Editor Stacey Schroeder On The Emmy Nominated Pilot For “The Last Man On Earth”
Calling herself “editor” is still something Stacey Schroeder is savoring. After years of paying her dues in the edit suite working as an assistant or first assistant editor, Schroeder graduated to helming the department on series including “Eastbound and Down”, “You’re the Worst” and “Garfunkel and Oates.” Thanks to her outstanding contributions on the 2015 Breakout comedy “The Last Man on Earth,” Schroeder must now get used to placing “Emmy0nominated” in front of her editor title.
“The series was a delight to work on. I never expected anything like this,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder became aware of the project through a producer on “You’re the worst.” While she was aware of the work done by Will Forte, the creator of “The Last Man on Earth”, and the show’s executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, she didn’t know what to expect of their concept. After reading the pilot script, she was extremely enthusiastic about the material. She met with Lord and Miller at Fox on a Friday afternoon to discuss that possibility. That evening, she had a message informing her she had the job.
Working in conjunction with editor Daniel Haworth, Schroeder was in charge of editing all the odd number episodes, including her Emmy nominated pilot, “Alive in Tucson.” In this episode, viewers are introduced to a not-so-distant future where the Earth’s population has been decimated by a deadly virus. Forte’s character, Phil Miller )a name pranking on the show’s executive producers_ travels across the US, looking for any survivors and collecting memorabilia from national landmarks along his route. Convinced he is the last man on Earth, he settles in Arizona after leaving desperate messages on nearby billboards declaring “Alive in Tucson.” Schroeder’s biggest editing challenge in this episode was to find ways to make the solo character relatable and engaging to viewers. As the series progresses, the character makes some dark choices. Establishing likability early on was crucial.
“We were very careful about revealing his face. We wanted to get the audience excited to meet him, so in the cutting room we agreed to wait for the reveal,” said Schroeder.
Any scenes early on that introduced Phil appear as long shots or carefully chosen side views. Once Phil is fully revealed, an enormous, two year plus growth of unruly beard conceals his face. Schroeder had to watch for physical moments and small gestures that could help convey emotions the character was experiencing.
“I was affected by the beard. I’d look closely at his eyes and watch for little movements,” said Schroeder.
As new characters began entering Phil’s life, ensuring a balance between comedy, likability and the dark emotions continued to provide challenges in the edit suite. His newfound freedom as the world’s last man tapped into feelings of entitlement and authority he hadn’t previously experienced. Each new entry into his Tucson home chips away at this power. Strict attention to pacing became crucial to balance the harsh reactions and the humor in his pureness of his humanity to ensure he remained likable. Schroeder relied upon her experiences editing the improv heavy “Eastbound and Down” to discover the perfect moments to capture the small moment the secured this balance.
“The Last Man on Earth” was Schroeder’s first network experience. Recognizing there are not many shows like “Last Man” on network television, she applauds Fox for having the believe viewers would embrace the weird choices Forte and the crew were making. Despite his presence in virtually every scene, Forte always made time to visit the edit suite and spend hours reviewing footage and providing notes. She was thrilled to learn the show was embraced and renewed for a second season. While she’s happy for everyone involved, she had an opportunity to fulfill her personal goal of editing a motion picture, and will not be returning for season two.
“It certainly was sad, I see them all as dear friends,” said Schroeder. “I had been really interested in getting involved with features, and the opportunity came up. I’m working on a (yet unannounced feature) with Universal. It’s bittersweet.”