Editing FX’s <I>Impeachment: American Crime Story</I>
November 1, 2021

Editing FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story

Editor Chris A. Peterson, ACE, recently worked on FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story, the third installment in Ryan Murphy’s award-winning anthology series. Produced by 20th Television and FX Productions, the limited series examines the national crisis that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. It tells this story through the eyes of the women at the center of the events, including Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). 

Peterson’s editing approach was to keep Lewinsky and Tripp front and center in the scenes and have the chaos swirl around them — physically, rhythmically and sonically. The goal was for the audience to feel immersed in their experiences and empathize with them as they both experienced grueling character assassinations. 

Here, Peterson, talks with Post about his work on the eight-episode series.

How did you get involved in Impeachment: American Crime Story?

“I was a big fan of the first season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story — The People v. O.J. Simpson.  I said to myself, ‘I need to get on this series, somehow.’ So I ended up getting a meeting with Alexis Martin Woodall, one of the executive producers for Ryan Murphy Productions. The second season was already in post production, so I ended up working on several series with them, including 911, American Horror Story and The Politician before the third season came around — which I was lucky enough to get to work on.”

Do you know what camera they used for the shoot?

“Sony Venice.”

What did you use for the edit?

“We worked almost entirely remotely on this project, so I connected to an Avid System at MTI  - our vendor - in Hollywood from my home in Laurel Canyon through the Parsec remote desktop application. I am used to working on Macs, but the Parsec systems we used were PC-based. I hadn’t touched a PC in years, but MTI did an amazing job tweaking the Avid software and keyboard to mirror my Mac systems and it was pretty seamless.”

Can you talk about Episode 7, ‘The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky’?

“Episode 7 is the episode where the secret affair between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky explodes into the public eye, and the fallout that follows. The goal was for the audience to feel immersed in Monica and Linda’s experience — physically, rhythmically and sonically.  For example, often choosing shots that put Monica and Linda in the foreground and keeping other characters further away from camera, favoring longer shots of them and keeping other characters off screen, and keeping their dialogue clear while the rest of the world is washed in reverb.”

What scenes were the most challenging to edit? 

“The challenge in this episode is that it has a ton of scenes that don’t always have a clear beginning, middle and end. This fragmenting challenged me to have a look at the episode more in larger sequences — coming into scenes later than usual and leaving them earlier than usual to enhance that feeling of chaos.”

What was the collaboration process like?

“For this episode, director Michael Uppendahl gave me some amazing, emotional footage. His directing really inspired the editorial choices. I then worked extensively with executive producers Alexis Martin Woodall and Ryan Murphy to craft the final cut of the episode, especially on honing in the performances.”

Impeachment: American Crime Story airs on FX (www.fxnetworks.com) on Tuesdays at 10pm.