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“What’s the Hurry to F*** it Up?” A Conversation with Better Call Saul Editor Chris McCaleb

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I’ve been a fan of the Breaking Bad universe for a little too long. I was just under 13 when I got sucked into this beautiful, violently tragicomic world of brilliant writing and expertly-drawn characters, with pinpoint precision and care dedicated to every moment, every tiny, ricocheting decision. After five perfect seasons, the party kept on going with the (maybe superior!) prequel series Better Call Saul, bringing over almost the entire creative team to continue and begin journeys that went beyond anyone’s imaginations – and that included the creators themselves.

A sweet feeling that comes with being a fan of these shows is the long-documented sense that the people behind them are as wonderful and deserving of their gargantuan success – far more than Walt or Lalo, at least. One of many jewels in the technical crown of both Bad and Saul is editor Chris McCaleb, who rose through the ranks of the show from an assistant on Breaking Bad to become one of the lead editors from the fourth season onwards. He also co-hosts the insider podcast that joyfully peeks behind the curtain of each episode, spotlighting so many of the people who contribute to make the shows the success they are.

It was a delight to sit down with him for nearly an hour to rabidly pick his brain on the processes behind the shows, his journey to it, and their dedication to nurture and accommodate as many creatives as possible; to “send the elevator back down” to up-and-coming talents. This is all explored while the conversation is frequently derailed by accusations of horse murder, or mentions of a seminal web-series he created, that I watched more than a decade ago. It was a fun time.

Note: this interview has been edited for context and clarity, and contains casual spoilers for both “Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul”, and why a show called “Luck” is not on a tv near you

SC: Firstly, I had no idea about this until three days ago, that you did Prom Queen – that you were a part of it.

CM: The web series, Prom Queen?!

Yes! Is that a deep cut? Because I watched that when I was very young –

Are you f… kidding me?!

I hated Nikki so much… So is that a surprise? Do people my age never come up to you?

No… Not in a long time, I mean it’s been a very long time since somebody organically was like “I watched Prom Queen.” That’s wild.

When I found out I tried to look for new episodes and I can’t find any. It was great for kids because it was 90 seconds long and then you’re done for the week! It’s perfect for the attention span.

That’s right.

Another great thing you’ve done.

Thank you… you just made my month.

Honoured! So anyway… since you’re an editor, I want to ask; as editing is the thing that no one really knows about – or not supposed to pay attention to when you watch something visual – when were you first really aware of what editing was?

Boy, that’s a good question… Probably not until I was in college, I think? I mean, I went to school to study film production, and in college you start learning about editing because you have to edit your movies. And you start to learn about the craft and you start thinking about it… I’ve never been asked that question before and I’ve actually never really thought about when I started noticing it or thinking about it. But I would probably point to college; when I actually had to be doing it, and thinking about it, and learning about it. And that was so long ago that we were actually – like my first films, we were on super 8 film, and we were cutting and splicing with tape. And even in the film editing class that I took in college, we were the last year that they actually had you cut on film.

Oh, really?

And then it moved to digital after that. So yeah, probably college. That’s a long answer for such a short… [laughs]

Well, it’s sort of a big question – “when were you aware of your job?” It’s a big question to start off with.

But what really set me on a path was, I was lucky enough to get to work on this John Sayles movie called Sunshine State. This was in 2001 – early 2001, before September 11th, way before. I was a production assistant, but I was sort of an apprentice editor. And that was also cutting on film, and so I got to learn about all the mechanics of cutting on film, got to do a lot of those things. And I sort of kept going down that path.

What was your way into – I guess the “Gilligan-verse” with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul? I mean, I know some of it because I love the podcast.

Quick aside; I thought there was something weird about this, and it’s because I’m not listening to your voice at 1.5 speed, as I’m walking to uni. So anyway, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

Excuse me – you listen at 1.5 speed?

Well, I…

That’s so interesting to me! Because I listen to a shit-ton of podcasts and I always listen at regular speed. It’s interesting. Maybe I should try, I’d get more done if I listened faster.

[laughs]

I got into that world… so I – well, you know about Prom Queen. I had this company where we were writing and directing short stuff on the internet. We had some early success, and then… you know, things were rough after the financial meltdown, and it was like a cascade effect as money went away. So I was broke, and I had no insurance because I hadn’t done union work in a long time and I had a pre-existing condition that at the time I couldn’t get coverage for. Then I got a call to come back and work on this Michael Mann project, this HBO series. It was the pilot for this series called Luck, Dustin Hoffman was in, and it had horses. It was famous because several horses died and they eventually cancelled it – they stopped making the second season of the show.

So how long were you the horse wrangler on that show?

