Amy Duddleston received not only her first Emmy nominations this year with HBO’s hit limited series Mare of Easttown for editing but even received two nominations in this category. She is Emmy nominated for the “Fathers” and “Miss Lady Hawk Herself” episodes. Here, in an interview with Awards Daily, she shares some of the most challenging aspects of taking on this show-as an editor as well as doing her work during COVID. Besides her work, she provides some funny behind the scenes moments from the show including interaction with the director Craig Zobel, writer/creator Brad Ingelsby and star/producer Kate Winslet.
Awards Daily: So, starting basic, what made you want to become an editor?
Amy Duddleston: When I was in college I was writing a paper and in my research I came across an article in the New York Times magazine about Dede Allen, the film editor, and I was, like, that sounds like the most interesting job in the world. And it stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I changed my major and went into filmmaking. It really was this weird AWWWWWW (holy light) moment that I needed to be doing that. There was a picture of her (Dede Allen) doing her job. She was in a room with film reels and all this stuff and she just looked impossibly cool. I had known about films but I had no idea how they were made, and it just gave me a better understanding that this is where the movie is actually made. That became really interesting to me, so I just started to pursue that. Then in school I realized it was the part I like the best. I didn’t like being on the set, I didn’t like dealing with the actors in person, I definitely didn’t like cinematography–you use too much math! So I moved on from that and I really did find my place in the editing room.
AD: I can understand wanting to get away from math. My job definitely avoids that at all costs.
Amy Duddleston: Oh God, math. In editing we use math. You can’t avoid it but it’s still… When I started in film it was 24 frames per second, 16 frames in a foot. That was easy math for me. I could do that but, Oy vey, that was it!
AD: Looking over your filmography, you started doing a lot of movies at first but in the last few decades you’ve been doing a lot more television. Was that a conscious decision?
Amy Duddleston: It just kind of happened, a lot of it was out of necessity. Around 2008 when the stock market crashed and studios got away from doing 20 million dollar movies and up, those smaller range films had been what I was doing. Those movies just stopped being made and I was unemployed for a long period of time. Then some friends of mine became the showrunners of In Treatment, the HBO show, and they asked me to come on. I had worked on one television show before that, season one of Big Love, and I really enjoyed it. And I was eager to one, get back to work and two, I also enjoyed working in television. So when the opportunity came back I just kind of jumped on and television sort of took off in 2010. I got a job on The Killing and it sort of snowballed after that, and that’s where I stayed because they’re still not making 20 million dollar movies!
AD: Do you remember what got you interested in Mare of Easttown in particular?
Amy Duddleston: The people at HBO just kind of brought me in for a general meeting and they pitched a bunch of shows. That Lovecraft Country is this Sci-Fi thing, and Perry Mason is Perry Mason, and then we have this other show starting in the fall: Mare of Easttown. I was like, what’s that? Well, Kate Winslet plays this cop and I said, Stop, I’m so interested already. (laughter) Then it basically worked out with my schedule so they were going to pitch me to the director and I got a meeting and I got the job. But when I finally read the script I was so drawn into the whole thing and very excited by it so I really wanted to do it.
AD: That was me watching the first episode, so I can relate.
Amy Duddleston: [Laughs]
AD: I read that the first two episodes were the most difficult for you in terms of setting up all the characters and starting the mystery. What was your process getting the viewers acclimated to the world and its people?
Amy Duddleston: Yes, that was true, there are a lot of characters, and in particular setting up Mare was a huge thing. Just making sure that you liked her was super important, she’s grumpy and you’re not certain what to make of her at first. Making sure that you wanted to follow her around the next 7 hours was really important. When setting up the characters we had to slowly bring them in, setting up Erin and the eventuality of her being murdered; you were supposed to be surprised that she ended up dead. A lot of people weren’t, but we still wanted you to feel horribly sad about everything that happened. That was tricky, because you know nothing good is going to come of this character and we wanted to tie Mare and Erin’s stories together to parallel life in this town and the difficulties of growing up in a place like that. Where to bring Erin in was a big consideration.
Some of the first versions we brought her in much later and it didn’t quite feel right. So we moved her up sooner to not long after you met Mare and that was a better fit. It just felt right. It was not easy finding the balance and making sure you could track all of these people. The kids’ story became pretty easy to track, but then there is Mare’s family, the police station, the people in the town, Mare’s friends who she was friends with when they’re on the basketball team in high school. You had to be sure that all of these things landed. It took some time and we had to take time with the story. We did not rush through it and I think that was the key: not rushing through it.
AD: A scene that personally grabbed me for the way it developed was when Mare and Zabel are exploring a building (I won’t say more because of spoilers). What went into creating that sense of dread in those scenes?
