Editing is one of those miraculous and difficult elements of film and TV that many probably (unfortunately) overlook. And that's because, when done well, it's doing its job of supporting storytelling, showcasing strong performances, and keeping things moving. But like anything in this field, it's an art.

Two talented editors, Matt Pevic and Denise Chan, lent their creative expertise to the highly anticipated Netflix series, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. With their wealth of experience and discerning eye, Pevic and Chan meticulously crafted the first two episodes of the season, leaving their creative marks on a prequel series that takes on a slightly more serious and dramatic tone than its predecessor.

We spoke with Pevic and Chan via Zoom and email in a captivating conversation that could have lasted hours, as they graciously shared their insights on the art of TV editing, the choices they made for shot selection, their collaborative process with each other and Shonda Rhimes, and the secrets of seamless storytelling.

Even if you have never watched Bridgerton or Queen Charlotte, there is valuable advice here for all aspiring filmmakers. Let's uncover the behind-the-scenes magic that breathed royal life into Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: I just want to start with your backgrounds and learn a little bit about your paths into editing.

Matt Pevic: I started out right out of college. I went into journalism, wanted to be a feature writer, and then realized pretty quickly when I was assigned an expose that I didn't really want to write about people so much. And fiction was much more interesting to me and was making my own student films and little festival short type films and fell in love with editing because that was my favorite part of the storytelling process. I quickly got into trailer editing. I was working at a trailer house for about five or six years, started to do behind-the-scenes documentaries, featurettes for various movies, and then got the opportunity to work on television, and I haven't looked back. So I've been doing that for the last 15 years or so.

Denise Chan: For myself, I'm actually originally from Singapore, so growing up in a completely different culture that's halfway around the world, it's like I didn't have access to a movie camera. There wasn't any easy access to making film at all. It wasn't a thing that I would even think or dream about. It was just so foreign.

Growing up, I fared OK at school, but then when it came time for me to decide what I wanted to do in my life, I was lost. I didn't know what to do. Being Asian, we are very correctly stereotyped that we have a certain kind of paths that is preferred by society and none of that interested me, and I was really not headed anywhere. And I just did the newest, latest thing that was available to me in school, which was communication studies. So I took that [to] see where it takes me, where it goes. After graduation, I started a job in the local industry in Singapore, in television. My first job was at MTV. There I learned to make reality shows, how to shoot, how to direct something, how to write something.

I quickly realized that I really loved it. I loved the process of creation, storytelling, and collaborating with a group of people. It's like it's something that is not really available. It's a very unique flavor of passion. I love it so much that I'm like, "I can't do anything else." I tried going, doing something boring, and that totally didn't work out for me. So I think I'm going to film school, I want to further my understanding of how to make films. Right?

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

I came to the United States, I went to USC, graduated, and found my way around the industry. At USC, I think [the thing] that I took away was screenwriting. That was the most important thing. Right? Directing and cinematography. Interestingly, I didn't do an editing class because back home I had already done editing, my own thing. So to me, it's not the technical part that I lack. I felt that the screenwriting instead totally just filled out that. Now I'm looking at an emotional character arc. I'm tracing it along a chart of moving it from low points to high points to turning points, and all of that good stuff. And cinematography because where their craft ends on stage is where I come in and fill in. I know the director is trying to do this, but maybe sometimes on that day, there was fog. Right, Matt? We both had a fog. Then, you have to lose a bunch of performance and then you have to cut around it and you're like, "This is my best performance!" And you have to lose it. So how do you go about putting things together?

After I graduated from USC, bringing it back, I went into promos reality and trailer editing, and then I really learned all of my editing from there. So it's very strongly influencing what I do now. So I know I'm not editing trailers, but I'm bringing a lot of those little tricks that I learned from there. And whatever is applicable and scripted, where if it's not scripted, that's when I go, "Oh, OK, that's not scripted. I'm going to throw in a couple of stuff. Let's see what is in this bag that I can pull out and throw in there."

Yeah. So I did trailers for a very long time, and then it was only in 2020 that I switched to scripted editing as an AE. That's when I started my first job. It was on All Rise, a CBS/Warner Brothers courtroom drama, and that got canceled. Then, Matt was looking for an assistant and I was like, "Matt, do you want to be my mentor?" Well, it didn't really [come] out that way, but I basically spoke to Matt. I was like, "Matt, this is what I'm doing with my life. I'm looking for a mentor. What do you think? Would you work with me? And this is what I can offer, this is what I can bring to the table." And Matt very graciously scooped me up. Then, that was Inventing Anna, he took me to Anna. And then he was like, "OK, do you want to come to Bridgerton season two?" I did that with him. Then, when it came to Queen Charlotte, Matt gave me an opportunity to co-edit with him on episode 102, and that was how I got into Queen Charlotte.