[laughs] NO COMMENT! IT WASN’T MY FAULT! But no, it was a Michael Mann thing, and having previously worked with him on several projects, I knew the drill, I knew the challenges and I knew the system. It’s a very… it’s a very challenging work environment, in every way – good and bad. But I was working on that, and one of the editors they brought in was Kelley Dixon.

Oh!

You know, one of the magician editors behind Breaking Bad. And I at the time had not seen Breaking Bad but Kelley and I just [snaps fingers] clicked. You know sometimes you just meet somebody and you’re like “We’re just gonna be friends forever.” And she’s such – anyone who’s ever talked to or met Kelley knows that she is just a wonderful person, and a force of nature, and infinitely creative. So we just stayed friends for several years. Then in 2012 she contacted me – I was working on a movie called R.I.P.D.

I remember that – is that the Jeff Bridges one with Ryan Reynolds?

That’s right. It’s like Ghostbusters meets Men in Black. It’s… the movie’s fine. But I was an assistant VFX editor, and the hours are crazy and she knew that I wanted to be making my own stuff again, and she’s like: “Come work with me in television, the hours are… less crazy. And you know, you have time to focus on your own stuff.” And so I worked with her on this ABC midseason replacement show called Red Widow, and she was like: “I can’t bring you to Breaking Bad, I’m sorry, I have an assistant editor.”

And while we were working on Red Widow, her assistant Mel retired from work. He retired to live his life. And she gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, which was: “Do you want to come work on Breaking Bad?” – which by then, I was a huge fan of, because all you have to do is watch it and you’ll become a fan. It was that last season, and I did say “Can you give me a minute to think about it?” because I was concerned – she still makes fun of me for this.

I get it. Since it’s the last season, even being somewhat involved with it…

Also, it was that I wasn’t going to be able to watch it. Because when you work on something it’s a totally different experience that you have when you watch something, because you know how the sausage is made. You know the things that aren’t in the movie, you know the trouble that went into getting something done. But for a million reasons I’m glad that I took the opportunity, because working on the show was even better than watching it. It was like… the way I describe it is like swimming in the show. It was awesome. And everybody – if you listen to the podcast, the knock that people give is that it’s just a bunch of people congratulating each other for how great they are at their jobs.

I have no problem with that. [laughs]

Good! I can tell you, it’s genuine. Everybody… they have a strict “No Assholes” policy.

But that’s the thing I really like! It’s weird, because I know you’re not supposed to think about – you’re just meant to think about the thing and not the context or people behind the thing, even though it’s interesting. But I think the fact that listening to – and this is going to sound weird – literally hours of you guys talking to each other, it makes me appreciate it more because you see all of the love that goes into it. Because these are two – at the heart of it – very sad, very dark shows, so I’m kinda glad that all of you are well adjusted, non-methheads.

It’s pretty – not to say people don’t take it seriously; it’s definitely true that… I mean, Tom Schnauz, for example, is a guy who’s so funny – just follow him on Twitter or listen to him on the podcast or hear him interviewed. He’s hilarious. But when he’s working – and his writing is still hilarious – he’s very serious, and not in a negative way at all. And that’s indicative of Peter [Gould] and Vince [Gilligan] and Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn – you can go on and on. Everyone puts so much effort into it; they think about things so clearly and they want to get it right. And everybody – it starts at the top – everybody puts that same amount of care, and attention to detail… that stuff matters.

I think the reason why those two shows are great is because of the details. Breaking Bad really could have been this mindless show – explosions! Death! Shooting!

Meth!

Exactly! And when that turned out great, Better Call Saul off the heels of that sounded like a completely different change of pace. In terms of your job, what was the editing of those two shows like – I mean, how much did you edit on Breaking Bad?

At that point I was still Kelley Dixon’s assistant on Breaking Bad. I’ve had two great mentors in my life and she’s one of them. I had already – on the previous thing – she would give me a scene to cut, you know, and then she would give me notes, and I would do more, and then she would just keep increasing the number of scenes she would give me to cut, because she’s that kind of editor. She wants to foster creativity and mentor people into higher positions. She says it’s “sending the elevator back down.” – she’s generous that way. And by the time we got to Breaking Bad, we were already comfortable with that, and she was giving me scenes like, right away. But the scenes on Breaking Bad are, they’re not a two-minute scene; they’re usually six, seven-minute sequences – they’re big.

Do you remember the first one you had to do?

I do! It was in episode 509, which is the season premiere of the final eight episodes.

So after Hank gets off the toilet?

Yep, it starts with that. The teaser is the white house is totally ruined, and the kids are skateboarding…

Oh yeah, with the graffiti, right?

Aha, the ‘Heisenberg’ scrawl.

That was so cool.

Bryan Cranston directed that episode, since the only ones he could do were at the beginning because the director has to have prep time for the episode, and as the star of the show –

He doesn’t have any.

