Editing: Disney+'s <I>The Mandalorian</I>
Issue: July/August 2020

Editing: Disney+'s The Mandalorian

LOS ANGELES — Disney+’s The Mandalorian received 15 Emmy nominations for its first season on the streaming platform, including recognition for Production Design, Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Visual Effects, Music Composition, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. The show stars Pedro Pascal as a top bounty hunter, who finds himself conflicted when discovering the plans for his highly-prized capture. Gina Carano and Carl Weathers also star, but it’s the new creature — ubbed ‘Baby Yoda’ — who emerged as the fan favorite.

Here, editors Dana E. Glauberman, ACE and Dylan Firshein discuss their work on the sci-fi series, including “Chapter 4: Sanctuary”, which is nominated for “Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series”.

How did you get involved in The Mandalorian?

Glauberman: “It was mid-January, 2019 when my agent, Jasan Pagni at WME, called to tell me about the opportunity. Basically, there were already two editors on, and it was quickly becoming apparent to everyone that, due to the enormity of the show, they needed a third editor to cut Bryce Dallas Howard’s episode, ‘Chapter 4: Sanctuary’.

“I was a little nervous to say that I was interested, simply because to me, entering into the Star Wars franchise was a bit daunting. But I decided to challenge myself, accepted an interview with Jon Favreau, who showed me around the set, explained the technology behind the volume, introduced me to Bryce, took me to editorial to meet the rest of the crew and also introduce me to Dave Filoni. We all sat and discussed the show. When I explained that, although I had seen most of the Star Wars movies, I was not your typical Star Wars superfan. But that was not at all an issue for Jon or Dave. In fact, they relished the fact that I wasn’t because of a number of reasons, particularly that I could bring a fresh perspective and not be persuaded to do something based on my Star Wars knowledge. My episode contained a lot of character development, a bit of comedy, a little drama, a potential love story - all of which I have experience with and love to edit. Three days later I was standing at my Avid console at Manhattan Beach Studios, where The Mandalorian was shot.

Firshein: “I was brought on to the show by the post supervisor Jude Babcock. We had worked previously when she was handling post for Disney and I was on Tron: Legacy and The Lone Ranger. She knew that I was a Swiss Army Knife, having been a first assistant editor on big, FX-heavy features, but I also was eager to move up to editing. She hoped that this show could be that opportunity for me and thanks to Bryce Dallas Howard and Dana Glauberman, it has been.”

Dana E. Glauberman, ACE

How did you both collaborate on the Chapter 4: Sanctuary episode?

Glauberman: “All eight episodes of The Mandalorian were cut in previsualization, which was used as a guide once we got the footage in from production. But Dylan was my rock as I leaned on him for so much. Because most of the episode was already shot by the time I joined the show, I didn’t have a lot of time to assemble the episode. Enter Dylan, who really was key in helping me create an assembly in time to present to Bryce.”  

Firshein: “In some cases, I would do a first pass on a scene or prep materials, like performance stringouts so that Dana could very quickly review any line with Bryce.” 

Glauberman: “As Bryce and I focused more on performance-driven scenes, Dylan focused more on the action scenes, specifically the ATST battle.”

Firshein: “As the cut settled into place, we were constantly showing each other new versions of scenes for thoughts and ideas.”
Glauberman: “And because I had already committed to editing Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I had to leave The Mandalorian early, and couldn’t see Sanctuary to the end. So with Jon’s and Dave’s and Bryce’s blessings, I handed over the reigns to Dylan to take the episode over the finish line, continuing to make changes to the cut as updated VFX came in, as well as overseeing the sound mix and the DI.”

What was the workflow from camera to edit as far as files, etc.?

Firshein: “The show is shot on Arri Alexa and then transcoded to DNx115 MXF media for Avid Media Composer. We're on a shared project, which allows all of us to jump around from episode to episode with ease.”

What was the timeframe for deliverables?

Firshein: “The show was treated more like a feature. We cut as it was shot, but then were given probably a week to nail down our editors’ cut. This was critical due to the sound effects, music temping and rudimentary VFX comping that was required. We had to present a version where the director could really see what they had shot. After that, Jon and Dave wanted to make sure the directors always felt comfortable to come back, review cuts and VFX. Speaking of VFX, the cuts continued to be revised as new VFX were submitted. This happened right up until the final delivery of each episode.”  

From an editorial standpoint, how are you deal with all the show’s evolving VFX?

Glauberman: “Collaboration is one of my favorite words when it comes to filmmaking. And visual effects [are] not excluded from this. So having a wonderful VFX team led by Richard Bluff (VFX supervisor) and Abbi Keller (VFX supervisor), in addition to Hal Hickel (animation supervisor) helps the editors deal with all of the VFX of the show. And there were a lot across all episdoes. Because Richard and Hal are located up north, but the rest of our main VFX team were in-house, Richard and Hal would often come into town for in-person reviews. So as we were honing in on the cut, they were kept in the loop with what we were doing.”

Firshein: “As I said above, we did lots of rudimentary Avid comps so that the directors, Jon, Dave and ultimately the VFX team could really ‘see’ the story we were trying to tell. We would constantly bounce ideas off of Richard and Hal to make sure they were feasible as well as making sense to the story.”