When cutting an episode of FX’s The Bear editor Joanna Naugle, ACE cooks up much more than just an assembly of shots to progress the narrative. Instead, Naugle is like a chef herself, combining just the right mix of ingredients at takes viewers on a culinary journey onto the the floor of an intense kitchen, in and out of the minds of complex characters each adding their own unique flavors, topped with a heavy dose of grief and all the emotion that drives this family, of sorts. The Bear drops viewers right into the middle of a situation ready to boil over then finds the pauses, the quiet moments between simmering with the characters and their unspoken thoughts.
Awards Radar spoke with Naugle in a lengthy and engrossing conversation about her Emmy-nominated work on the FX series. Each answer revealed just how immersed the editor is in the series, going well beyond video editing; exploring, analyzing, observing, and collaborating to make The Bear the deliciously captivating series that earned 13 Emmy nominations for its first season.
Naugle working relationship with show creator and writer Christopher Storer began a few years ago on Ramy and continues into season two. It is a true collaboration where both parties listen to and respect the other’s ideas, leaving ego at the door in pursuit of the perfectly prepared dish. The results can be seen across work and the overwhelming positive reactions from critics, viewers, and across social media.
Season two’s “Fishes” (an episode I called “a masterpiece”) does not happen without the editor’s eye for nuance; a raised eyebrow, a wince, a quiver, the hint of a smile. As editor Naugle sifts through endless footage to find just the right recipe of emotion, energy, and humanity that taps into the souls of the characters and audience.
Below are some excerpts from the conversation with Naugle. It touches upon much of what makes The Bear roar. Each response made me appreciate the work put into the series even more while giving me the appetite for another viewing to explore the characters and world of The Beef from a new perspective. While the quotes below are fascinating cover a lot, I highly recommend listening to the full interview because it really conveys the passion, skill, and energy Naugle brings to The Bear.
On the original explanation of goals for what ‘The Bear’ would be:
“I remember Josh (Josh Senior, EP on The Bear), first telling me about the show and him saying, ‘You know, it’s gonna be a story of the chef and it’s really a story about grief, but it’s also about a group of people coming together, learning how to work together, how to communicate, how to collaborate, and about family; our biological family and our chosen family.’ They described it to me, as ‘We want to do it in the style of like a 70 Scorsese film,’ which I’m a huge fan of Thelma Schoonmaker. So I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, if I get to imitate her editing style, sign me up, that’s a dream project.’ From the beginning, they really were emphasizing the pace of it and how they wanted to tell the story in a very intense and a rapid way that really engages the viewer right from the beginning. Seeing those first dailies, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe they’re talking over each other so much.’ And then I was like, ‘Okay, right, this is the point. Let’s lean into it.’ And pretty soon I was hooked. I love the way that they shoot it. I love the way that the the performers really lean into that comfortability with each other. You really believe these are people who have known each other for years and have a shared history and have all these layers of dynamics. I love being able to bring that out in the edit, whether that’s with a reaction shot, or with a specific song that recurs for a character. There are lots of great ways to hint at this larger shared history between them and all these connections that have have made The Beef and then The Bear what it is.”
On creator Chris Storer’s vision for the pilot:
“What Chris wanted the episode to be, I think he literally told me, “We should feel like we’re drowning. We’re literally just there with Carmy trying to make sense of everything, not having any kind of solid ground to stand on.” I think he didn’t want to spend a lot of time with exposition, it was like, Okay, this is our show, we’re gonna just put you right into, you know, turn it up to 100 right away and just give people enough so they get the setting, get the idea and just enough to keep them interested knowing that later in the series, we’re going to get a little bit more involved in his backstory and explain a little bit more about these characters. Just give people a taste of what’s to come and enough intrigue that they’ll hopefully watch the whole first episode and you know, see where this cast of characters is going to take us.”
