Download: 'Poker Face' Editor Glenn Garland On Shooting Out of Order, Hiding Knives, & Timing Split Screens
Poker Face editor Glenn Garland talks to Awards Daily about hiding knives in “The Night Shift” and how that split screen between Charlie and Luka came together in the season finale.
In a very distracted world, Poker Face demands its audience’s attention. The first half of each near-hour episode sets up the crime, while the second half shows how Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) solves the mystery with her uncanny ability to detect when someone is lying.
Poker Face editor Glenn Garland, who edited episodes 2 (“The Night Shift”), 4 (“Rest in Metal”), and 10 (“The Hook”), says the different coverage and planning for the series set him up for success.
“The first time, we’re avoiding Charlie in any way,” says Garland, “and then when we repeat, it’s all about how Charlie is taking in the information, what she’s seeing, and how she’s relating to the characters. We’re also tracking why those characters might have been acting a certain way based on the fact that she might have been in the scene.”
This Poker Face magic trick of revealing its protagonist in the second half of the episode is a gamble that pays off.
“The key is to get people very invested in the people who are in that first act and almost play it like Charlie doesn’t exist. Let’s really identify with the person who’s going to be the victim and really get deep into that and then get to Charlie. We’re always trying to figure out ways to accelerate the pace, but also not accelerate it so much that you don’t care about these characters.”
Working with Rian Johnson & “The Night Shift”
Garland describes work with director Rian Johnson as “incredible,” with the executive producer very much involved in all the episodes of the Peacock series, to make sure there was continuity between episodes, especially since they were shot way out of order.
“Two was the last one they cut,” said Garland. “Because of the cast, they shot Episode 9 (“Escape from Shit Mountain”) first. Then Episode 1 (“Dead Man’s Hand”), then Episode 3 (“The Stall”), then Episode 4 (“Rest in Metal”). So it was all jumbled up. Episode 2 (“The Night Shift”) was shot later because they didn’t want to be in 100-degree heat, so they pushed it to September.”
Garland edited “The Night Shift,” which Johnson directed. In the episode, Brandon Michael Hall plays army-vet-turned-Subway-TikTok star Damian, who meets a tragic demise when Jed (Colton Ryan) shoves him off a roof. The confrontation between Damian and Jed plays with the audience’s perception through Garland’s shrewd editing.
“That scene is fantastic because at that point you don’t know if Damian is coming up there to kill Jed. He grabs that knife! Then, when Jed is freaking out, there’s a moment where Damian grabs Jed by the back of the head and we’re tight. Jed is just breathing heavily and you’re wondering, ‘Maybe he stabbed him?’ The idea was to really stretch out that moment and almost do a jump cut to everything being okay.”
Of course, when Jed pushes Damian, it comes as a shock, especially after Damian scratches off a winning lottery ticket for $25,000.
“We start to feel like these two might become friends and they’re identifying with each other. Then, out of nowhere, when Damian is very surprised, it’s a very quick shot of him getting shoved off the roof. It’s like, ‘Oh, wait—did that just happen?'”
That Poker Face Blues Traveler Reference in Episode 10
Garland also edited the season finale, “The Hook,” which finds Charlie caught by one of Sterling Sr.’s henchmen, Cliff (Benjamin Bratt). In a devastating scene, Charlie asks Cliff if he killed her best friend Natalie (Dascha Polanco), and Cliff gives Charlie the opportunity to shoot him.
“The director [Janicza Bravo] and I originally had music there, but Rian was like, ‘We don’t want music here; I just want ambiance.’ Some children are playing in the background and then that fades away to be in Charlie’s head. So we played it originally a little more traditional with music and suspense. Then when Rian and I started playing with it, we played it more this awkward silence of, is she going to actually pull the trigger? When you see that she can’t, it’s heartbreaking. You know she’s too good of a person. She desperately wants to do this, but can’t.”
Soon after that scene, Cliff recites the lyrics of Blues Traveler’s “The Hook” like it’s poetry, in a cryptic monologue.
“Ben is just so good there, that it felt like if you stay on Ben and really get into his head and psyche, and then reveal Charlie, it has so much more impact. Not only is it a monologue, but we’re staying in this one shot for this whole piece. I think it might be a minute long of dollying around.”
When Cliff puts Charlie on “the hook” for Sterling Sr.’s death (Ron Perlman), Charlie and her FBI agent buddy Luka (Simon Helberg) exchange in a split-screen conversation that looks like something out of Ocean’s 11.
“They recorded it at different places. Basically, Natasha shot her scene first, and I cut it together and sent the cut footage to the director, which was played through Simon’s earpiece. As we were cutting the scene, we saw the shape of the two pieces just seemed to be perfect for a split screen. The fact that Charlie is not listening to Luka and continuing to talk. It would be very funny to show them on a split screen and just see her manic, as Luka is spitting out, ‘You gotta get out of the hotel!’ and her not listening. The split screen was just a beautiful thing. It took a little while to get it right because it wasn’t designed that way, but with speed ramps, we were able to get it perfectly timed.”
All episodes of Poker Face are streaming on Peacock.