A TV show takes a
lot of time and work to before it airs on a TV screen near you.
There is a lot of pre-production that goes from writing the episode,
to casting, to scouting locations, etc., but also a lot of post-production.
Once the episodes are shot, the editor must go through all the reels
and cut it out, add the music, and much more, before it’s
ready to air. Norman Buckley is one of THE O.C.’s editor and
agreed to tell us more about what an editor does and how an O.C.
episode comes to life.
According to the
“Norman Buckley Dictionary,” an editor is the surrogate
for the audience. “Amongst all the footage that is shot for
a particular episode, it is the editor’s job to decide what
is the most important thing to be looking at in any given moment
– what does the audience want to see NOW. A director’s
choices, as to what he shoots, will often dictate the cuts, but
since the directors are rotating week after week, it falls to the
editors to maintain the stylistic consistency of the show,”
first intended to become a writer. He joined USC Film School
where students were encouraged to develop a craft as well
as writing. Since he was a middle-class kid going to a rich
kid’s school, he needed to find a craft that would allow
him to work when he was free as he was already working part-time
on three jobs to pay for school. Buckley took on editing as
he could do it on his own time, his own schedule, and didn’t
have to worry about anyone else’s schedule. He took
editing like a duck to water and had a natural aptitude for
It wasn’t easy
for Buckley to venture into the film industry as his father thought
it was a waste of time. “Both of my brothers are engineers,
which he thought was a more worthy endeavor. Fortunately, my father
expressed his pride in my accomplishments before he died.”
His father may not have been the biggest show business fan, but
his mother loves it!
His sister, Betty
Buckley, is known for her Broadway acts but most may remember her
as Suzanne Fitzgerald from the HBO series OZ. When asked why he
didn’t follow in his sister’s footsteps, Norman Buckley
reveals that he never had the desire to perform. “I think
it’s much more fun to watch than to be watched,” he
says. Besides his sister and he being in the industry, one of his
brothers was married to a successful New York actress and their
daughter, Erin, is in her second year at the Yale Drama School.
Buckley’s first editing job was on the 1983 movie TENDER MERCIES
starring his sister and Robert Duvall. The movie was shooting near
his hometown in Texas. He got the job because his sister heard the
editor was looking for a local assistant. “I asked the editor
to take me to New York with him to complete the film if I did a good
job. He did and that was how my career began,” he reveals.
though he said he had no interest in becoming an actor, Buckley played
“Israelite #1” in SOLOMON & SHEBA starring Halle Berry.
“I was editing a movie in Morocco. The producers were shooting
a second movie at the same time and didn’t want to fly any more
actors to location. It was only one line.” He even admits he
tried to get the mention of the role off his IMDB.com profile as it
looks like he had a miserable failed acting career when, in reality,
he never had any desire to act.
edited movies, TV movies, and TV series, with small and big budgets.
Even if every project holds its own challenges and opportunities,
he prefers TV. “I find television the hardest – the schedules
are tough and relentless – but also I find television the most
satisfying because when it’s good and successful, as THE O.C.
has been, it’s extremely exhilarating to work so hard and have
people be so passionate about it. This has been my favorite job of
my entire career.”
THE O.C., how did he get such a cool job? “My involvement came
through my very great relationship with McG’s company, Wonderland
Sound and Vision. I met McG and Stephanie Savage a couple of years
ago. I edited the pilot of FASTLANE and then did the series. McG originally
intended to direct the pilot of THE O.C. but his responsibilities
on CHARLIE'S ANGELS 2 precluded that. I had already been offered the
job of editing THE O.C. pilot, so when Doug Liman took over, they
told him I was part of the package. I got along very well with Doug,
who shot the pilot and the first episode, “The Model Home.”
But the more significant collaboration has been my relationship with
Josh Schwartz – I like being part of HIS vision. He is the reason
I’m here and enjoying this job so much!”
O.C., Norman Buckley is co-editor with Matt Ramsey. The two met each
other when Buckley hired Ramsey several years ago as one of his assistants
on a feature he was working on in North Carolina. Ramsey continued
as his assistant on several projects. “When I edited FASTLANE,
I asked that he be bumped up to editor. When I was offered THE O.C.,
I asked Matt to join me on this show.” Buckley edits every other
episode and Ramsey does the others. Matt Ramsey edited the pilot of
THE MOUNTAIN but decided to come back to work on THE O.C. second season
instead of sticking with The WB show.
a lot of people to edit one episode of the hit FOX series. “The
two of us have three assistants who rotate on the shows. We also try
to give the assistants opportunities to cut an episode of their own
(two of them cut one episode each last year). We also have an associate
producer who is in charge of budgeting, logistics, and finishing.
There is a post-production supervisor who is in charge of scheduling.
Finally, there is a post-coordinator who liaisons with other departments.
We’re a very happy group – we’re all great friends
and it’s an extremely supportive environment.”
eight days to shoot an episode of THE O.C. Editors start putting the
material together on the second day after shooting began and have
until two or three days after the completion of filming to edit the
episode. Once this is done, the director has two to four days to sit
with the editing team and to collaborate on a cut the he is happy
with. “At that point, Josh Schwartz and Bob Delaurentis come
into the editing room to give us their notes – that usually
takes a day or two, then we send the show to the network and they
give us notes that they may have. After we finish a cut that we’re
all happy with, we “spot” the show with our composer and
sound editors – that means we go through the show with them,
indicating where and how we want sound and music. After they work
on the show for a week to ten days, we mix the show on a dubbing stage
with sound recordists, so that it sounds as good as possible.”
two editors are given an enormous amount of freedom as regards to
the music of the show. They are encouraged to try things. The show’s
music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas, sends them a CD every week with
15 or so songs by new bands that she thinks would be right for the
show. They try different things. “For instance, in the episode
“The Secret” from last year, I loved this one song “We
Used to Be Friends” by The Dandy Warhols on one of the CDs that
Alex had sent us. I had the idea to use it as a repeating motif throughout
the show, and that became a decide that we have frequently used since.