Yeah, he has to be in the show. So he can only do the season premieres. So he did that one, and he’s great, obviously! And I did the scene where Walt comes to Jesse to bring him money, and Jesse is just numbed out. I can’t remember if at that point he knows about Brock – I can’t remember when he figured out what Walt had done. But it’s Walt trying to manipulate – successfully, actually – manipulate a very hurt and damaged Jesse. And it’s at Jesse’s house, mainly a conversation with the two of them on the couch. It’s a six or seven-minute scene, and there was so much material; I had never seen this many shots before. There’s only a couple of takes on each one, and those actors, they didn’t need that many, you know, they had completely figured out their characters, and they’re great actors.

You know, it was a challenge to be cutting in a way, on a show that I loved, in keeping with the character of the show, but also – and Kelley made sure to tell me this – not to try to cut like she would cut. Because then it’s fake, you’re just doing an imitation of what you think their style is. And that never really serves you – she’s like “Do your instincts. You know the language of the show, the visual language, the pacing, but you know, keep it in your rhythms.” I did that, and then she would start giving me, again, more and more. And then she would have me take old scenes from previous seasons, and said “Cut this scene. Don’t remind yourself how I did it.” She gave me scenes that had problems that she had to fix. Because it happens.

I’m sure even Steven Spielberg has a scene where they’re like “Oh you know, we messed up, that angle doesn’t cut with that angle.” On a big-budget thing, they reshoot it. But on television you don’t have the time or the money to reshoot those things, and so it’s up to the editor, oftentimes working with the director or the showrunners to fix it. And so, that’s what she started doing, giving me older, problematic scenes, that she knew how she solved it, and she wanted to test me to see how I did it. That was really educational, and of course the material, it’s always great. I remember there was a scene with Mike and Jesse and Walt in an office, and then a scene out in the desert. I think it was the ‘Say My Name’ scene. And there were problems with how the scene started. I was kinda blown away by how she solved it… Anyway, I know these are long-winded answers…

Please, this is great!

Yeah, so I got more and more. I wound up cutting about half of 513, “To’hajiilee”, which ends with the big gunfight. Kelley, for the finale, she’s like “You do it, I’m going to do it. We’re both gonna do it separately.” She wanted to see how we each did it. It was really cool, because she was like, “I love the way you did that” and she took that part, and then would go “I prefer the way I did that” “I do too!” so it was a really shared sensibility.

That’s amazing.

And then for the penultimate episode, we co-edited it. My first television editing credit is co-editing the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad. It was the most incredible opportunity I’ve ever had and it continues to pay dividends.

Yeah, and then going on from that to Better Call Saul which is obviously in the same universe but with completely different stakes… To give you some context, I started to get into Breaking Bad around the time of the final season, which – I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortably old, but I was 12.

[laughs] Me too! Totally. We’re roughly both the same age, then. Good to know.

[laughs] So I got into it during the final season because you want to hear about the thing everyone’s talking about, and I definitely was not old enough for it, but I watched it all in a few months. I remember that I loved it, but I don’t think I loved it for all the right reasons, because as a kid, I didn’t truly get it. I thought, you know – Walt’s doing the best he can for his family! Skylar, get out of the way! Whoa that was cool when Gus’ face came off! And then going from that into Better Call Saul, I have to admit that as someone younger, I just didn’t appreciate it as much, but I stuck around.

It was Season 3 where I really started to get into it, and I went back to watch the first two seasons and I was like “No, this has been fantastic from the beginning!” but it was just so different. So what I’m basically asking is 1) what was your reaction when they said “Right, we’re coming back and we’re doing Saul”, and 2) what did you think it was going to be, compared to what it became? Because I don’t think it turned out how anyone thought it was going to go.

No… And they’ve not been secretive about the fact that they were really figuring it out in that first season. They were figuring out the tone, etc., it just so happens that some of the best writers in the business, you know, were fumbling through it, so they were able to find a really special tone and a very interesting story. But I personally… I mean, I was excited to work on it. I was still Kelley’s assistant, and I co-edited the finale of season one, and I was still doing a lot of editing; she would give me scenes, more and more and more. I don’t think I was alone in having the concern of “Is anyone going to care? Because we know what happens.”

We think we do…

Exactly. That’s the spoiler alert, that’s the point. Not only we think we know. but we don’t know how it happens, don’t know the nuances and we certainly didn’t know that Jimmy McGill, and the people around him – and Mike, for that matter – were going to be such complicated, nuanced characters. I mean, we should have known that, because of the people creating it, but it could have been… you know. I thought of that Patton Oswalt joke about the George Lucas making the prequels, and how it’s about Darth Vader as a little kid, and it’s like “who cares?” Like, I don’t want to know where the stuff I love comes from.

