<I>Baby Reindeer</I>: Editor Peter Oliver
May 22, 2024

Baby Reindeer: Editor Peter Oliver

Netflix’s Baby Reindeer is based on the award-winning one-man play. It follows struggling comedian Donny Dunn’s (Richard Gadd), while looking at the warped relationship he has with a female stalker. The seven-episode series looks at the impact the relationship and how he is ultimately forced to face a deeply-buried trauma. The darkly-funny true story also stars Jessica Gunning as Martha, Nava Mau as Teri and Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien.

Peter Oliver (pictured) served as lead editor on Baby Reindeer, and says the show is unique in that it’s about Richard Gadd’s life experiences, as well as written, produced and performed by him. 

“He was incredibly brave to relive a former life of abuse,” says Oliver. “One scene that I think encapsulates this is the final scene of Episode 2. The scene starts with a jump scare, where Martha’s blocking Donny’s route home along a lonely canal pathway in the dead of night. She then jokes with him, saying if he doesn’t fancy her he must be blind or gay, and she doesn’t see him reaching for the banister when he climbs the stairs. He freezes and she pins him to the wall and sexually assaults him.”

When editing this scene, Oliver says he wanted to focus on the isolation in order to raise the tension.

“I kept the scene quiet and still, with minimal sound effects,” he explains. “I emphasized the breathing, recording myself and adding it in as another subliminal reversing layer. I also wanted to emphasize the danger of the deep water in the canal, so I put in very gentle water lapping. I took out any road sounds, as I wanted the scene to feel far away from civilization and the safety of others.”

Oliver says he usually starts a scene tight on the characters so that as the scene develops, more is revealed to the audience.
“However, in this scene, I started wider, showing the geography of the bleak surroundings. As the scene intensifies, we draw closer in shot size, focusing mainly on Martha as the threat, cutting only back to Donny for his redactions - at first annoyed but evolving into terror, as if she knows all his darkest secrets. Even with Martha’s comic lines, Donny is becoming more disturbed, hypnotized by this strange creature, frozen to the spot.” 

Then, as Donny makes a move to get away, Oliver chose wider shots, adding her haunting laughter from other takes. 

“We go in closer,” he explains. “I added heartbeat sounds, and the sound effect of a haunting train going past overhead. I chose takes of Martha where she was excited, almost cheery, as if it was their first kiss. Her warped sense of what it is to be with someone you love. Ending on a close shot of Donny’s face, tear in his eye, not resisting but staring into the distance as if this wasn’t the first time he had been abused. This is where the series, for me, takes a turn from being a bit weird to much darker and more painful.”