Monday, June 18, 2018
  • Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2016
Working Insights: Editors Discuss Netflix's "Narcos," Other Varied Projects
"Narcos" editor Matthew Colonna
Reflections on editorial challenges posed by TV, spots, shorts, web series

This feature kicks off our Summer Survey Series in which artisans from different disciplines discuss the creative challenges of, their contributions to, and lessons learned from a wide range of projects. We have several leading editors sharing insights into their work ranging from web series to commercials, shorts and TV, starting with observations from Matthew Colonna whose credits include the Netflix historical drama series Narcos which follows the infamous Medelin drug cartel, chronicling the criminal exploits of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The story is told from the perspectives of Escobar (portrayed by Wagner Moura) and Steve Murphy (Brad Holbrook), the DEA agent looking to bring him to justice.

When he was approached to take on Narcos, Colonna was immediately interested upon seeing the first couple of finished episodes. “I had never seen anything like this on television before. It felt new, fresh. It was bilingual. I became enamored with the show. Then to have the benefit of a great actor like Wagner maximizing each moment is a joy. The show is blessed with a great cast. The vibe was right from the get-go. The writers and producers were working everything out to lay a great foundation for the show.”

Colonna also found himself collaborating from the outset quite regularly with director Andrés (Andi) Baiz. “I’ve worked with him more than I have with other directors and execs on other series,” related Colonna. “He not only is a director but a co-executive producer--and he came to show around the same time I got involved. We hit it off and have gone down this road together. Andi pointed out to me at one point that there was something about my episodes. He said ‘the tone feels more weighty, a little more important.’ He thought it added a lot to the story. I didn’t set out consciously to do that. It just came out of my approach to this particular story. I’m trying to do full justice to the story, to the drama itself. This is not a paint-by-numbers show at all. Sometimes you have to help make the moments happen. Sometimes they’re already there. You can’t have anything seem too placid in a story like this. The story has to move along and impart certain feelings--and I try to bring that out based on what the cast, writers, producers and directors have done for each episode.”

Towards that end, not being confined to a broadcast time format has proven advantageous. “This is not a knock against broadcast TV but it’s a bit liberating not to have to deliver something 41 minutes and 50 seconds long. You end up having to lose this or that, to truncate something. Netflix doesn’t do that. You are afforded the time it takes to tell the story. You don’t hear ‘that’s too long’ or ‘we’re over our allotted time.’” 

Colonna has worked with other directors on Narcos as well, including Fernando Coimbra. “Fernando directed my second episode of Narcos and he took me away from my usual sensibilities. Television is becoming more of a director’s medium. Narcos and Netflix seem to embrace that artistry. Artists in each department are able to contribute and help move along the creative vision. There’s a different identity here for artists than in most shows. Eric Newman [executive producer] can see when he has people who are bringing it. He promotes a sense of openness. Sometimes I feel like, ‘wow, they’re letting me do this. They’re letting artists do their thing.’ It’s paying dividends for me as an artist, fostered by great relationships with artists like Andi and Eric.”

This sense of nurturing artistry is confirmed by others who have worked on Narcos, including several artisans interviewed by SHOOT in its The Road To Emmy series of features such as cinematographer Lula Carvalho (who reteamed with the series EP and lead director Jose Padilha) and production designer Diana Trujillo.

Colonna has worked on more episodes of Narcos than any other editor. Among others cutting episodes of the series have been Leo Trombetta, Trevor Baker, Nathan Gunn, Luis Carballar, Victor Du Boois and Alex Marquez. Trombetta is nominated for an Emmy this year on the strength of Narcos. Colonna too is no stranger to the Emmy competition, having garnered a nomination in the Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series category in 2010 for “The Getaway” episode of Dexter (Showtime). Colonna’s body of work spans over the years episodes of such series as Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, Manhattan and Outsiders. His involvement in Narcos has thus far entailed three episodes in 2015 and five more this year.

Surveying editors
SHOOT posed the following question to a cross-section of editors;

What was the biggest creative challenge posed to you by a recent project? Tell us about the project, when it was completed and where it is or will appear. Why was it noteworthy or gratifying, or what valuable lesson did you learn from it?

Click here to see and scroll thru the survey responses. Or click on the NAME below.

Name Title Company
Steve Ackroyd Editor Final Cut
David Brodie Editor Rock Paper Scissors
Glenn Conte Editor Northern Lights
Heather Danosky Editor Fluid
Sloane Klevin Editor/Partner Union Editorial
Jay Nelson Editor Cut+Run
Michael Saia Editor/Partner/Founder jumP
Jack Waldrip Partner/Senior Editor charlieuniformtango