Editing: <I>Only Murders in the Building</I>
May 22, 2024

Editing: Only Murders in the Building

Hulu’s comedic murder series Only Murders in the Building follows three strangers, who share an obsession with true crime podcasts and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. The show’s third season once again stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, and finds the trio investigating yet another murder - this time connected to a stage show produced by Short’s Oliver character.

Co-producer/editor Shelly Westerman, ACE (pictured, left), and editor Payton Koch collaborated on the series, using Avid Media Composer v.2023.12.0 and Jump Desktop to remote into their shared NEXIS storage solution.

“This allows us to work and edit just like we would in an office, but from the comfort of our homes,” explains Westerman. “We also use PacPost Live to stream content out of the Avid, and have live sessions with directors, producers, our composer and visual effects teams.”
The team points to Episode 308 - Sitzprobe - an as editorial highlight, along with "Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?,” performed by Steve Martin.

“Our fabulous directors, Bob Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, suggested we mock up the sequence using title cards,” Westerman recalls. “Together we mapped out the action, where movements and scene changes would hit. There was great direction in the script as well. We all took turns.”

Editorial assistants Jamie Clark and Diana Hiatt contributed significantly, with Hiatt color coordinating the title cards to help visually track story lines — all before shooting began. 

“We presented production with a very clear plan, enabling the team to time out and frame shots accordingly,” Westerman explains. “I think they were impressed! Once we received the footage, there were still minor framing adjustments to make, but the hardest, most technical part had already been done! Then we had fun, diving into Steve’s incredible performances, which served as the focal point around all other action.” 

“When we first read the split-screen sequence in the script, we knew we had to act fast in order for production to properly execute all the visuals going on simultaneously,” Koch (pictured, right) adds. “Luckily, we had the fantastic directing duo, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who were instrumental in putting the pieces together…It was such a collaborative effort on all sides, and if not for the excessive pre-production planning, I’m sure we would have had a much harder time navigating the sequence.”

Editor Peggy Tachdjian says it definitely helps to have a sense of humor when cutting Only Murders in the Building, as it features fast-paced comedy with a lot of dialogue.

“I think the most important thing is being able to find a rhythm to the jokes,” says Tachdjian. “Deciding when to pause to land a joke versus when to keep the banter going can be really challenging in some scenes. We also really want the viewers to connect emotionally with the characters, so sometimes it’s about knowing when we need to slow down and add a meaningful look between characters or a pensive moment. Season 3 brought a new challenge of balancing the song performances so they felt like they were still a part of our show, not a total departure from previous seasons.”

Tachdjian used an Avid to cut the show and says one of her favorite scenes from Season 3 comes in Episode 4, when Charles and Oliver are having a heart-to-heart discussion. 

“It comes off of a completely slapstick comedy scene where Charles tries to perform the patter song, and basically blacks out and goes into what theater actors call ‘The White Room,’” she explains. “The premise could have been so silly, but it’s grounded in the fact that Charles and Oliver’s relationship has evolved so much that they can really sit, between jokey moments, and advise each other on their romantic lives. It’s a very sweet moment between the characters, but as an editor, it was a really fun challenge for me to figure out how to get us from a laughing so hard you’re crying moment, to a genuine emotional connection between the two characters. The actors make it easy, but I like to think that the sculpting that I do, with the help of our outstanding composer, Siddhartha Khosla, adds to it.”