Dean Zimmerman and Casey Cichocki (‘Stranger Things’ editors) used a Kate Bush song to balance epic scale with intimacy [Exclusive Video Interview]

“Season 4 is not nine episodes to us,” explains “Stranger Things” editor Dean Zimmerman of the super-sized entry, “it’s just one big, gigantic, twelve and a half hour movie.” Zimmerman is Emmy nominated for Best Single-Camera Picture Editing alongside Casey Cichocki for the episode “Chapter Four: Dear Billy.” Cichocki concurs with the assessment that the pair focused on the season as a whole, noting “you might be cutting things for four episodes downstream.” But, “Dear Billy” serves as a prime example of the approach this duo used for the entire story, which aimed to balance the epic scope with intimate emotion. Watch our exclusive video interview above.

Zimmerman is sure that his existing shorthand with “Dear Billy” director Shawn Levy contributed to a smooth process for the episode. “We’re basically just one hivemind,” suggests the editor, “We both wear our hearts on our sleeve.” A penchant for leaning into the character-driven emotions of a scene was a major factor which helped change up the pace for this episode, and the season as an entity. “Normally we are cutting at a breakneck pace,” admits Zimmerman, “But this season we were allowed to pump the breaks a little bit and let things breathe.”

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One such moment occurs when Max (Sadie Sink) reads a gut-punch of a letter to her dead brother Billy at his gravesite. The editors allow the camera to linger on the performance as the actress delivers the powerful monologue. This dip in pace gives the next sequence even more impact: Max is sucked into the villainous Vecna’s mind lair and faces certain doom as her friends desperately throw her a life line back to reality with a now iconic Kate Bush song.

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“One of the things that I think unlocked being able to be even deeper into the emotional side of really feeling for Max, was the ‘Running Up That Hill’ song with the underlay that was done for it,” reveals Cichocki. The editors elaborate that there was an orchestral element added underneath the song to help it rise in intensity during the scene. Cichocki constructed a montage of flashbacks to build along with the song to ultimately propel Max into an epic run for her life. He describes these tools as being essential to “give us some insight into the emotions that Max is going through.”

This marks Zimmerman’s third Emmy nomination. He won an Emmy Award for “Stranger Things” in 2017 and was nominated again in 2020 for the Season 3 finale “The Battle of Starcourt.” This is Cichocki’s first Emmy nomination.

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