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ConnieAnnKirk
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*Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

[ Edited ]

Erin Delaney, Editor at Masterpiece, joins the discussion for the week of March 30th.

 

Please feel free to begin leaving questions for Ms. Delaney here at any time.

Message Edited by ConnieK on 03-28-2009 10:41 PM
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

[ Edited ]

Hello, Erin, and welcome to the Barnes & Noble.com Classics Book Club!  We're happy to have you with us to talk about the film adaptation of Little Dorrit during the week of March 30, 2009.

 

I have a first question--I'm wondering, as an editor, what is your role on this film, or with the MASTERPIECE series, in general? 

 

Thanks!

Message Edited by ConnieK on 03-28-2009 10:43 PM
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Erin_Delaney
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi, Connie-

 

Thank you for your words of welcome.

 

What do I do on Masterpiece, good question.  I'm a video editor and a post-production director.  Basically that means I do the fiddly bits!  We co-produce the programs with our British partners, as you probably know. 

 

Once they're "Masterpieces", however, various things happen.  I edit promos and trailers and "next time" teases to let people know what's on.  Sometimes the programs are too long, so I have to cut bits out (which I do most carefully). We record host introductions and I add those.  I make sure the programs are technically perfect so they'll survive the journeys up and down to various satellites before they arrive at people's homes. 

 

One thing I try -- but often fail -- to do is read the books on which the films are based.  This winter that became difficult, however: Charles Dickens wrote some amazingly long books!  I'm thrilled that your members are reading Little Dorrit.

 

Looking forward to our chat!

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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hello Erin- 

 

Since Masterpiece co-produces the films, does Masterpiece have influence or input on the British producers (for example, the BBC?) on choices of books for film production?  Do they make these choices with an American audience in mind?  And how does this fit into a theme?  Last year, the theme at Masterpiece was Jane Austen, and this year Charles Dickens.  Will Masterpiece continue a theme for next year, and does this choice of theme influence the films that are made in Great Britain?  Or perhaps it is the other way around, with the new movies influencing the choice of theme at Masterpiece?

 

Also, how does reading the books influence your editting decisions in the film?  Or do you see the films as stand-alone works of art?

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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Welcome, Mary!  You've asked lots of good questions for Erin.

 

I'm thinking, Erin, that you don't really need to "know" the books that much in your job?  I mean, you have to work with the film you've got, right?  There's nothing you can add, for example at the stage you get it.  I'm sure it could be important if you have to edit out a smidge here or there, though, yes?

 

 

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dulcinea3
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi, Erin!  Thanks for sharing your time and expertise with us!

 

So, PBS is involved with the productions from the beginning?  I had, for some reason, thought that these productions were produced by the BBC, ITV, or whatever British network, and then PBS bought the rights to show them here.  They are shown in the U.K. quite a bit earlier than they are here (sometimes a year or more, I believe); if PBS is co-producer, why do we have to wait so long to see them?  Is there any relationship between PBS and A&E?  The Andrew Davies productions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, which were shown on PBS as part of last year's Austen series, appeared first on A&E, and the DVDs that I have indicate that they were A&E productions (and I had the same types of questions regarding that that I have asked about PBS in this post).  I'm also curious, if PBS is involved in the production phase of these presentations, why any of them would end up so long that they have to be edited down.  Why wouldn't PBS ensure that they would fit into the proper time span, in the first place?

 

I'm sorry if I seem to be bombarding you, but I have been curious about these things for quite a while, with no avenue of finding out the answers, until now!

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Erin_Delaney
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi, there-

 

Lots of good questions!  Masterpiece gets involved in these productions at various points in the process, depending on the show.  Sometimes, yes, we generate suggestions for which books are ripe for adaptation.  Sometimes we get involved at the scripting/casting stage. And sometimes we do buy the shows after they're finished.  Basically we're looking for, well, Masterpieces!

 

The air dates on PBS differ from those in England primarily because whichever channel in England is airing the program has its own schedule to manage, as does PBS.  Masterpiece airs on Sunday night and we might want to make sure, for example, that we have five Sundays in a row, uninterrupted by holidays, to air something like Little Dorrit.  There have been occasions when Masterpiece has aired a title in the U.S. before it aired in England.

 

Regarding the question about editing to time... Sometimes we might feel that the show would benefit by being slightly tighter.  But more commonly, editing is due to odd lengths.  The BBC has long had a very free-wheeling schedule.  If you've travelled in England, you may have noted that programs might start at 5 minutes past the hour, 10 minutes past, etc.  This flexibility allows the BBC to air shows of odd lengths.  American television, by contrast, is really ruled by the clock!  We need Masterpiece to begin promptly at 9:00.  And whatever show is airing next needs Masterpiece to end promptly as well.

 

Because these films are works of art in their own right (yes, I do believe this), decisions have been made all along, about what to leave in and what to take out.  The book's author made such decisions, the screenwriter made more, each performer makes decisions about how to say each line, the director makes still more choices, and so forth.  Each iteration of the film is its own piece of art.

