground in a dark room and in a bright room behind him - out of focus - are all the other regents and it was just such a great way to start the scene.

I think at one point it was even cut out but we  wanted to bring it back in because it was a very powerful representation of where he was emotionally at the time. A lot of the guidance in this show is about the emotional state of our characters. Our cinematography spoke to that definitely. Our music spoke to that. It was a big part of how we navigated through the show.

There are English and Japanese characters and sometimes the Japanese characters have to translate the English for other Japanese characters. How do you determine - when someone’s translating the words - am I gonna be on the translator? Am I gonna be on the person who just spoke the words or is it just like any other editing where you need to be on somebody for an emotional reason?

MIYAKE: I would say it’s the latter for sure. You have to set up who’s talking and what they’re saying, but once you set that up, I would often go to reaction shots of other people listening and what’s the effect of those words? 

I find it more interesting seeing those effects than someone just saying something. And it always leads to the next thing that needs to happen.

Often when I’m hearing those translations I’m wondering whether it will be translated properly. For example: I remember somebody saying something kind of derogatory and I wondered, “Is she gonna translate it that way or is she gonna soften it?” Which of course she always softens, right? She always makes it a gentler, more appropriate answer and then I would think you play that on the translator, right? Because she’s kind of lying, right?

GONZALES: We were definitely guided by emotion for sure and sort of where you have to be and not so much about  the translation. Same thing with the subtitles. I have to turn off the subtitles to view a cut and not be guided by it in terms of “How long does it take me to read this?” We spend a lot of time towards the end on the subtitles.

It was a whole undertaking. Hours and hours of honing down the exact translation. Sessions with Justin and Rachel, our co-creators, as well as Eriko and every single line was scrutinized in order to make sure that we have the exact meaning behind the line.

Basically we changed quite a bit of translation from what we were working with in the cut ‘cause what we were working with in the cut was taken out of the script but then also adjusted by Masami and then some of her adjustments actually revealed some cool things about the lines. It went through so many translations but ultimately a lot of care was put into those subtitles.

MIYAKE: I find  Mariko’s story very similar to my existence as a bilingual person. I don’t translate to people but I do live in this in-between world and sometimes someone is saying mean things in Japanese or English and they don’t understand each other. I’ve been in that situation and I don’t know what to do, you know?

But, I think Mariko’s storyline and personality - everything is written in a way that when she feels more open to Blackthorn, her translation is more full and warm but  when she’s trying to pull away from him, she’s using these words a little more cold and  standoffish.  Those choices of words that writers put into them really help the emotional distance from Blackthorn and other people as well.

Something Maria mentioned is a topic I love to discuss, which is the process of the edit. A scene or something can be dropped, but then later, it’s reinstated to the cut - like the shot with the regents that you mentioned. Can you talk a about the discussions that happen around those decisions?

MIYAKE: One of struggles as a female in Japan is that when you are outspoken or when you are loud that’s not a very good thing. It’s going to be hard to find a boyfriend, it’s hard to find a good working environment, or people will quietly disappear out of your life.

One of the notes that I got from the producers is that we should cut out some of the line that Mariko says. It got me to start thinking about why do we feel powerful when women are not saying anything? When women are silent, why do we feel she’s more powerful?

I really wanted to challenge that idea. I took out the line, put it back out… I wanted to show how powerful it is when she says something. It’s definitive rather than it’s more mysterious. In the case of one of her lines in episode 108, when she says “I’m ready,” we experimented many times without it, but at the end Justin agreed to put it back and I was really, really excited. Really happy.

That is interesting and of course it turns that conversation back on you because you have to - as a Japanese woman - speak out to your director. 


So how does that collaboration work when culturally you’ve kind of been told to hold your tongue but you know your job as an editor is to bring those ideas to the table and advocate for yourself and your opinion?

MIYAKE: I never fit in Japanese society.

Post Coordinator Adrianne Harmon, Post Supervisor Justin Carlton, Post Producer Jaime Wheeler, Aika Miyake

Are you a little too outspoken?

MIYAKE: I’ve always been told I am way too outspoken and “too much” I guess so I really felt like I was in a little box living in Japan so I moved myself to the States back in 2019 thinking I wanna be free and I wanna work in an environment where no one questions my ability and I can collaborate, at the same time I learn there’s a way of saying things.

I don’t want to be rude and I really stand by my culture in that way. I love trying other people’s suggestions as well. So I try and think,  “Okay, let’s find what’s the best way to tell this story?” So I love this type of environment where we can experiment and craft and mold the story together

GONZALES: And this is why Aika was really a great asset in our cutting room ‘cause we needed the Japanese representative to really speak out and share their thoughts - everything from sound design to character development.

And Aika was always very vocal. Also, credit goes to Justin who really does give people a chance. You know I think if you look at Aika’s resume she may not have been the obvious choice for the show, but she was the right choice.

MIYAKE: I got this job was through Instagram DM. The post producer, Jamie Wheeler, contacted me through Instagram DM because she found this article from 2019 when I left Japan and the article said “Aika is fed up with the Japanese industry and she’s moving to the States.”

I guess that intrigued Jamie and she wrote me on Instagram DM but it was stuck in the REQUESTS folder, so I never really saw it until - by chance - I clicked on it. I found  hundreds of messages. Amongst them I found her message that was sent a couple days ago or something.

I talked to Jamie and I talked to Justin and within a minute I really felt this is the right show to edit because - first of all, cutting footage of Hiroyuki Sanada? He’s a huge star in Japan and I wouldn’t dream of doing that. But also they were looking for someone who has a genuine understanding of Japanese culture: growing up in Japan but also who can edit more Western style because the Japanese film industry has very distinctive different style to it.

