BWW Interview: Emmy-Nominated Editor Tom Jarvis Talks 'Carpool Karaoke' and Working on 'The Late Late Show with James Corden'
Two-time Emmy-nominated editor, Tom Jarvis, took the time to speak with us about his editing process for THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN and editing unscripted television. Check out his answers below.
Can you tell us how you decided to be a filmmaker and more specifically, an editor?
I studied film and television production at Bournemouth University in the south of England. I wasn't particularly academic at school but the film course really rang true to me - I loved it! I had finally found something I not only enjoyed but also excelled at.
Once graduated, I went to work in London as a post-production runner - so I would make the tea, get people's dry cleaning and fetch lunches; from there I worked my way up. I worked as a librarian and editing assistant, then I became a staff editor at a post-production house in London called The Farm which is one of the major players in the UK's post-production industry.
You've worked on quite a few unscripted TV shows, is that what you enjoy editing most?
The good thing about editing on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" is that it really is a multi-facetted job. I get to cut musical pieces like "Crosswalk the Musical," scripted comedy bits, music performances, traditional sit-down chats, in-show comedy and of course all the "Carpool Karaoke" videos. It's always challenging and always different, I feel very lucky to edit such a variety of projects.
Congratulations on your second Emmy nomination for "Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool!" How did you first get involved with "The Late Late Show with James Corden"?
Before "The Late Late Show" I was working on a sports chat show for HBO with Bill Simmons. On that show a friend of mine had previously worked at "The Late Late Show" and I thought "it's such a popular show, it looks like so much fun with such variety that I'd love to work on it!" Later that week I was talking to a friend of mine, Lee McNicholas, who lives in London, and I said that I'd love to work on "The Late Late Show," and he said, "Well I know the executive producer Ben Winston. Why don't you send me your resume and I'll forward it to him." A couple weeks later I got a call and they said they would love to get me in for a chat as one of their editors was leaving. I went in to meet both EPs - Ben Winston and Rob Crabbe. We hit it off and that was that - I started working at "The Late Late Show."
What is the editing process like for a late night, interview-based show like that?
The editing process for a late night show has two main elements: during the daytime I will cut scripted comedy bits, work on the "Carpool Karaoke," "Crosswalk the Musicals" etc., Then at 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday we start recording the show. I watch it live in my edit bay and I get notes called down by executive producer Ben Winston. We cut the show to time and do any s&p notes. So every night we have a show that goes out on air and everything has to be pushed by satellite by 9:30 p.m.
How much creative freedom do you get when cutting the episodes? Is there a standard structure you follow or do you get to experiment some?
As far as the chat segments there's definitely a format that we follow. We have a certain set of rules to make it feel live, but with the comedy bits and with the Carpool Karaokes we get free reign to experiment and try things out. We're often doing film parodies - like recently I edited a parody of "When Harry Met Sally" which was called "When Billy Met Corden." James and Billy Crystal re-create the famous orgasm scene but instead of faking orgasms James proves he can fake laugh to a guest so with that case in particular we had the original film's style to follow. Another one that I did last year was a sketch with Jamie Dornan who starred in "Fifty Shades of Grey." We made "Fifty Shades of Corden" where they re-create the famous play room scene but in James' playroom there a bunch of trains - so as much as possible we tried to re-create shot for shot that scene from "Fifty Shades of Grey."
Specifically for "Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool," you had a lot of footage to deal with. How did you decide what to include and what shouldn't make the final cut?
We shot for roughly four and a half hours in the car and then there was another two hours of footage for the pub performance. It was very tricky to cut this down. "Carpool Karaoke" usually records for three hours and we will condense that down to 12-15 minutes which fits within the time constraints of a show and is also an easily digestible length for our online audience. The McCartney carpool was definitely more of a challenge because of the amount of time we shot, in addition to the fact that everything they talked about in the car was really top-quality gold! When shooting the carpools, I always sit in the follow car with our executive Ben Winston and our head writer Lauren Greenberg. We can hear and see everything going on via a nine split monitor. Throughout the shoot I was thinking "How on earth are we going to cut this down?" It was all such good stuff. My first cut was over 40 minutes so we had to try and get it down to our usual 15 minutes, but because of the quality of the content we ended up making the longest carpool we had ever made for "The Late Late Show" - it was 23 minutes. Even getting to that time was a struggle! So while we were in the edit, Ben said let me talk to CBS and let's see if maybe we can make a primetime special and extend the cut to one hour. Once the carpool went out the response online was incredible - there were 86 million views in 48 hours! Immediately after we saw the response online, we got the green light from CBS to make the hour-long special. While I get that people like short format these days, the longer version of Paul and James really gave me the opportunity to architect the full story better, to show off some more conversational subtleties and unveil more of Paul's down-to-earthness. Ben and I worked hard creating this special and we oversaw the whole process of finishing to air.
You've also edited quite a few award shows. When shows are happening live, what is that editing process like?
With the award show stuff, I edit "The nominees are..." packages that you see on the MTV MOVIE AWARDS or the Grammys. Some of the award shows are 'tidied up' after so I will get a few days to tighten up the show and cut it down for television.
What are the challenges that come with editing unscripted TV?
With unscripted TV there is often a lot of footage to go through. That can be a challenge - as the editor you have to watch everything! Being on set for these pieces really helps; it gives you invaluable shorthand once back in the edit. With the Katy Perry carpool, I had three days to edit it - that was a real challenge - you have to keep focus and know where everything is at all times and you have to keep copies of anything that you leave out.
Do you usually edit using Avid, or is there a different editing program you prefer?
I've always edited on Avid since I was a junior editor over 15 years ago.
Is there something that comes to mind out of the work you've done that stands out as your favorite?
In my job I get to meet and cut some of the worlds greatest artists and that privilege isn't lost on me. Getting to work with Sir Paul McCartney and shoot with James and our team in Liverpool was one of those once-in-a-lifetime pinch me moments. I hope that's reflected in the edit. For most people on the planet and very much for me, he's a legend and his music has deeply affected my memories of growing up and my life. My dad used to play the white album on repeat and my wife and I used "In My Life" as our wedding song - my mom even met Paul McCartney when she was 15 in London and he kissed her on the hand - she had been to his concerts and screamed like a crazy fan - so personally for me as a music lover, Beatle fan, and Brit it was very important to do him, his work and his legacy justice. I had old friends, family, teachers get in touch with me after making the primetime special. They all said how much it moved them - a lot of people said it made them cry and it was a really special moment in my career to be part of something that touched so many people.
Is there someone you'd love to work with that you haven't had an opportunity to yet?
I would love to work on scripted series. "Sherlock" has incredible editing and smart timing - it's funny, it's creative and the storytelling is exceptional. More recently I've absolutely loved "Killing Eve" and "Fleabag;" both do such a smart job of mixing comedy, emotion and action all in one smartly delivered show.
Do you have any advise for editors trying to break into the industry and find work?
My advice for any editor trying to break into the industry is to network as much as you can. Be enthusiastic! A smile goes a long way. Also do your research learn your craft - if you don't stop trying you can never fail.
Do you have any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
I'm very excited for a carpool we have lined up for the end of October, which I think is going to be very special. Unfortunately I can't share that with you right now - it's a secret! But it will be on air and online around the beginning of December.
IMAGE COURTESY OF TOM JARVIS