Pevic: And we're currently on Bridgerton together as well. Bridgerton season three now.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: You touched on the amount of technical and storytelling know-how that you both need to have. How do you use the editing to stay in Queen Charlotte's perspective, most of the time?

Pevic: Yeah. We have an interesting task ahead of us. So we're telling a prequel, a story of an established character from the Bridgerton world and one of the fans' favorites. We're telling it from both periods, the time of Bridgerton, and then her early years as a young woman learning to become Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio).

So when we're in the Bridgerton era, Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is an established queen who's been around for a long time. In every scene that she is in, she dominates. It's her story. We all know who she is and we are learning from her. We're seeing the story from her perspective.

Young Charlotte is quite different actually. Early on there are a lot of, mostly men, but also women who are forming and informing Charlotte as to who she is and who she will become. While the opening Montage has a good deal of Charlotte, we see her run the gamut of emotions in that opening, and we see her from all perspectives.

Very quickly, we turn to a scene in a carriage between her and her brother, where her brother nearly dominates ... Even though she has a lot of the conversation, her brother takes over that scene. Throughout, especially episode one, her perspective is almost taken from her, often. It's George (Corey Mylchreest) who imposes his will on her, and the princess dowager also imposes her will on her.

So it's really fun, you don't realize that that is happening. When you're reading the script, you're reading each scene and you make that determination as you read the script, who does this belong to? Whose scene is this? It's not until you see all of the scenes together come together and you watch it as a whole that you realize, "Oh, that's pretty interesting. This isn't always about Queen Charlotte like we think it's going to be." It eventually is. By the last couple of episodes, it is dominated by young Charlotte and old Charlotte, but early on about everyone, and I think we're also trying to establish characters and understand everyone's perspectives so we can further tell her story.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Chan: Yeah, I think also looking at the full six episodes, because the way Shonda [Rhimes] has written this was very interesting because we are in block one, which means one and two. So going to one and two, we go into principal photography. Three and four [weren't] available to us, so we didn't know what was going to happen in three and four. Right? So a lot of times when we cut one and two even, it is very much from Charlotte's perspective, old and young. Right? But then as we got blocks two, three, and four, we realized that, "Oh wow, OK, so it's actually the same story, but it's now flipped and it's all from George's perspective." So that is interesting because I think by the time Matt and I realized that, "OK, this is what we are doing," we had cut quite a number of big scenes by then. I think even a meet-cute in Matt's episode was already cut. You already cut the first pass of it.

Pevic: Yeah. By the time we saw three and four, yeah. For sure.

Chan: Before we saw three and four. For my part of it, there was a scene that was in 102, it is in the observatory and it's between young King George and young Charlotte. Charlotte is finally confronting her husband, saying, "You left me in Buckingham House and I was dressed as a doll three to four times a day." Right?

All of that, when I was cutting it, I was very much by the time I saw that, OK, that's going to be three and four. So I'm like, I guess in two, my thing was to establish from Charlotte's point of view very heavily how she was experiencing it.

So I had cut it one way and then I showed it to Matt and Matt was more like, "Hey, maybe we should move it more towards George's perspective." The way that I work with Matt is I see Matt as my first producer. So everything I cut, I'm like, "Matt, what do you think?" And he will give me notes and then we'll talk about all sorts of things from perspective to subtext, to pacing.

I like to cut things faster because of my background. My process is also to learn to settle in and stretch things out. I'm making things more pronounced. The stuff that I wanted to be really quick, I'm like, OK, I'm just cutting it really quick, and the parts that I'm making it really slow. I'm extending those out by a lot.

Particularly in this observatory scene, there were many ways you can go about doing it. Do you focus a lot purely on Charlotte's perspective or do you bring in more of George's perspective? So Matt was like, "I think we should be feeling more of George." I went back and we did a bunch of stuff and put more George in. I feel like it was a great way to work between the two of us because really by the time this process of back and forth and shifting the perspective into the end of the second episode, you realize that George is really ill. So it starts to shift. So is it really Charlotte's perspective?

Then, we are easing into George and we start to understand George. Then when we go to the end of the episode, it's really like, OK, now we know the next one we are going to find out more about George. So as an overarching thing that we are paying attention to. I felt that was really, perspective-wise, that was a really fun way and a great way of working on it.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: You mentioned the meet-cute. In episode one when you have that meet-cute and then later on in the same episode, the big blowup—how do you approach both of those scenes?

