Well Versed with Mark Hartzell, ACE

Mark Hartzell, ACE is an accomplished editor known for his work on The Last of Us, Lost in Space, and True Blood. As part of our Well Versed series, we sat down with Mark to hear his perspective and get a peek behind-the-scenes. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What are your thoughts on remote editing?

For me, remote editing has been a game changer. I was prepared for the future pretty well because Lost in Space was doing remote editing starting with season one in 2017, and we were using Evercast in 2018 and 2019. So, I was working with directors who were already busy working on other projects, or were still up in Vancouver shooting remotely from Los Angeles using Evercast, and it was great. That really prepped me for when people were like, “How are we going to do this once we’re working in the COVID era?” I was like, “We’ve already been doing it!”

What’s interesting for me is when I’m watching dailies, I’m trying to be the viewer and I’m looking for the emotions and the moments that really resonate with me, and then I will build a scene the way I think is the most interesting in terms of emotion, story, and visuals. And I’ll watch it, but once I have another person in the room, everything is different; I see things differently. And having someone on Evercast will serve that purpose. Once I’m watching it with them, especially seeing their reactions to what we’re looking at, that will inform my process a lot. So, that’s one of the most helpful things. It’s not just that we can share the screen together and look at the same thing at the same time, it’s that we can see each other, and that’s really important for me.

Do you have an interesting or funny BTS story about working on The Last of Us?

One of the most interesting moments for me on The Last of Us happened when working on episode two, which was directed by Neil Druckmann, co-creator of the show, who also created the game, was the director of the game, and the writer of the game. And it was down the road a little bit in the editorial process when we were working on the sound effects of the Clickers, which are a very big, important character and component of the game. I had an Evercast session with one of the producers at Naughty Dog, who had been working on The Last of Us (the game) for probably a decade or more. He showed up in the Evercast room, and I showed him the scene that takes place in the Boston museum—the first Clicker scene. And to see his face in this moment where he’s spent years working on the sound effects and the sound that comes along with these characters in the digital world—to see him seeing the real world version of this for the first time was mind-blowing for him, and it was really, really satisfying and mind-blowing for me. My assistant, Tim Cooper, was in that session too. To watch someone who is so attached to this project and have them see where it had gone and what it looked like when it was fully realized in person was incredible; it was really great. And Evercast was instrumental in that moment.

I think a lot of people who played the game and then watched the show felt the same way. It’s surreal; when you’re watching the show, even if you know what’s going to happen because you played the game, you’re having a different experience because it’s a different medium.

Tell us about a time you "fixed it in post.”

You know, not everything needs to get fixed exactly, but everything needs to go through the post process. It’s said that there are three times things get written: they get written on the page; they get rewritten in production by the actors, the directors, the entire crew, bringing something to life and changing it; and then the final rewrite is the post-production process—the editors, visual effects, directors, color, music. Being able to collaborate with people interactively during the post process, whether it’s the “fix” or not, is a really gratifying, beautiful, intimate experience. 

I have a really fond memory of working with the showrunner Zach Estrin from Lost in Space, who passed last year. There was one time where I had watched a scene that we had already gone through and I was like, wait a second, I think I could sort of restructure it so that the exactly right beat would come at the right time. And I was like, “Hey, can you meet me in my Evercast room, and can we take a look at this together?” And literally, he popped in there and was like, “Did you fix it? What did we do wrong? Did you save it?” And I was like, “Well, yes. I think we’re crescendo-ing the emotion a little too soon, and if we could just hold it off a little bit and do it all here, I think it would make a little more sense.” And in the end, it was really good. But that’s a really warm memory with somebody who is no longer with us but was such a talent. If anybody is a big Lost in Space fan, it’s episode 304, around the time the kids are saving the parents from the robots (that’s such a weird thing to say out loud!).

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