AMC’s Lucky Hank is a mid-life crisis tale, told in the first person by William Henry “Hank” Devereaux, Jr. (Bob Odenkirk), the English department chairman at an underfunded Pennsylvania college. Hank’s discontent is rooted in unresolved issues with his father, a mediocre and entitled student body, and the fact that his department is savagely divided. Mireille Enos stars as Lily Devereaux, his emotionally-grounded wife, and the vice principal of the local high school. As Hank’s life starts to unravel, Lily begins to question the path she’s on and the choices she’s made.
Richard Schwadel (pictured, right) edited three episodes of the series, including the pilot, and recently shared his experience.
Richard, how did you get involved in Lucky Hank?
“I’d just finished a project when I got a call about my availability for a new comedy series. I didn’t get much info initially, but as soon as I heard Peter Farrelly was involved, I jumped at the chance to work with him again. We'd worked together on Loudermilk and The Now, so Pete and I have developed a good working relationship. We have a similar sense of humor, and I understand the performances he’s after. Not long after that call, I had a Zoom interview with EPs Aaron Zelman, Paul Lieberstein and Jessica Held.”
What were your responsibilities?
“The show was block-shot two episodes at a time, with eight episodes in total. I edited episodes 101 - the pilot episode - 102 and 107. Pete directed 101 and 102, and Nicole Holofcener directed 107. In terms of the show’s tone, Hank experiences a pretty intense emotional arc throughout the eight episodes. The first two lean much more into the comedy, while the last few are much more dramatic. That was exciting to me because I was able to utilize my skills to work between the two genres. As a result, the show is best described as a dramedy.”
Can you talk about your editing setup?
“I cut the show remotely on Avid Version 2022.7. The show was shot on Alexa Minis at 4K. Our dailies were processed by Picture Shop, uploaded to Aspera, and bins were sent to us via Resilio. My media lived on a 24TB external hard drive.”
So you were working remotely? Can you elaborate?
“Our editorial team included three editors, who worked remotely, each with their own first assistant. My assistant, Jason Chu, would organize my day’s bins each morning during production. Often, with the amount of footage being shot, he’d give me a few bins to keep me busy into lunch. Then, during lunch, he'd finish organizing and pass the rest of the day’s footage off to me. If production was about to break a location, I’d make an exception and always review all of the footage by lunch in case a pick-up was needed. Our teams used Slack to communicate between Clear and us to work on cuts with producers and directors.
“My workflow was pretty normal until episodes started to overlap. Jadene Babcock, our post producer, had budgeted us extra time on the pilot episode, knowing they always take longer to lock. Still, at one point, I was cutting dailies on 107 while locking the pilot and 102. It can be tough when you’ve just finished screening and noting the dailies for a scene, and then you get a text that the producers have an hour to work right now on another episode. However, most editors work on multiple episodes simultaneously, and luckily my years of experience taught me how to do the dance pretty well.
“After picture lock, I’m at the sound spot and always try to participate in the mix playback.”
What would you point to in terms of challenges on the episodes you worked on?
“There were quite a few challenging scenes in each episode. For instance, in ‘The Count of Monte Christo,’ Episode 107, Lily's having lunch with a friend in New York. She’s recently taken a job at a prestigious NYC school, commuting back home on weekends and looking for an apartment to rent. So she’s talking with her friend, who then leaves to go to the bathroom. A man and woman sitting close to them have been holding hands, gazing lovingly at each other. The woman glances at the entrance and says, ‘Oh shit, my husband!’ As Lilly takes this in, the woman's date jumps up, plops down opposite Lily, and shushes her as the husband greets his wife. The man then tries to make small talk with Lily, begging her with his eyes to play along. Lily does for a bit until it stirs up some feelings in her. She then goes into a rant, telling him she wants a divorce, she’s unfulfilled and they’re out of sync. The subtext is she's talking about her own marriage.
“It's a wonderful scene that could be in a Woody Allen movie. So there were many challenges here and many plates to keep spinning.”
How did you address it?
“First, I had to establish a loving couple without bringing unwarranted attention to them. Second, I needed to play some of Lily’s internal conflict of moving away from her husband. Plus the comedic moments: the husband entering, the lover taking the empty seat, the husband’s wife squirming, the lover small-talking with Lily, and the sotto glances. Once things turn darker and Lily starts to express her true feelings, the tone obviously changes.
“It took me a full day to cut this four-page scene. I stepped away from it afterward because I always see things differently with fresh eyes. Ultimately, I cut a few different versions to see if the beats played better in different arrangements. Would some moments play better in the master, or was the subtlety lost or too hard to notice? Were the sotto looks over the top if I played them tighter? Was there an organic way to allow Lily to veer into the drama toward the end of the scene? I probably spent 15 to 20 hours on that scene before I felt it was ready for the editor’s cut. When I worked with Nicole on it, we shortened it, changed a few performances and that was it. The producers really liked it, and that’s pretty much what aired.”