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Timothy Good and Emily Mendez (‘The Last of Us’ editors) on highlighting ‘the story of Joel and Ellie’ amid chaotic action scenes [Exclusive Video Interview]

Sam Eckmann, GOLDDERBY

August 10, 2023

“I never played the game and I still haven’t,” admits Good. He acknowledges that avoiding the source material was a risky strategy, but the editor believes that this tactic allowed the team “to really just focus entirely on the story that was being presented to us and the performances by our wonderful actors.” He later took a peek at the video game’s final scene at the urging of creator Neil Druckmann. “And when I did, it was almost the same and I was like, wow, we must really be in sync,” exclaims Good, taking it as a surefire sign that the work on the television series was on the right track.

That’s not to say that Good and Mendez didn’t carve out their own space in the television series, however. The pair are nominated for the episode “Endure and Survive,” which features a massive battle sequence in the final moments...

Good concurs, noting that there was plenty of action footage at their disposal to create a chaotic battle, but that chaos had to serve the main narrative of the scene. “The story is that Joel is now realizing that he is protecting her as though she is his daughter,” explains Good. He references the moment when Ellie is pursued into a van by a young infected girl and Joel can no longer spot her through his sniper rifle scope. “He starts having his very first panic attack that reminds him of the moment that he couldn’t save his daughter,” continues the editor, “And that’s the beginning of that sort of understanding, I think. And that’s a pivot point for the character of Joel, where he starts to realize that, oh my gosh, I’m not trying to save anyone but her.”

For all the action sequences and terrifying clicker encounters in the series, “The Last of Us” is ultimately a character study. Joel and Ellie truly come to life in the quiet moments between the tense encounters, which give the editors a chance to illuminate character traits. Mendez thinks “Endure and Survive” is a fantastic indicator of the balance between the scenes of peace and chaos, citing the group’s discovery of an abandoned underground community as an example. “It’s like this moment of magic where Ellie and Sam can be kids again for a minute,” describes Mendez, as she remembers how the characters examined drawings on the walls and read comic books. “It’s a fun thing to work on,” she continues, “And I think for me, it’s just a matter of staying true to the characters and staying with them and how they’re reacting to the scene, how they’re feeling in that moment.” The quieter moments, Good adds, “are critical to the plot and the big battle sequences because they add the texture.”

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