Pevic: The meet-cute in particular, I mean, I remember when I first read that script that here was, this was the meat of the script right here. This was the scene. I have worked with Shonda for a long time. Back in the Scandal days, we would have something called a tone meeting where the writers and director, editor, a lot of the key crew members would get together and we'd go over the tone of the entire script. And inevitably Shonda would say, "That's my favorite scene." And you would get that and you would know, "Don't mess this one up. This is an important scene."

We didn't have that tone meeting for Queen Charlotte, but when I saw that scene, I told myself, "Don't mess this one up. Matt, this is the scene of the show where we fall in love with both of them, essentially." So perspective was extremely important in this.

One factor was the first character in that scene is the wall and her trying to get over that wall and this inanimate object that she's running up against over and over again. So definitely wanted to establish that wall and make it a part of the scene. Always, even early on when George first appears, that wall is very big ... Always in the background, always overshadowing the two of them as she's saying how badly she wants to escape this marriage.

Then, basically, once they finally connect and he grabs her hand and there's that first bit of human touch, everything, it was kind of a staccato pace, quick cuts back and forth, them fighting with one another. He grabs her hand, they touch one another, he says, "I'm George." And the bottom falls out of the scene and we're just with the two of them for extended periods of time. We're just longingly looking into either of their eyes and seeing that connection grow between the two of them, their two eyes connecting constantly.

Everything gets slowed down. We see the birds flying around the flowers and the bees buzzing around. It's lyrical. It becomes very lyrical at that moment. There's a lot of close-ups but also a lot of wides just to get the sense of this moment frozen in time for the two of them. OK. So there's that.

Then, we go to the next, that big scene, and that I would probably say is the second-biggest scene in the show. Maybe? There are a lot of second-biggest scenes. But that next scene where was all about establishing anticipation. So that was really about the buildup. We used Beyonce's "Halo" to set the stage that they are in heaven, these two riding in their carriage to their home together, and everything is going so beautifully. They're holding hands, they're falling in love. Then, there's a needle scratch moment and he says, "I'm not going with you to Buckingham House. This is your house. I'm going to Kew."

All of a sudden we get real wide, and actually the cinematography really helped us here and the location. We're in this giant hall, there's a lot of space that can be built between these two. We will feel the space between these two in the cinematography and in the shot selection.

As they're arguing back and forth early on the steps ... she's kind of pleading like, "Don't leave. This is my wedding night. What are you doing?" We are still in mediums and closeups, she's trying to establish this connection so desperately. As they walk into the hall and he finally yells at her, the perspective just shifts and we get real wide and we see her step back away from him and he doesn't know what to do.

So it's a lot of playing with wides and close-ups in those moments to help establish their distance, their emotional distance, their physical distance, and of course also being in tight with them to capture their emotions as best we can.

Yeah, and the only other thing I'll add is unique, I think we tried to hold off on music for as long as possible in that meet-cute because we just wanted to be with them and not be distracted by anything else. Whereas music was a really big part of the second scene and helped establish the rug that was about to be pulled out from under Charlotte. Sometimes using music can be helpful in its absence or as an emotional ballast.

Chan: And we also have the birds and bees providing ...

Pevic: Yes. Their beautiful commentary. Yes.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: And then for episode two, I did want to highlight that amazing montage. So do you want to talk about that and how you maintain storytelling without a lot of dialogue?

Chan: I think the main thing is to remember, you rightly said the storytelling. Right? It's like what is the most important story that we are telling? The whole series is about what it really means to be in a marriage. Right? And it is not a bed of roses for this kind of marriage.

Coming off episode one, we realize that he's not going to be there. She is all alone... She's lonely, but she's not all alone. She's surrounded by a lot of servants and people that she doesn't really care about being there, but the right person is not there. So that is really the story. We want to see how she unravels. Right?

When we got dailies, a lot of it was they way Shonda had written it. Shonda had written 20 pages of just pure montage. Right? Of the scenes of either people eating, she's eating with her servants, she's getting her hair down, and she's changing. Throughout the whole first say, 10 to 15 minutes, those images, strong images of reminding us that she is being dolled up. You know? She's like a puppet, almost a slave being subjected, to actions, activities, being done to her.

Going in, we knew that we needed to highlight the fact that he's not there without words. And we found an empty chair, they shot us an empty chair, and we're like, oh my God, the empty chair. And then Matt and I were talking, "We need to highlight the fact that he's not here." With every chance we have, whenever she's eating, she's at a table; we want to make sure that we see the empty chair. We had inserts shot later on at different table settings of day or night. So inserted all those empty, beautiful, storytelling empty chairs. Then, it was just music. Using the music to cut 10 to 15 minutes of montage as a story. Like Matt was saying, the absence of music is a piece of music in itself.

