When Amy E. Duddleston, ACE, was studying at the University of Arizona as a fine arts student, she got a job in the editing room for a film being shot on campus in Tucson: Revenge of the Nerds.
“I got to watch Nancy Forner be the assistant editor for three weeks,” Duddleston told Master the Workflow. “She taught me how to make boxes. I got to watch the editor Alan Balsam edit scenes and I helped with dailies. I was like their schlepper. It was great … to know this is what happens in an editing room.”
It was her first professional experience and the beginning of a journey that brought her to the HBO’s Mare of Easttown. This year Duddleston (BFA ’86, General Fine Arts) earned the first two Emmy nominations in her 35-year career.
“[Being nominated for an Emmy] was a complete thrill,” Duddleston said. “I worked on that show for a long time—18 months—and edited all of the episodes, so for it to get the attention for all the work I put in was so gratifying. A career high, for sure.”
The HBO show, starring Kate Winslet as Detective Mare Sheehan, garnered so much attention when it aired that it became the subject of a Saturday Night Live sketch and a globally trending Twitter topic.
“You never know when you’re working on something, how it will be received,” Duddleston said. “We were all just so happy that people watched it and loved it as much as they did. That’s truly better than a trophy sometimes.”
AwardsDaily | Duddleston on her Emmy-nominated editing of ‘Mare’
Post Perspective | A Q&A with Duddleston on the series’ workflow
The Flickers Podcast | Interview with Amy E. Duddleston
Master the Workflow | An interview on the art of the perfect cut
Duddleston’s distinguished career includes working on a slew of well-known projects including Dexter, The Killing, American Gods, and My Own Private Idaho, collaborating with major directors like Gus Van Sant, the Russo Brothers, Lisa Cholodenko, Agnieska Holland and others.
It all began in Tucson. As a member of the Class of 1986, Duddleston preceded the CFA major of media arts.
“My class was actually one of the pioneering classes to get the media arts school started,” she said. “Knowing that I was paving the way for the next group of would-be filmmakers was awesome.”
Duddleston began her University of Arizona education as a political science major.
“I loved TV and films, but I had no idea that a career in film was something that was possible for me,” Duddleston said.
It wasn’t until she had her “AH HA!” moment in the Arizona Library that she decided to change her major and chase her passion.
“In that moment, the world opened up to me.”
“I was researching for a paper in my English class when I came across an article in a New York Times Magazine about a woman named Dede Allen. She was a film editor, who was editing the film, Reds. It was all about her job, what it entails and how she does it. It sounded like the most fascinating job in the world to me. There was a photo of her doing her job too—she had all of these film reels and strips of film everywhere. In that photo, I saw a woman, doing a cool looking and sounding job, and suddenly in that moment, the world opened up to me. I switched my major over to the Fine Arts department and started taking some of the film classes that were being offered. I took a risk that I never regretted.”
As a student, she made some 16mm films in Tucson. “It was a lot of work. As soon as I got in my room alone with the footage, that was when I had the most fun.”
Duddleston said that the classes that she took at the University of Arizona were imperative to her success in the field.
“The classes that I took at school continued to push me in ways where I wanted to see more of the world, and I grabbed every opportunity that came my way,” Duddleston said.
She credits Dr. Donna Swain’s Contemporary Humanities class as an “amazing class that rocked me.”
“Dr. Swaim was definitely one person who taught me about taking risks, by showing us unusual art and making us read books that weren’t well received – even in our class – but made you push your brain to process them.”
It’s all about pushing yourself to discover new things.
It is no secret that Dexter is one of the most successful crime television shows to hit the small screen. The Showtime series had a cult following and continues to be a fan favorite long after it came off air. Duddleston shares her experience:
“Working on Dexter was a total blast! I came to the show in Season 7, but I was welcomed in as though I had been a part of the Dexter family for seven years. The show wasn’t the easiest to edit – everything is from Dexter’s point-of-view – even if you’re in a scene with other characters. You have his voiceover you need to use in several areas. And there was such a canonical thing with the story, where Dexter just gets away with everything because he’s Dexter, that you just had to go along with it. Which was fun at times, but there were times where I was like, “Really?!”
I got to edit the episode that (actor) Michael C. Hall directed, and that was such a treat. He is a lovely, hilarious guy and working with him was the best. Except when he came into the cutting room dressed as Dexter…”
Any filmmaker or actor dreams of being nominated for an award. Duddleston’s dreams came true when she became nominated for her work on Mare of Easttown.
Duddleston started out as a production assistant, then an apprentice editor, an assistant editor and then finally, an editor.
Throughout her career, she kept a mantra that she learned throughout her years on campus. “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Keep pushing yourself to do new things. There will be many setbacks, for sure. But don’t let them stop you from pursuing what you love.”
Advice for Students
In giving advice to current Wildcat film students, Duddleston stresses the importance of perseverance and hard work.
“You will not get anywhere in this business without taking risks. Sending those emails with your resume, you have nothing to lose. Keep sending them. Ask if you can zoom or have coffee with someone to talk about their career—you’d be surprised how often you will get a YES.
“Working in show business can be dreadful and I have been through a lot, especially as a woman. It’s still not easy. The road is filled with people who want to break you. Don’t let them. Following your intuition is a thing I have learned over the years. Sometimes a job will sound great but there’s something in your gut that says, “Hmmm. Think about this a little harder.” Nine times out of 10 this has proved to be correct.
“Also, there will be a period where you will “pay your dues,” but at some point, you don’t need to pay them anymore. You need to be paid. Taking yourself seriously and valuing yourself and the work you do is very important. Be brave, Wildcats!”