The Handmaid's Tale editor Wendy Hallam Martin on cutting the Golden Globe-winning TV show and more
Wendy Hallam Martin is one of the editors on two-time Golden Globe-winning TV series The Handmaid's Tale starring Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes. As well as picking up an ACE Eddie award nomination for her work on the dystopian future drama, Wendy cut Saving Hope, Dark Matter, The Borgias and Queer as Folk. Mandy News talk to the talented editor about how she started out, working on The Handmaid's Tale and what editors can do to ascend in the industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the industry?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada. At age 12, my family was transferred to the U.K. I spent five wonderful years in Berkshire, England, spending most of my free time at the barn hanging out with the horses, listening to music, writing stories or with my nose in a book. We were then transferred back to Chicago, Illinois then Oakville, Ontario, Canada where I finished high school.
When I graduated, I took some time off to work and travel before deciding what to do with my life. My first love is music and I thought I wanted to manage a band, or work for a big record label. A friend of mine managed a local record store (where I hung out a lot) and one day he invited me to go and see a music video that was being filmed in our area. It was Bruce Cockburn (who is a Canadian icon) “Lover’s In a Dangerous Time”. I was mesmerised. Not by the band, but by the film crew shooting the video. It was like a light bulb went off. This was what I wanted to do.
I enrolled in film school (Sheridan College) and volunteered on any film set I could get on. Through school, I discovered that I could marry my love for music and story telling through editing. In my last year of college, I got a work placement with an editor (Stephen Lawrence) and ended up working with him as his assistant for quite a few years. Steve let me assemble scenes for him and mentored me over the years.
One of the directors that we frequently worked with (Fred Gerber) asked Steve to cut his movie but Steve already had too much on the go. So Fred asked Steve whether I was ready to cut yet. Steve said yes and they conspired to approve me for the movie Mr. Music for Showtime. It was such a lucky break. From there, I went on to cut Queer as Folk, The Tudors and Borgias to name a few.
How did you get involved with The Handmaid's Tale?
I received a call from Sheila Hockin, who is an exec producer for Take5 Productions. She and I have worked together over the years on many projects. The Handmaid’s Tale was being shot in Toronto and post production was being done through Take5. She asked me if I would be interested in working on the project. I was elated. It was a book I had read many times over the years and I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood. Of course I was interested.
She set up an interview with Bruce Miller (Show runner) over the phone and we hit it off. He was a fan of The Tudors so that was a great icebreaker.
What do you use to cut? How long do you have to cut an episode? Please could you explain a little bit about the process of editing for the show?
We edit the show on the Avid Media Composer. There are two full time editors on the series – myself and Chris Donaldson – but given the schedule and the attention to detail that goes in to each episode, we have a relief pitcher come in to do one or two episodes a season (Aaron Marshall, Ana Yavari).
As far as a schedule to cut an episode, it varies. Usually, we keep up to camera assembling the dailies. They block shoot two episodes at a time so we get two or three scenes each a day on average. We then have three days to assemble the show before we start a four day director’s cut (DGA rule, they get 4 days per episode).
Once that is complete, the producers will come in and do their cut (a week or two) then it’s off to MGM and Hulu. They send back notes, we address those and send it back for lock. Meanwhile, we are getting dailies on the next block through the door that we have to keep up with. So it is busy to say the least.
What's coming up next for you in 2018 and beyond?
I am presently cutting season two of Handmaid's (just locked the first episode of the season) and I honestly hope that this series lasts for five seasons at least. It is a dream job in so many ways. I have a few offers for other work, but why leave a show that you love?
Do you have any advice or tips for up-and-coming editors?
My biggest piece of advice would be to work your butt off and be kind to everyone along the way. People want to work with people that they can trust with their projects and someone who will be happy to doing it.
Editors often get the label of being grumpy. A bad attitude will come back to haunt you ☺