If we had Kris Bowers from the get-go, that would have been so much easier, but, in reality, we don't. So it's about finding 20 pieces of music that tell the story, but they don't naturally work together. To try to compose temp music, compose as in to stitch all these different things together to make it work because Shonda wants to hear the right music, even if it's not the actual music, she wants the emotion, the tone, the feel, even the instruments to work, before she would even want to look at what we are cutting in the story. So it became a very intense process of involving our music editor, Sean Spuehler, and us and Matt. We are just back and forth about we love this music, but it's not working for Shonda. Then, we need to switch it out.

So that was a lot to wrangle and put together to make something coherent that feels right. And then, of course, Kris Bowers came in the end and just created this beautiful score that just works so well. It sounds popular and familiar enough for you to really love the sound and the score, but yet it's not. It just helps to work with the visuals. So he just brought everything together. It's like, thank you, Kris.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: When I saw in the press notes it was a 20-page montage, I was like, "Whoa, that's quite a lot of montage." How much raw footage do you think you were working with? Did they shoot that?

Chan: Actually. Not really. I mean, coming from reality footage, I've dealt with 20, 30 hours of footage easily. Just to go through them and construct something out of that for montage that's maybe 30 seconds. So this is the reverse of that. This is, "I need more shots!"

For me, coming from a trailer background, I'm used to looking at a lot and hours and hours of footage and cutting it down. Here it's like the montage is shot in a different way. Because in reality, when you're cutting a montage, I have maybe 20 hours of footage, easy, just to make that montage. Here they are also shooting it as a scene. The montage is shot as a scene, where five characters are doing the same, coming in, placing table decorations on the table, and some, it's continuous. So montage cutting is not montage cutting, but continuity. It's a mix of continuity and montage mashing all of that together and having the illusion that it's continuous but it's really not continuous. So that makes it challenging.

Pevic: Yeah, I mean I would say, you might see on the page one sentence and it says, "And now Charlotte changes her shoes," you're going to get three shots maximum of her changing her shoes. You might get a wide shot, you might get a medium, and you might get two closeups from different angles. They don't need to shoot more than that. We don't expect them to. They shouldn't. I mean, they don't have time. They're on a schedule too. So they shoot what is called for, plain and simple.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: Do you have advice for maintaining tension in your edits?

Pevic: Yeah, I would say every scene you're looking for the power dynamic in a scene, especially a two-person scene. One person has the power over the other and if you can find that and establish that, you can create a pretty good tension.

Also pace. Be aware people are sitting down to watch this so you want to keep a fair pace to everything, even a slow scene, you want to be aware of your viewers' interest and time watching the show.

Chan:Yeah, I like [to] approach tension as I think of a rubber band. Right? Imagine a rubber band that you're stretching in your hands physically. All right? The audience is watching me stretch this rubber band, and I keep stretching and keep stretching, and it's stretching. Imagine if you put a little baby, a child toddler holding the same rubber band, and he's just happily stretching, stretching. Now the audience knows what's going to happen if you keep stretching a rubber band. At some point, it's going to snap and break, and the baby's going to be hurt. But you don't cut to the baby being hurt and screaming and crying, and you just see him stretching and stretching.

So elongating what the audience knows is going to come, but they don't really know what's going to come when it's going to come. So I guess it's about playing with the audience's knowledge, what the audience knows that the character in the scene doesn't know and just manipulating, I guess. There are moments when people will be like, "Oh, I can't watch this. I know this is going to happen." So you want to make those cringe moments whenever you can find them when it's appropriate to your story. So to me, that's building tension.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

NFS: What are mistakes that you see others making early on that you would want to address immediately to say, "Let's not do this"?

Pevic: So ,the first one I'm going to say is, tradition exists for a reason. Think about the traditional storytelling method, which is of course starting off with your wide shot—it's called an establisher, you're establishing the story—and then leading into medium shots because maybe the tension hasn't been ratcheted up yet. And then as the motions get more intense and more intense, you might be starting to cut into closeups. Of course not so rote as you're just feeling wide, medium, medium, closeup, closeup. But you do really want to start from that base.

I think early on, all of us as auteurs want to break those rules and you have the opportunity to break those rules because directors are very smart and they will give you specialty shots that will not start in a wide shot. It might be a oner, or it might be starting from an object and panning to someone else, whatever, some specialty shot that they've come up with that's really elegant and beautiful and tells the story visually.

I would say the number one for me is starting from there. Always start from there and then break that rule every once in a while if you see it just becoming boring and rote.

