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Piecing Together The “Deadliest Catch” World: An Interview With Editor Josh Earl

By Marjorie Galas

Working on “Deadliest Catch” has been a dream for editor Josh Earl. After joining the series as an assistant editor at the end of season one, he was soon promoted to editor and cutting his own episodes by season three.  Now, twelve seasons into “Deadliest Catch”, Earl remains committed to the stories behind the crabber’s icy escapades.  His seven Emmy nominations and five consecutive wins have fueled his desire to constantly elevate his work on the show.

“I never thought any of this would happen,” said Earl. “The Emmy wins help drive that push to lift the bar higher.”

Production for “Deadliest Catch” typically begins in December and runs through July. Throughout that period, footage is delivered from cameras running 24 hours daily on seven boats, with additional coverage coming from aerial and underwater units, as well as surveillance footage – some of which is provided by the Coast Guard. Earl and his team easily receive over 30,000 hours of footage from this diverse variety of sources to sift through per a season.

The show’s producers and story producers set the shooting schedule dates months in advance of air dates. This allows them to observe developing story lines as they unfold, mindful of the “Deadliest Catch” documentary-style editing.  There are also associate producers who are each assigned a specific boat, allowing for mindful observation over every thread coming in.  Despite conferring on these general outlines with the editing team, all delivered footage is logged for easy reference.  Earl has a team mining these records for sequences that relate to events that took place in past episodes and seasons, or moments that will pique a viewer’s attention.  The assistance of the team allows Earl and his fellow lead editors nurture each developing story line with focused eyes.  The editors meet with story editors as threads are coming together to create cohesive arcs that are explored throughout the season’s 18 episodes.

Earl credits the adventurous nature and dedication of the crew as the backbone of “The Deadliest Catch.” To assist the camera team– many of whom are also seasoned vets of the show – Earl began making set visits during the ninth season.  This allowed him to speak directly with the crew and camera department and illustrate how he edits their footage.   The visit also gave Earl the chance to experience the environment from a different perspective; one that continues to inform his editing decisions.

“It was awesome to be there. It was so beautiful, but also so gritty and raw,” said Earl.

Earl loves being an “old timer” on the set of “Deadliest Catch” and has no plans to depart the show anytime soon. While his editing background was built in the reality genre, he has had some opportunities to dabble in narrative fare, including working on a few “The Walking Dead” webisodes.  Having fully enjoyed the experience, he hopes there will be more opportunities to engage in these avenues further down the line.

“You use a different muscle group, but there is a place in my heart for all genres,” said Earl.