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On a crisp January morning, the Breaking Bad crew huddles against a concrete spillway in Albuquerque. They're here to get one shot: It's at this location where Jesse will come to a decision that, as the episode's director Michael Slovis tells me, "pushes all the stories forward" in the final eight episodes. But first, the sun has to rise.
Aaron Paul emerges from his trailer wearing a fur-lined parka, which he'll shed before filming starts. (Gennifer Hutchison, the episode's writer, explains that the show maintains a constant "spring" look, meaning the actors always wear light jackets. "So in the summer they're sweltering," she says, "and now they're freezing.") His hair has grown longer since last we saw him, as has his beard. "Jesse's so haggard," Paul laughs. "I feel bad for him."
"We've got sun!" a crew member shouts, sparking a frenzy of activity. Paul quickly sheds the parka and positions himself on top of a crate. At his feet is what Hutchison calls the "smallest circular track ever," which will carry a camera 360 degrees around Paul as the scene develops. Slovis calls "action" and Paul's demeanor instantly shifts as he becomes Jesse, right before everyone's eyes.
Breaking Bad editor and podcast host Kelley Dixon talks about having to keep Walt's secrets on the podcast and her favorite edits from the show.
Q: You've edited many of the big meth montages throughout the series, going back to the Pilot. What makes you such an expert on the visuals of meth-making?
A: I'm not an expert at all on meth-making! [Laughs] Even when I cut the first montage in the Pilot I didn't even know what order the steps were supposed to be in. I freaked out a little bit, because I didn't want it to come out wrong. I was assured that the steps were shot in order, so I just looked for visually interesting shots and cut them together. Then I messed around with speed of them and jump-cutting them, and it ended up that Vince [Gilligan] just loved it.
Q: Have you done any montages for the upcoming season?
A: I can't tell you that!
Q: What sorts of shots do you look for when editing your episodes?
A: Vince really likes wide shots. He likes things to look very cinematic and not at all like television. So we don't use a lot of close-ups on peoples' faces, which you see a lot of in television. Instead, we like to use shots that are more complex with people in the foreground as well as the person we're focused on. Then even if you do see a closeup on the show, we'll cut back to a wider shot so you can see more of what's happening. And that's really unique.
Breaking Bad's Executive Producer and Director Michelle MacLaren talks about making Albuquerque look like Germany and drawing inspiration from Wedding Crashers.
Q: You've become one of the go-to directors for Breaking Bad's biggest episodes: Hank's shootout in Season 3, the prison murders in Season 5... which was the most logistically challenging?
A: They've all been challenging for different reasons. With "One Minute," we actually lost our location for that two days before we shot it! It was supposed to be in a department store parking lot, and the store pulled out. I was shooting something else, so I couldn't go scouting. I went out to the place we eventually used by myself at 10PM at night, pitch black, there's nobody else around and I suddenly thought, "Oh dear, this probably isn't very safe."
Q: How did the prison murder montage compare?
A: We did a lot of research into how people were actually killed in prison, and we found a shutdown jail in Albuquerque that was ten minutes from our office. I couldn't believe it. When we first went in there, everything was shut down including the water, so you can imagine the smell. It took us two weeks to clear the bad air out and get it suitable for shooting. We only had one day to do this and we were supposed to be in three different prisons, so we took three areas of the prison and our art department turned them different colors -- and we put the prisoners in different color uniforms.
Q: You directed Episode 502, "Madrigal" which opens at a location in Germany. What did you do to make Albuquerque look more European?
A: It was challenging because we couldn't find a modern upscale board room. In the scene they're doing food testing, and our locations department found a brand new school they had just built for cooking classes; we walked in and it was as if they built it just for us. Then we used the lobby of the school -- which was very high-tech looking -- for the lobby of Madrigal.
Q: As a director, where do you draw inspiration for some of your more creative decisions?