 

Reading some of the books has helped me on occasion to understand parts of the puzzle that may have gotten altered throughout this artistic process.

 

Can't end this post without answering the question about my beloved Jane.  Last year, when it became clear that we had four new Jane Austen films, it bothered me to think that we would be airing four of her six novels.  As there was a nice Emma film out there, and of course the wonderful 1996 Pride and Prejudice, I thought, goodness, why not acquire these two older titles and make a festival of it!?   So we did, to great happiness for Austen fans.  A&E did air Pride and Prejudice the first time around in the U.S., you're right.

 

This year we happened to have several Dickens titles come up, so we're doing "The Tales of Charles Dickens".  We can't always group titles by theme, but it's fun when it works.

 

Hope this post isn't too long -- I wanted to get to everyone's question.

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Laurel
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Great post, Erin! Thanks for all that background.

Erin_Delaney wrote:

Hi, there-

 

Lots of good questions!  Masterpiece gets involved in these productions at various points in the process, depending on the show.  Sometimes, yes, we generate suggestions for which books are ripe for adaptation.  Sometimes we get involved at the scripting/casting stage. And sometimes we do buy the shows after they're finished.  Basically we're looking for, well, Masterpieces!

 

The air dates on PBS differ from those in England primarily because whichever channel in England is airing the program has its own schedule to manage, as does PBS.  Masterpiece airs on Sunday night and we might want to make sure, for example, that we have five Sundays in a row, uninterrupted by holidays, to air something like Little Dorrit.  There have been occasions when Masterpiece has aired a title in the U.S. before it aired in England.

 

Regarding the question about editing to time... Sometimes we might feel that the show would benefit by being slightly tighter.  But more commonly, editing is due to odd lengths.  The BBC has long had a very free-wheeling schedule.  If you've travelled in England, you may have noted that programs might start at 5 minutes past the hour, 10 minutes past, etc.  This flexibility allows the BBC to air shows of odd lengths.  American television, by contrast, is really ruled by the clock!  We need Masterpiece to begin promptly at 9:00.  And whatever show is airing next needs Masterpiece to end promptly as well.

 

Because these films are works of art in their own right (yes, I do believe this), decisions have been made all along, about what to leave in and what to take out.  The book's author made such decisions, the screenwriter made more, each performer makes decisions about how to say each line, the director makes still more choices, and so forth.  Each iteration of the film is its own piece of art.

 

Reading some of the books has helped me on occasion to understand parts of the puzzle that may have gotten altered throughout this artistic process.

 

Can't end this post without answering the question about my beloved Jane.  Last year, when it became clear that we had four new Jane Austen films, it bothered me to think that we would be airing four of her six novels.  As there was a nice Emma film out there, and of course the wonderful 1996 Pride and Prejudice, I thought, goodness, why not acquire these two older titles and make a festival of it!?   So we did, to great happiness for Austen fans.  A&E did air Pride and Prejudice the first time around in the U.S., you're right.

 

This year we happened to have several Dickens titles come up, so we're doing "The Tales of Charles Dickens".  We can't always group titles by theme, but it's fun when it works.

 

Hope this post isn't too long -- I wanted to get to everyone's question.


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi Erin,

 

I am thoroughly enjoying Little Dorrit! I'm in such suspense (having never read the book) that I can't wait until next week-end. Great cast, by the way!

 

In his books, Dickens seems to weave in so many different characters and have several different sub-plots in addition to capturing a feeling of suspense. Little Dorrit appears to be no exception. I would imagine that adapting these books to the screen is not only challenging for a writer but also for an editor. I've been impressed by how easy it has been to follow each of the characters in Part 1 of Little Dorrit, but still understand and stay connected to the main plot/character. 

 

Is the editing process for Dickens adaptations different than other adaptations (e.g. Jane Austen) because of the way he writes? Or is each adaptation unique, regardless of author?

 

Kudos for the great work! -Janet H

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dulcinea3
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Erin, thanks for the great reply!

 

When you need to edit something out for time, are there any general guidelines you use to choose what to remove?  I imagine it's always a unique case, but do you try to take out bits that seem unimportant, or maybe might be controversial for an American audience, or just look for scenes that are as close to the amount of time you need to take out?

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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

[ Edited ]

Thanks for your full explanation of so many of our questions so far, Erin!

 

I know editors of books often tighten the story through their work thereby making what's left all the stronger.  Writers often bemoan taking out scenes in their novels that they know really don't fit with the flow but they still love anyway. 

 

I'm wondering--you mentioned that you often have to edit the Masterpiece films so that they fit into the American television schedule.  Have you ever had to edit out a scene or a bit of a scene from a film that you really wanted to leave in?

 

And do you work in the US or UK?  I'm a bit confused about that.  Lastly, do you ever get to visit the sets of the films as they're being made?

 

Thank you!