We’ll find a song that plays thematically – and that song
will be used to tie several scenes together.” Even if they have
freedom concerning the soundtrack, Josh Schwartz is the one making
the finale decisions. “Josh is the truest and best of colladorators
and he gave Matt and me a lovely tribute in the liner notes of the
Mix 2 CD,” Buckley reveals.
they can’t find the right song to go along with a scene, the
editors put the scene on tape and send it to the Music Supervisor’s
office so she tries to find the best song.
the scored music, Ramsey and Buckley put in temp tracks (music from
other shows or movies) in order to give THE O.C. composer, Chris Tyng,
an idea of what the final product should sound like. “For the
Pilot, I originally used a lot of temp music from AMERICAN BEAUTY
and WHITE OLEANDER, both scored by Thomas Newman, one of my favorite
composers. If you know music, you can hear the influences of those
scores in some of Chris’ music, but he has brought his own unique
vision to the table as well.”
working with the composer, Buckley enjoys the discussions they have
about what they’re trying to achieve with a piece of score.
“Is it moving a scene along so that it doesn’t feel slow?
Is it trying to make you feel what a character is thinking or feeling,
but not saying? Is it setting up a joke? All these questions are things
we try to discuss and figure out,” the editor says.
of Norman Buckley’s favorite pieces of music on the show is
what they call the “Ryan/Marissa Love Theme.” It is the
piece of music that played under the scene where Ryan and Marissa
first meet in the Pilot, where he lights her cigarette. “It
has a beautiful, lonely piano line that establishes immediately that
this is an important relationship for both of them – it sets
up a mythic component to their romance. The piano in the piece doesn’t
start the major melody line until the very moment he lights her cigarette
– that first moment where they actually connect,” he says
about his favorite piece. “It’s not a sentimental piece
of music, but nevertheless, the chords are deeply beautiful, and every
time that music plays it evokes what Ryan felt at the very first moment
he met Marissa,” he adds.
of his favorite pieces is the “Julie Cooper Theme,” which
is another of the very powerful musical motifs the editors frequently
return to. The “Julie Cooper Theme” first played in the
episode “The Outsider,” an episode where she expresses
her vulnerability to Kirsten in the limo. “We use that theme
in many places throughout the episodes, not just with Julie, but with
characters who may be talking about Julie. I think it works because
it suggests that Julie isn’t all bad. She’s a complicated
character – the music suggests aspects to her personality that
go beyond her mean-spiritedness.”
theme that was developed over several episodes is the one that is
tied to Teresa. “There is a scene in the first episode of the
second season that is kind of a summation of all the music that has
come before relative to her character, and it expresses the pain that
Teresa feels, in spite of what she’s saying. It plays counterpoint
to her behavior, and thus, let’s us know what she’s really
feeling. It’s beautifully done and I think it’s one of
the best things that Chris Tyng has done on the show.”
edits an episode, it is possible he finds that a scene isn’t
working out. “The question is always ultimately – what
is the purpose of the scene?” If he can’t figure it out
the purpose of a scene in the story, the he must try to fix it. Fixing
it may be deleting it or rewriting new dialogue that might play off
camera on another character’s face. “We have, on a few
rare occasions, gone back and reshot scenes to make certain things
play better. The Palm Springs episode last year was rewritten after
we’d looked at the first cut. Originally, the audience didn’t
know whether Oliver had attempted suicide or not, but we decided that
the suspense would be heightened if the audience knew information
that Ryan and Marissa did not. I think it was the right decision –
it made the episode stronger and increased sympathy for Ryan, though
it seemed to make Marissa much less sympathetic in the eyes of the
reason why scenes are cut is because of time constraints. The decision
of which scenes to remove to make the episode just the right length
falls on the shoulders of the editors, Josh Schwartz and Bob Delaurentis.
The director will often weigh in, but he is usually not around at
the point that these decisions are made. However, producing director,
Ian Toynton, often sits in those meetings as he was hired to help
maintain a stylistic consistency. Toynton also directed two episodes
of season one.
of the actors do hang out in the editing room and give their ideas:
“We’re all a very friendly group and the actors seem to
enjoy coming by and hanging out in the editing room. They are all
extremely deferential, never trying to exert their will, but they
frequently will have great ideas, remember takes where they did something
that we might have missed. They are a great bunch – they ask
all the right questions and trust us to do our very best by them.
I like the entire cast very much,” Buckley adds.
editors job is to also keep track of all deleted scenes as some of
them will end up on the DVDs. At the end of the first season, one
of Buckley’s assistant assembled all of the deleted scenes and
then, the editor went back through them and polished them up.
in all, it takes about twenty days to edit an episode of THE O.C.
This number of days can fluctuate, as they get closer to the airdates.
At the moment of this interview (late October 2004), they already
had six episodes completed for the second season even before the season
premiere aired on FOX. “Because we are doing 24 episodes this
year, our schedule will become very compressed and it is likely to
get pretty frantic as the year goes on.”
year, along with teaching part-time at the UCLA graduate level and
doing his editing job on the show, Norman Buckley is set to direct
his first episode of THE O.C. It will be the 18th episode out of the
24 FOX ordered. “I’m hoping it will be the first of many,”
he mentions. “I’m content to be working here – great
job, great people. It all comes down from the top – Josh Schwartz
is a remarkable guy. He’s generous, encouraging, collaborative,
but also very clear about what he wants. He gives us a vision we can
all focus on. I’m really glad I’m on his team.”