Using editing to quickly get viewers into Carmy’s (Jeremy Allen White) head and world without exposition:
“We spent a lot of time on that montage making things all kind of happening at once making it seem like Carmy is doing a million things while also trying to emphasize with cross dissolves, he loves the kitchen this is a place where he finds so much beauty and creativity but also there’s all these distractions and kind of like things like Whack-a-Mole almost where you see ball breakers, getting the media selling machines, and also putting in there also actual photos of Jeremy you know, the actor, and other photos of the Berzatto family who we don’t even know yet but you’re just starting to get a sense of this person. history, the beautiful Chicago, and then yeah, getting, you know, kind of setting us up to be like, Okay, this is like the overview of this person. Now let’s get into it a little deeper throughout the series.”
“Let’s listen to what the footage is telling us and not try to fight what’s there already. Reading the script gets me excited about it, but it’s not till I see the footage that I actually am like, ‘Okay, I’m already starting to have ideas of what’s the music that’s gonna go here.’ If it’s a panic attack sequence, we reuse so much footage throughout each season. Anytime Carmi is freaking out, it’s like, ‘Okay, what is he thinking about?’ Let’s pull a clip from Michael (Jon Bernthal) from episode six and season one. Let’s pull you know, the bear that we see in the very first scene of the whole show. We definitely try to reuse that footage throughout. Because it creates these like visual motifs and it really shows us the type of stuff that’s we’re like rattling around in Carmy’s brain.”
On using different pacing to allow viewers time to learn about each character in the ‘family’:
“That’s definitely something we leaned into even more in season two, because we have a little bit more of like capsule episodes for some of the characters. We were talking about Marcus’s (Lionel Boyce) episode where he goes to Copenhagen. That’s the first time we’re leaving Chicago, it’s kind of the first time we’re really kind of like going into Marcus’s point of view, but more. And the word that kept coming up was ‘meditative,’ like the way that he approaches life is so much quieter and a little bit more like thoughtful maybe than some of the other characters in the show.”
“I think that works so well and taking us into Marcus’s point of view and also departure, a departure from everybody else. And similarly for Sydney’s (Ayo Edebiri) episode, which was episode three, where we’re kind of on that food journey with her and she’s thinking about new recipes to try at the at The Bear. That was also another one where we really wanted the pacing to feel different and we shot it a lot more like a documentary and speaking of flashes of different things. We were really trying to connect to like this creative process of her going out and exploring and trying all this different food and then taking this riverboat tour and seeing the parmesan cheese like it or seeing the snow falling, remade or think of parmesan cheese falling on a plate or the the shapes of the windows made her think of ravioli – really trying to connect those things. Having kind of those fast paced montages was hopefully a reflection of how her brain works. She’s someone who always has like a million things rattling around in her head. She’s so talented and she’s so creative – how do we make that come through in with the visuals? That was a really fun thing to figure out to have just feeling like ‘Oh, I feel like I’m in her head watching the synapses go off,’ as opposed to an episode that’s more Carmy focused.
On observing people and using it to build tension:
“I just really find myself always drawn to close up footage. Luckily, that’s something Chris really leans into also on The Bear. I just love kind of watching a tape and seeing like a slight microexpression or the way someone’s eyebrows will move or when someone chooses to blink. I feel like those are all things I like to zero in on, especially in the edit – probably also in real life, just trying to read people’s faces for mannerisms and tracking their emotional reaction or response to certain things going on, I always try to use as many reaction shots as possible, especially for the big dinner scene, for example, in episode six (“Fishes”), we used so many reaction shots, just because it was almost less about what people were saying and more about how everybody at the table was reacting to what was going on. That’s what built the tension. That’s what created this like dynamic of some people are really comfortable with this chaos that’s going on and some people look mortified and that created more tension in the room. I find that just watching somebody, watching to see how somebody reacts to a certain situation is often even more interesting than hearing the person say, a line or hearing hearing what’s going on while looking at that character.”
Watch Joanna’s incredible work on season one and two of The Bear, now streaming on Hulu.