I love professional sports, there's so much drama on and off the court. But when TV shows about that drama come out, they often miss the beats of the story that I felt like drew me in to begin with.

Well, that's not the case for the FX show Clipped, which covers the NBA's Donald Sterling incident with hilarity and humility.

At the heart of the show is its editing, done by Susana Benaim. Her deft touch allows the scenes to seamlessly flow, and the story to unfold.

Check out our conversation below!

Clipped | Official Trailer | Laurence Fishburne, Jacki Weaver, Cleopatra Coleman, Ed O'Neill | FXwww.youtube.com

No Film School: Clipped is unique in that audiences likely recall the events of the show. How did you ensure that the editing style contributed to creating this sensation of virility for the audience, while also making the show feel fresh and new?

Susana Benaim: Gina Welch, our showrunner, was very intentional in her approach to telling the story with pacing and humor. She wanted each storyline to feel almost like they would crash into each other. With that in mind, we played with the ebb and flow of the pacing throughout the series to up the ante accordingly. Between almost every scene there are sound and visual style transitions that we made sure we had in the edit. For example, in the pilot, after Shelly’s conversation with her friends, she nods and we hear some glass clinking sounds in the restaurant; then we cut to a close up of V’s hand holding a champagne glass at the game in the next scene.

Another huge part of bringing the virality to the show came with the scrolls. We were able to hit the highest speed of the scrolls in the cold open of the pilot, and then, we slowed them down once we came to the top of our story arc so we could build once more to when the tape comes out. We wanted to feel that difference in the speed of how the internet and social media moves versus how our regular lives do.

NFS: You have mentioned that you had more influence in setting the tone and style of Clipped than in your previous projects. Could you elaborate on how you approached this creative freedom and what specific elements you focused on to shape the series' unique tone?

Benaim: Gina and I had many conversations about how this was a show about a viral event taking place on social media, and the idea came to us that the internet should be a character and the action in that world should be happening in parallel to our story. With that in mind, I brought a few rough options to show Gina what the internet could look like, and one of them was of sliding stories from left to right, similar to how Tinder works. Gina liked the idea, but she insisted that the internet really moved vertically. That was our “a-ha!” moment, and once we knew the “infinite scroll” already existed at the time of the scandal, we were off!

FX was excited to see our mockups of the scrolls in the cold open of the pilot, and they agreed that we should move forward with this idea. We quickly started having conversations with the team at Barnstorm VFX who really helped us bring the scrolls to life.

Another area I had a lot of creative freedom in, was in how to translate the scrolls into our flashback episode (episode 4). We tried so many variations of the scrolls, from creating a custom MySpace page for V, to creating moments from viral videos like the “Numa Numa” guy, to even mocking up Shelly’s emails. There were a slew of ideas, but none of them quite fit for our show.

One night, I was speaking to my husband about wanting to look for examples of scenes where they are able to play with time in an unusual way. He brought up the style in Requiem for a Dream, edited by Jay Rabinowitz, and that was the lightbulb moment into what became the “rewinds” in the top of each of the acts in Episode 4. I think I mocked up one or two versions for Gina the next morning and she immediately got excited about the potential.

Together, alongside our amazing team (Anne Madariaga, Leo Kessler, Dan Scott, Genesis Henriquez, Justin Epifanio, and Jon Martin, especially!), we thought through what moments in history we could use to rewind us into each storyline. It was a huge undertaking to find the correct pieces, that were historically accurate, and that we could clear, to piece together those rewinds. I am so grateful for how our team jumped on to help us take the rewinds and the scrolls and make them as impactful as they became, and I am truly proud of the result.

Susana Benaim in the edit bay. Flynn Mitchell

NFS: How did your collaboration with showrunner Gina Welch help in balancing the show’s tough subject matter with the eccentricities of the one percent?

Benaim: The scripts, just like the original story, were wild and eccentric, so I had the fortune of having a great base to tell this story from. Gina is a dream collaborator. I feel so lucky that I got to work with her in person and play around with the edit the way we did. My favorite part of the job is collaboration and creative problem solving, and Gina was always open to ideas on how to tell the best story possible.

Many of the hard to swallow micro and macro aggressions you see in the show were already written into the script, so we had to find the balance with some levity in scenes where we thought it was appropriate. Gina asked me to really make the weirdness shine, so I had to hunt for performances and looks from our cast that made me laugh or made me uncomfortable. For example, there is a moment in the white party in the pilot where Andy comes up to Doc and they awkwardly stand there in silence for a good 20 or so seconds. Gina thought it was hilarious and it ended up in the final version of the pilot.

NFS: Clipped deals with several complex themes. What were some of the biggest editing challenges you faced in portraying these intricate narratives effectively?

