The HBO documentary film Being Mary Tyler Moore provides unprecedented access to the actress’ vast archive, while chronicling a career that spanned 60 years. Moore’s career broke boundaries in different eras, most notably in her comedic roles as Laura Petrie in the ‘60s sitcom
The Dick Van Dyke Show, and as the single career woman Mary Richards on
The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the ‘70s. The documentary weaves her personal narrative with the beats of her professional accomplishments, while calling attention to her influence on the generations of women who came after her.
Mariah Rehmet served as editor on the project and says the remote workflow put in place made completing the project possible.
“Remote editing has been a life changing development for most editors I know,” says Rehmet. “I cut the entirety of Being Mary Tyler Moore in Avid 2020.12.2 on my MacBook Pro, Airplaying to smart TVs for my playback monitor. Our post workflow allowed me to be completely mobile, as I was remoting into a Mac Mini, which was hosted at our post supervisor Jonathan Stromberg’s house in Echo Park via Jump Desktop. Our associate editor, Allea Ortega, who was based in Denver for most of the edit, would receive drives from the field, back up and transcode footage, then push the offline media to my system via Resilio Connect. This setup truly allowed for such freedom, both creatively and physically.”
Rehmet says the edit began in Los Angeles, and then she moved it to Austin for a couple months, before ultimately ended up in New York’s Catskill Mountains for its completion.
“Growing up, I had seen the Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite, and I knew she was regarded as a feminist icon, so when director James Adolphus asked me to edit the film, I jumped at the chance to tell such a remarkable woman’s story.”
Rehmet (pictured, right) says this also meant framing American womanhood for the last 50-odd years.
“Mary’s show was a cultural phenomenon, as she became a mirror for most women coming of age in the 1970s and the generations that ensued after second wave feminism. In the film’s open, we have a recording from Gloria Steinem from a 1975 Women In Public Life conference at the University of Texas, which we actually salvaged from ruin. A librarian at the LBJ Presidential Library baked the U-matic tapes and saved the audio, but the picture had deteriorated too badly to be rescued. In one clip, Gloria asks what aliens passing by Earth might think of American women if they were confronted with the last 20 years of television, which was obviously rife with patriarchal stereotypes. The [Mary Tyler Moore] show began to change that, so we really began to think of the film itself as a time capsule, and in keeping with such an aesthetic, we cut the purely archival film in the original 35mm Academy aspect ratio (1.37:1) .”
This approach allowed the producers to find a balance with older film and television formats, paying homage to the films that shaped Moore’s childhood, while also respecting the original formats of the iconic television shows in which she starred.
“It also allowed us to be agnostic with the inclusion of archival interviews from all eras, most prominently Mary’s, as well as incorporate audio from our production’s interviews into the tableau of Mary’s life,” Rehmet explains. “While that meant a heavy lift on my part in the writing process and dialogue editing, it provides a more immersive perspective into Mary’s story and unifies the chorus of voices who knew her, whether dead or alive. Allea and I often joked that we knew we were nearing the end of the edit since we could recite the film’s dialogue backwards and forwards!”
Telling a story about someone after they’re gone, especially from their point-of-view, can present its challenges, but Moore’s book and prolific body of work provided the insight and visual metaphors needed for the language of the film.
“A dedication to these elements early in the edit provided a wonderful foundational framework for the rarer personal archival footage, which we stumbled upon much later in the edit in Robert Levine’s basement, including deeply-personal footage from Mary’s bridal shower, which blew us away — to finally see Mary that raw and unguarded, not to mention Betty White as hilarious as ever. The VHS also included a story I’d been searching for a way to represent since reading it in her book – that she fell in love with her husband Robert when he woke up in the middle of the night to make her a tuna fish sandwich from scratch. What was an absolute editorial joy to find! Unfurling the life of the woman behind the smile was an incredible dream of an edit and I can only hope any visiting extraterrestrials would enjoy a truer glimpse into American womanhood as a result.”