Message Edited by ConnieK on 04-01-2009 01:07 PM
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Erin_Delaney
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi, again, everybody-

 

More thoughts on Dickens, plotting, and editing: Dickens, I believe, was way ahead of his time in the way he created plots and subplots and interwove story lines.  Screenwriters always have to choose things to leave out of Dickens!  However, this kind of storytelling reminds me very much of contemporary American television dramas.  There are always multiple plot lines chasing each other around and if you miss a week, you can miss a lot.

 

I think this affects the screenwriter more than the director or editor of a film.  The choices of what to leave in and what to take out get made early.  The filming and thus the editing then follow the curve of the screenplay.  The wonderful screenwriter of Little Dorrit, Andrew Davies, will be joining this discussion in a few weeks (I believe the week of April 27th) so you can learn more about that then.

 

Luckily for me, I don't often have to edit time out of programs.  When I do, the guidelines I use are: keep the integrity of the story, help clarify anything that wasn't clear, maintain balance among characters and plotlines, keep the pacing (which varies of course: some shows move quickly, some more languorously) consistent.  Since I work on the shows after the original edit, the arc of the film's story is already set.  So these guidelines hold true same for any of our films; an Austen, a Dickens, a Trollope. 

 

For me, the biggest challenge of working on a Dickens film arises I'm creating promos for the series.  If I have 30 seconds in which to persuade people to watch next week, what do I do?  I must choose a couple of plots because I certainly can't promote each of 7 or 8 storylines each week!

 

I work in the U.S., not the U.K., by the way, because I work for Masterpiece at WGBH, which produces these programs for public television in the U.S.

 

 

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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

[ Edited ]

Thanks so much for taking the time to write out such a thorough reply, Erin!  It helps us see more clearly your role at Masterpiece.  Thanks, too, for reminding our readers that screenwriter, Andrew Davies, will be joining us in the last week of the month.

 

Another reminder, readers:  We have 1 more day with Erin before she leaves us.  Please ask your remaining questions as soon as you can.

Message Edited by ConnieK on 04-02-2009 11:37 AM
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi Erin,

 

I think you are doing a wonderful job as editor!  Since discovering the Masterpiece Classics, I feel as though other films don't compare to the quality and value of the stories Masterpiece provides.  I am very grateful.

I think "Little Dorrit" is wonderful so far and am very much looking forward to the remaining episodes.  I find the Austen and Dickens stories so uplifting and a breath of fresh air.

Can we look forward to a sneak preview of "The Old Curiosity Shop"? 

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Erin_Delaney
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

I'm thrilled that so many people love the Classics on Masterpiece.  I may be biased of course, but I agree that the series is special.  Little Dorrit is my favorite for this winter.

 

Some people who love Dickens do not cite The Old Curiosity Shop as being among their favorite of his novels.  (Oscar Wilde among them: "It would require a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell.")

 

For a preview of our upcoming film of The Old Curiosity Shop, please visit Masterpiece Online at pbs.org/masterpiece and you can judge for yourself whether you have a heart of stone!

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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hello Ms. Delaney.

 

Every year I see that PBS/Masterpiece seems to submit a production for consideration for Emmy.  Will you be considering such a move this year and if so will Little Dorrit get the nod?

 

Thanks!

Skywalker1

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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Welcome, bonnetfan and skywalker1!

 

Also, let's all give Erin our hearty thanks for joining in our conversation this week about Masterpiece and Little Dorrit.  Today is Erin's last official day with us. 

 

Thanks, Erin!

 

Readers, please do look forward with us to the arrival of our next guest, Little Dorrit screenwriter, Andrew Davies.  He will join us the last week of the month, when we will have seen the bulk if not all of the film.

 

I agree that I can't imagine television, or public television, without the Masterpiece series being available to viewers!  What a fun job you must have there, Erin!

 

Thanks again for joining us!

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hello Erin,

 

I hope it isn't too late in the week to ask you some questions.  I am actually quite interested in becoming a video editor in the next several years and would love to hear back from you (especially since I love all of the Masterpiece programming so much!).

 

Do the Masterpiece programs come to you edited and then you re-edit for time constraints?  How long does that process usually take you?  How many promos and trailers do you have to create for each program, and how long do they take you?

 

Where/how long did you train to become a video editor?  Is there any specific advice that you can give to a person who is interested in this field?

 

Thank you very much!

 

Regards,

Kelly

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dulcinea3
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Erin, thanks so much for your participation this week!  You have been truly informative, and it's been interesting to understand the productions from an angle that we rarely get a glimpse into.
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Re: *Special Guest: Erin Delaney, Editor @ PBS Masterpiece [3/30 - 4/3/09]

Hi, Skywalker1-

 

Your observation is correct: we do get our share of Emmy nominations! 

 

And yes, Little Dorrit is a series that we very much hope will be both nominated and end up an Emmy winner.  It certainly deserves it.  Fingers crossed....