Benaim: Because the show has an ensemble cast, one of our biggest challenges was to be able to connect emotionally with each one and tell the many sides of the story while threading the careful needle of humor throughout. Thankfully, we had heavyweight actors Ed O’Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Cleopatra Coleman, and Jacki Weaver as our leads because they brought so much depth to their characters and brought out their eccentricities in their performances as well. I had so much great footage to work with and I had the ability to turn the notches up or down to create the most enthralling scenes I could.

When you’re telling a story about systemic racism, there are so many avenues to take in terms of the perspective we choose to tell it from. What was tricky with Clipped, is that we were actually able to discuss race from a few different perspectives and make them true to each character. The tape is the start of the viral event, but what makes information spread, is all the different takes on the same issue. You’d have people on all sides commenting on social media back then. In the show, it parallels this ongoing discussion with so many of the characters. A great example is in Episode 3, when the whole team is deciding whether or not to play. You have different perspectives on what was the right thing to do in the midst of this chaos, and you might find as a viewer that you land on a specific side and you empathize with a specific argument. The players got a lot of backlash for deciding to play back then, but when you see the context of what they were up against and listen to this conversation, you may find that that decision must have been incredibly difficult for the team.

NFS:Clipped is based on the popular ESPN 30 for 30 podcast “The Sterling Affairs.” How did you approach the adaptation of the podcast into a visual medium?

Benaim: My approach is always to tell the best version of the story based on the performances in the footage I receive. So I think I had more of a hand in finding the stylistic language of the series than in adapting the actual podcast. Gina and our writers did all of the heavy lifting in terms of adapting the podcast into a script, and our amazing directors, Kevin Bray, Francesca Gregorini, and Michael Blieden, translated those into the exceptional footage that came into the edit. That being said, the podcast and all the research we inherited, was a wonderful base of information that we consistently used for the show.

NFS: You previously worked on another popular limited series based on a true story in The Dropout. How did that previous experience shape your work on Clipped?

Benaim: Yes, it’s pretty funny because I don’t set out to do shows that are based on a true story, but I’ve done a few so far. Character psychology and story are really what draws me to a project. That, and the amazing creative leads behind these shows. I had such a wonderful time working on The Dropout—I learned so much from Liz Merriwether and I cannot express how grateful I am I was able to work with her.

Liz taught me how to think further outside the box when we were faced with any creative problems while still working within the confines of a true story. On The Dropout, we had a few issues come up because the Elizabeth Holmes’ trial was going on while we were in the edit, and new information came out from time to time that we had to adjust some scenes accordingly. The show had wrapped filming, so we had to work within the footage we had whilst still keeping truth in the storytelling.

Because of that experience, in Clipped, I knew better how to break, stretch, and rethink the footage to tell the story with a fresh new take while still being true to the events that occurred. I am so grateful to the women at the helm of these shows for setting up environments where we could collaborate and play so freely to make the best shows possible.

NFS: You recently wrapped editing on Hurricanna, directed by Francesca Gregorini. How does your approach differ when working on a feature film compared to a limited series like Clipped? Are there any particular skills or perspectives that you find transferable between the two formats?

Benaim: In Clipped, we had a lot of different moving parts and a social media phenomenon that effected how we approached the cutting of the series. Whereas in Hurricanna, the story takes place in the course of one crazy weekend. So that informed how we approached the editing of the film—Francesca wanted to make it feel like you could barely hold your breath in some moments and very uncomfortable in others.

I always start by cutting based on performances that I respond to. The style is dependent on each story, and that story will inform the style in which it is cut. My biggest takeaway that is transferable no matter the story is to find an organic and intentional way to tell it.

NFS: As a Junior Mentor for the ACE Diversity Mentorship Program, how do you incorporate your mentoring experiences into your professional work? What advice would you give to aspiring editors who are just starting their careers?

Benaim: I actually just got involved with the CalState University Entertainment Alliance Advisory Council since I just concluded my second year as a Junior Mentor for the ACE Diversity Mentorship Program (it’s a two year position). I’m hoping to make an impact at CalState in helping young diverse talent find a path into the industry.

I like to mentor within the cutting room with my assistant editors, just like my mentors did with me. It’s imperative to create an environment of openness for growth and creativity. I love hearing opinions from my assistants and giving them notes on scenes they’ve cut. It also makes me a better editor as I get to watch their work critically and not only out of habit. It’s part of my creative process and essential to build and have those relationships in the cutting room.

I’m a lifelong learner, and have yet to find one job that hasn’t challenged me to think in a new way or learn a new skill. My recommendation is to read books on editing and the industry like Make the Cut, In the Blink of an Eye, and Don't Miss Out On Any Avocado Milkshakes. Watch scenes you’re inspired by, and study them. And most importantly, reach out to people whose work you admire and take them to coffee! Most people who work in this field are happy to help newcomers, myself included. If I can make it here, as someone who grew up abroad and didn’t know anyone in this industry when I moved to LA, you can do it too.