Post Magazine

September 2015

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PRIMETIME 12 POST SEPTEMBER 2015 ox's Empire had a very success- ful first season, receiving three Emmy nominations, including "Lead Actress in a Drama Series" for Taraji P. Henson's portrayal of Cookie Lyon. The powerful family drama centers around Lucious Lyon, the head of a music em- pire (played by Terrence Howard), whose three sons and ex-wife (recently released from prison) all battle for his throne. "I knew it would be good, but I had no idea that people would respond to it as they did," says editor Joe Leonard. Leonard, who worked on Glee for four seasons, cut Empire's pilot, as well as sev- eral Season 1 episodes. Here, he reports on the challenges of cutting the show's dramatic and musical scenes, his Avid workflow, and the plans for Season 2. You worked on Glee. How did you get involved with Empire? "I was in the right place at the right time, but I also had been doing post for sev- eral years in the indie film world, mostly cutting on Final Cut — a 'million dollar and under' features. I did [Glee] for four seasons. I was an assistant editor on the pilot, but they kicked me up to editor on the first season. I found myself cutting on the third episode of Glee, and I did every third episode. "I met with Lee Daniels at Imagine, and he and I hit it off from the first meeting. I was a big fan of his work and the script for Empire. I was kind of in love with its potential. I did the pilot with him and it was a terrific experience." Both Glee and Empire are very music heavy? "For Glee, I cut like 100 numbers, and that was a true musical. It was high school and the kids were musical, and you can almost get away with a teenag- er bursting into song...You can't do that with Empire, and we don't. Music is a part of the world that we're in and the music hopefully comes out organically in the story, but it does hit emotional beats that the scenes don't hit. There's some- thing amazing about the power of music to tell an emotional story." What is the workflow? "We are on Avid, and I believe the show is shot on Alexa, but they might be chang- ing that. We have a dailies service called Magno that does transcoding through DNx. I think it's 124 or 136. We're on Media Composer (Mac), and the version is V.6.5 right now, although I think we might be on V.7 this season. We have a Unity, and I think we are pushing to get an ISIS. We have central storage and we have three editors and three assistant editors. It's almost the exact same [as Glee]…The reason that they set it up that way is that at the end of the month, you've shot and cut three or four shows. They shoot it too quickly and the show's too dense for it to be done any other way." Where are you working? "We are working in Beverly Hills. It's a building owned by Fox. And it's the same floor as the LA production office for Empire, so the show runners and writers are in the same office as post production, which can be bad because sometimes the music is loud. I must drive them crazy listening to the same thing over and over and over again." What is an episode length? "It's 43 minutes and 20 seconds." Empire is a scripted show, but is there room for creativity? "The music numbers offer a tremendous amount of range where you can find a way to express creative possibilities. They do shoot with multiple cameras, and we multi-clip everything and group everything so that everything is in sync. You can look at 50 or 60 or 100 options from all the different takes. There is something about music that is inherently not scripted. You have to find a way to, in a song, tell a story. We really don't think of music numbers as 'music numbers.' We think of them as a different way of telling the story." Can you point to specific scenes? "There are two examples from this season that were not scripted moments, but it was something myself and the directors I was working with figured out that we needed to do something extra, and take song and open up a bigger story. The first one is in pilot, in the scene where Jamal is singing 'Good Enough.' It flashes back to him, coming down the stairs, dressed in his mom's FOX'S EMPIRE BY MARC LOFTUS MORE EPISODES AND DRAMA PLANNED FOR SEASON 2 F Joe Leonard (inset) cuts Empire on an Avid. Season 2 will consist of 18 episodes, up from 12.

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