I grew up watching more Hollywood stuff and  my mother loved movie and that’s me. I am that person. So I really felt fortunate that Jamie decided to send a DM on my Instagram.

Maria said you were the right choice! Maria, I wanted to ask you about the editors that you worked for and the rooms that you’ve been in: Did you learn from them what you should say and when you should say it?

GONZALES: I came into the industry when there was still film in the cutting rooms. Not cutting on film but cutting on Avid - but we still had film for previews and such. The technology wasn’t advancing as fast as it does now.

For years and years I was in this system where the hierarchy was a very important thing in the cutting room: speak when you’re spoken to and you have to earn your place to have a more creative role in a show. I assisted many great editors but it was really Dana Glauberman - I believe she’s been on Art of the Cut.

I assisted her on several shows. She made it possible for me to cut and made me see the potential in moving up as an editor.

She created an environment that allowed me to be creative. You could tell that she really believed in my potential. She herself came up in Artie Schmidt’s cutting room where assistant involvement is a big, big part of it and mentorship is a big part of it.

As you know, a lot of that mentorship has been lost now. We’re all working hybrid systems or remote systems so you can’t really just bring people into the room and sit with them and it really is a different feeling when you have somebody sitting behind you watching something. It’s different from giving them a call and saying, “Hey do you mind checking out this scene?”

Somehow just having that body in the room really changes perspective on things - or at least that’s my experience with Dana. I was in those rooms, often on some of the Ivan [Reitman] movies and Jason Reitman movies. I was in the room with her taking notes and slowly earning my way into GIVING notes and being somebody whose voice was actually heard.

Editor Dana Glauberman, ACE

That’s definitely a perspective from the assistant’s perspective, but what did you see with Dana and what do you think Dana saw from Artie of their interaction with the director? How the person sitting in the editor’s chair needs to socially interact and collaborate with the director or producers?

GONZALES: You know, a lot of respect is given to the director. And in TV to the showrunner. They’re somebody who has lived with the show for such a long time so you have to not only view the footage with their point of view in mind but really try to figure out their point of view and support it.

So a lot of the interactions that I’ve witnessed with Dana were really always in support of the director’s view trying to work things out. She definitely knew when to speak up and when to fight for things and sometimes it’s just remembering some of the early conversations, it’s part of the editor’s job to reign things back in and make sure that you’re still still on track.

Things change all the time. You are the person that people want feedback from and you’re trying to keep the show on track.

Aika, do you have any thoughts on that? How you try to politically work with a director or a showrunner?

MIYAKE: I always have my opinion in every scenes or every episode or lines or things like that. I also know it doesn’t mean my way is the right way from that point of view. I always welcome different perspective from directors, showrunners, or even my assistant.  I’ll ask sometimes, “What do you think? I really love the process of understanding other people’s perspective and find the right one.

That’s one of the most fun things to do while I’m editing. That being said, I really approach the conversation more as a discussion and I’m always open to trying things and for this show Justin was also filming and also editing and he’s very busy and I understand the time was really essence to the cuts as well.

So as much as I wanna have  a long discussion, I do understand  notes has to come in. I would try to chime in if I feel really, really strong about things.

Obviously most of this environment of 1600s Japan had to be constructed through VFX and green screen. Can you talk to me about how you approach - during dailies and during early cuts - the amount of effects stuff that you had to deal with and the amount of green screen? Do you have assistants do anything to try to get rid of greenscreen?

GONZALES: We didn’t really have previs on this show but obviously there was a lot of green screen. I was lucky enough not to cut episode three so I didn’t have shots that had to be created from scratch. I did in the pilot for sure and these were discussions we had with our supervisor Michael Cliett later down the line.

I obviously tried to talk to him whenever I could. It was really tough during the shoot but just to touch base and ask, “What are the discussions here? Are you planning on some big shots?” For instance in the storm sequence in the pilot, there are some CG shots of the ship hitting waves and whatnot.

I had no previs for that so how do I even know is being planned or being created? I would talk to Michael when I can sort of slug things out and then for the green screen we tried to temp things out for as much as we could.

We had a robust VFX team - Warren, Tyler and Kelly were up in Canada and they were temping stuff for us, but we definitely wanted to have temps ‘cause for a lot of this, you know you can’t even evaluate it without some sort of temp. Especially once it goes to the studio you wanna have them have a sense of what’s gonna happen.

Before I move on to Aika, you mentioned slugging stuff out. So I’m assuming you’re talking about putting text on the screen for “wave hits ship” or did you try to do something other than that?

GONZALES: I think we just did text on the screen unless I could find some sort of stock footage that could pretend to be what we needed. … We’re dealing with  17th century Japan.

You don’t wanna pull something from “Deadliest Catch” and just call it a day?

GONZALES: …Just throw them in! :-)

Throw it in there! No. Aika, what about you? How did you deal with the VFX stuff and is that stuff you were used to doing with spots?

MIYAKE:Yeah, definitely. There are some spots where the background is all CGI sometimes. It doesn’t really scare me or anything like that. The earthquake scene in episode five they actually had practical effects - people sliding down.

Also Hero, Toranaga literally went down the hill. We had those shots. One shot that we couldn’t really temp was the mountain going down. That was hard to temp. In that scene where the army is, there was a lake in the real world.

So it’s really hard to imagine this whole lake is gonna be just the ground and the army and rely on a lot of it on our imagination. But  when I watched the final VFX, I was so amazed.

Lot of using your imagination.

MIYAKE: Yeah, definitely.  Timing wise, I don’t know how else to do it. We just need to imagine it to time the shot.

Gonzales and Miyake

Aika and Maria, thank you so much for being on Art of the Cut. It was a real pleasure talking to both of you and I hope everybody gets a chance to, to watch Shogun on Hulu.

GONZALES: Thank you so much, Steve. 

MIYAKE: Thank you so much.