Amy Duddleston: Oh, man, a lot! It took a village to edit that scene. Everybody in the editing room contributed to working on that scene in a major capacity. My assistants did a lot of voice work that we added later. The original assembly of that scene was about 16 minutes long, and just the plotting out where everything happened, and then we definitely had to make it shorter. Mare couldn’t be in peril as long as she was. It was funny. The 16 minute version started to drag and my co-editor Naomi Filoramo helped plot out that scene from the dailies and then I came in and I was, like, it is so long but let’s leave it like this and show them this is what they shot and it was the way it was written. And I was just crawling out of my skin going, this needs to be much shorter. Then Brad Ingelsby was, like, I love it!
So I was, like, we’ve got to meet somewhere in the middle and make this as tense as hell. It definitely was the longest, most stressful part of editing the show. Getting that all together took many drafts. It would go back to HBO and then it would come back and, they give really good notes by the way. They were very helpful, giving us new things to try and see how they would work. Kate Winslet had a really great note because she was an executive producer and she gave notes, “Can we bring this person closer to Mare?” One of my assistants did a visual effect of bringing this character closer in the frame. So it took a village but it ended up being really successful. But I cannot take all the credit for damn sure.
AD: What kind of support or advice did you get from the creator and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel?
Amy Duddleston: Craig had his vision for the show and it was very close to Brad’s of this woman, and the murder mystery came second. This emotional drama with her family and then her job. That was the premise we worked off of in how we approached the show. Craig was always looking for a few moments in the dailies. He was really good at framing things, bringing you in closer to a character. Brad was really good at thinking about things internal in Mare’s life. All the montages we did of Mare in her car, keeping us in the sense of place in this town was really Brad’s thing. Because he grew up in those towns in Pennsylvania so to him a sense of place was really important.
AD: Reminds me of all the vaping Kate Winslet does.
Amy Duddleston: That was Craig! Brad wrote a lot of the vaping into the script. Eventually Brad was, like, yeah let’s cut some of the vaping out. But Craig was all in and making certain she did it right!
AD: This is your first Emmy nomination so what were you thinking when you got the news?
Amy Duddleston: Oh, my God, it was so exciting! The two nominations, that was the thing I was floored by. It was overwhelming and to be competing against yourself means that people really liked the show, and that made me really happy. It was just so gratifying. I am still just kind of in shock.
AD: In one of your nominations you are co-nominated with Naomi Sunrise Filoramo. What was your working relationship with her like?
Amy Duddleston: I brought Naomi on as an additional editor originally because when we were working through the pandemic, HBO originally thought it was going to be 6 weeks and then ended up being 6 months. So during that time I did several cuts: my cut, the director’s cut, and the producer’s cut of everything we had. The show shut down about two months before they finished shooting in March 2020. So we just kept working on all the episodes to make them the best that could be before we went back and started shooting again. I brought Naomi on when shooting started again so that we would be caught up, with Naomi doing dailies while I was still doing these cuts. So when we finished our editing assembly in December we kept Naomi on because HBO told us they wanted to release the show around the end of April and they needed the first five episodes by a certain date, and I was going to need another pair of hands to help me do that. So that’s when she became the co-editor for three of the episodes working with Craig and Brad, and I gave her credit because she was a tremendous help and I couldn’t have done it without her.
AD: You mentioned not liking having to work with actors but you were excited when you heard Kate Winslet was playing the cop, so I have to ask, did you get to interact with her much and is there anything you can say about her?
Amy Duddleston: She is a lovely person. I met her on the set, which I got to go to a couple of times. What was funny for me is she is doing the Pennsylvanian dialect and as soon as they yell cut she goes back to being Kate Winslet with her British accent and it is shocking for me. Before I did this show I did a show called Hunters with Al Pacino and he stays in character, even when he’s being Al Pacino he will just keep his accent going. He would have the Polish accent, wisecracking and telling jokes, and it’s fun, he just stays in character. And that contrasts with Winslet who can snap out of it and then can just jump back in, so their processes were extremely different. It was very jarring at first. But she is delightful, and her notes were always helpful even though she had never given notes before. But at first she really wanted to watch the first episode, and she watched it with her 16 year old son and he was like, I need to find out what happens next.
So it became a family thing with them that they watched the show together. Pretty soon she was like, when is the next episode coming? Joe needs to watch the next episode. So we were like, “Oh, great now we’re doing these cuts for Joe.” (Laughing) But it was really helpful to get their feedback because we were all trapped in our houses and Joe was our audience. In fact, our family was all we had to get feedback from. Because I’m editing the show in my dining room asking my partner, “Can you watch this scene?” But she is great!
AD: Any final thoughts?
Amy Duddleston: I’m just incredibly grateful for the way audiences reacted to our show. Seriously, when we were making it, you hope people watch it and like it, and the reaction to the show was so overwhelming I have a lot of gratitude for that. I was really happy that people reacted to it like it was the water cooler show. Because I haven’t worked on the water cooler show like that in a while, so it was fun.