Then, I have one other one, which is ... actors are charismatic and wonderful and beautiful and they have their own objectives to be featured on screen for as long as possible and that's no joke. I mean, of course, they do that. We want to see them, too. We want to see them emote and act and see them in all of their charisma for sure.

However, sometimes I get lost as an audience member; if I see two actors talking, and one says a line, we stick with the person who said the line. Then for a beat or two to show the aftermath of them saying that line, we cut to the next person, and we're with them taking it in for a beat or two, and then they say their line, and you go back and forth like that, and you milk them for every single moment of their acting ability. That can get a little tedious. I would give the advice of looking for one or the other, look for either after the line, that actor might give you something that might be punctuation on the line that they say or look for a reaction, but try not to do both because I was watching a film with great actors on screen, charismatic, lovely, and well written.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Chan:Yeah. I think for me I learned that sometimes, especially the editors that had filmmaking experience coming in, we can get a little bit too precious. I mean, I certainly, because I went to film school and I was making films, and I was a producer and back in my days, in my past life. So sometimes you have a very strong view of what you really want to do.

When you're editing, you are actually being of service to somebody else. Right? Your responsibility is to bring their vision, it's to convey their story, their vision, their point of view. So it's that, you got to turn your head around and it's like, how do I best serve this purpose and how do I fit in here?

That is something. So hopefully, as you grow along your career, you will have learned so many different traits that if they want something that is drastically different from what maybe you had in mind that would work or they had something in mind, but that didn't happen in production, or somehow the writing did not translate on screen. However, they still want to make that happen; you have to be able to dig something out of your bag of tricks and help them achieve to get to that same vision. Hopefully, it's that same vision.

Then, you're just like, "Okay, let's see what we can do," by cheating looks, from a different scene maybe. But it's from the same set, they're in the same costume or whatever. Or to be even intercutting different scenes together because maybe a scene is flat and is not really doing its thing maybe. So you have to come up with ways to maybe even intercut it, but you might not necessarily present it to producers and directors because then you have it in your back pocket.

It is important not to get precious about your own work, and always be ready to have creative options in your back pocket. It's about understanding which battles are truly worth fighting. Everything we do as editors is in the service of the story, and helping the directors/showrunners achieve their vision of the story. Having creative feedback from your own team early on can also really help to flash out your ideas and your execution. Do not be afraid to say you don't know how something works, and always ask for advice. Just don't forget to have fun.

'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story''Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Pevic: As artists in editorial, and also as professionals, it is essential for us to shrink our egos as much as possible, as Denise said, "Don't be too precious with your work." Sometimes this is easier said than done. We are basically the last caretakers charged with getting the script to screen. Our main function as editors is to elevate the material as best we can. If we believe we've achieved this, it's hard not to fall in love with the work. But sometimes, the creator/s have different ideas in mind for how the story might be told. So I've developed a few tools over the years to help me curate the creator's vision from the get-go. Also to understand that what I've assembled isn't always set in stone.

I've learned that (especially in television which is considered a writer's medium) reading the script a few times can be tremendously helpful for understanding the theme of the episode and grasping the subtexts that the directors and actors will focus on in their performances. This way, I don't go down a misleading rabbit hole of my own. It is especially helpful if I am not able to speak with the director or showrunner about the script before production begins. So, I will read the script in its entirety once or twice before the footage is shot and then when we receive the dailies for a particular scene, I'll make sure to read that particular scene one more time to see if there is anything to look out for (or even elevate) in the subtleties of the actors' performances. Reading the scene before viewing the dailies helps me lay out a cutting pattern before I even look at the footage. It gives me a plan of attack—a clear objective for the scene which actually speeds up the process of editorial. It can instruct me as to whether sound design will be a significant element in the design of the scene. It also helps me understand where I might temp in a piece of score to add tension or levity to the drama.

Once the scene is complete, it is always good to show it to someone else, most likely a co-worker. For me, Denise is my go-to first viewer, to get initial thoughts on the scene. Was I able to convey everything that I saw in the script? Did she see something different in the story, subtext, or in the footage that I overlooked? Was there a continuity error I missed? Once those questions are answered, I can refine them from there. This helps protect me when the time comes to show the Editor's Cut to the Director and then the Director's Cut to the Producer. It is hard not to feel vulnerable when you are showing a piece of your hard-fought effort to a compatriot, but it helps inform your edit for future screenings, giving you the ability to defend your cut when you're inevitably asked why you have made one of the thousands of decisions that go into putting a television show together. And when you don't have a suitable answer, change it. After all, you've decided nothing is too precious!