Robert Komatsu Interview: ‘Mrs. America’ editor
While splitting up the episodes of “Mrs. America” among three film editors might seem like something that could create confusion, Robert Komatsu says that the arrangement was actually very beneficial for all involved. “It was great because you have two partners that you can collaborate with. We would screen episodes for each other and comment on each other’s work,” says Komatsu in our recent webchat (watch the video above). One specific example he gave was how he and Emily Greene worked back and forth with each other in order to create the large titles that would display during an episode. “We both tried it in our rooms and she said, ‘I made it pretty big.’ Then we went into my room and mine took up the whole frame and she liked it.”
“Mrs. America” chronicles the years long struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban discrimination based on sex, into the United States Constitution. The program scored 10 Emmy nominations this year including Limited Series, Movie/Limited Actress (Cate Blanchett) and Movie/Limited Picture Editing for Komatsu. He’s specifically nominated for the show’s first episode, “Phyllis.” It’s his first career Emmy nomination.
One of the challenges that Komatsu encountered in editing the first episode was that the directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, decided they wanted a split-screen sequence to show Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett) sending out her newsletters. This was a challenge because it wasn’t called for in the original script. He sent them a few concepts and they settled on a style that was very much in the mold of the 1970s. Rather than looking sleek, it looked more chunky with different panels of different sizes placed asymmetrically around the screen. There was also another issue that he had. “It was also challenging because it wasn’t even completely shot by the time I showed my editors cut. It was scheduled to be shot over a series of months afterwards.” This lead him to use footage of Blanchett from other scenes as a temporary fill-in.
Komatsu was not only surprised by his nomination but was surprised about the timing of how he found out, even though he knew when the nominations were being announced. He watched the Leslie Jones presentation but didn’t realize that the complete list of nominees dropped at the exact same time. “All of a sudden I started getting emails and texts and phone calls. I was like, what’s happening, and that’s how found out. It was very crazy, exciting and fun morning.”