But it really doesn’t apply to this. Because there’s so much we don’t know, and they keep taking it in directions that you don’t see coming. And also getting to work on all of it, it’s a dream, a gift to be able to do that. My fears were assuaged by the time we got through that first season, and then when people started watching it… it can be hard when you’re right up against something to know how this is going to be received. And we do a lot of work; we change things, we mould like clay. A lot of work goes into this show. Way more than almost every other thing I’ve ever worked on.

You talk about fine-tuning it, moulding it, so when you’re editing – I mean, you’ve talked about the collaboration between you and Kelley which by all accounts is wonderful, but what about the collab between you and the editors on other episodes, or the directors or writers? Like you mentioned, there’s not really a house style for these two shows, the house style is “be Good.”

On Saul and Breaking Bad specifically, they sort of let you take bigger swings than a lot of shows do. You know the producers, you know what they generally want, but they want you to show them what you want. So you take your shot. Because sometimes they shoot scenes – on anything – where there’s a shot and it’s clearly supposed to be the beginning of the scene.

And this is something else I learned from Kelley; always try and find a different way in. Now sometimes, the way that they intended is the best. But sometimes, that unexpected, other way in, is going to be better, be more interesting, is going to keep the audience interested beyond them going “ok, that shot goes to that shot, on and on.” So they want you to take those swings, and what’s cool about it is that they respect the editors so much on that show, that it’s not just like… Because the director comes in, and you’re working with them – and in television the director has only four days, which is not enough time.

Ouch.

Yeah, it’s crazy! [laughs] It’s insane. But you work with them, and you have to remember when you do that, that it’s their cut. The director is entitled to make whatever cut they want, and your job is to make the best of what they want. You’ve already got your cut, so it’s there. On that show they’ll watch all the directors’ cuts, but they also want to see the editors’ cuts, because they want to know “What else do we have? What other options are there?” I hope this sounds the way I intend it to, but nothing is ever just good enough. It’s not just like “That’s fine.” It’s “Can we make that better? Is there an opportunity to make that better?” And personally, that’s how I approach things, which, as a fan of Prom Queen, I’m sure you know…

[laughs] No, those episodes are tight. 90 seconds of goodness, all of them. [writer’s note: WATCH PROM QUEEN! WATCH PROM QUEEN!] Also, send me a link if you find it, because I’ve been trying.

It’s not out there, it’s a really disappointing thing. At least it’s not over in America, or apparently the UK. There are some you can find on Veoh, which is something Michael Eisner was an investor in.

I’m actually writing that down now. [laughs]

The quality is really bad. Maybe I can find a way to find them somewhere.

I would really appreciate that.

Also the original season and then Summer Heat [the spinoff series], which we shot mostly where I grew up, those are on DVD, which is insane.

What’s a DVD?

[laughs] Good call. But yeah, to get back to your question, the process is, we get our couple of days to finish our cut, and then you work with the director and do their cut, but then you really leave no stone unturned with Peter, sometimes Peter and Vince. And with the writers too; it’s very collaborative. They’ll bring the writers of the episode in, because they’re the keepers of the story. They know the thought process that went behind every decision that they made, so they need to be the keepers of that in a way that I don’t. I don’t know all the decisions that went into that.

That’s still – that came off great, by the way. I love the podcast on the shows because it’s both inspiring and informative on how you really should be doing this. I partly do a film degree at uni, so obviously auteur theory comes up, and every time I groan a little at what that theory’s become. What’s the fun in having one person be the harbinger of everything? The great thing about the shows you work on is that everyone has a million ideas – it can go any way – and it’s always the best one. I don’t know how you do that.

I think with auteur theory, it’s not necessarily that they’re the only person that are doing the work, but they’re the only ones who get credit. And look, I’m fans of filmmakers who are considered auteurs, but I think a lot of time ego gets in the way. Not to say that a certain amount of ego isn’t healthy; confidence is certainly healthy… but to have the lack of arrogance to be able to welcome input and everybody’s thoughts and to pick the best idea. The best idea is what always wins, not my idea or nothing. It’s sort of the culture there, where the best idea is the thing that we go with.

And compared with Breaking Bad, was there anything different? It’s obviously a progression of your skills because you’ve been doing it longer – was it season 4 you became a lead editor on the show?

Yes. I co-edited two with Kelley in the second season, and I was off doing other shows during season 3, but we still did the podcast. season 4 is when I became full-time, though.

So what was different with your editing styles for Saul? They’re too very different shows but you’re also cutting some very familiar characters. So what was your process for doing Saul compared to Bad?

I mean, editing full-time vs. getting to be an assistant and co-editing, they’re completely different experiences. Any assistant I work with – and a lot of them have gone on to be editors – I try to expose them to the things they don’t get to be exposed to as assistants. One of the big things is the pace of work; it is a marathon. And when you’re an assistant, you’re doing your assistant work which is a lot, but then you’re also trying to fit this other stuff in. A lot of the time it feels like a sprint, you’re always sprinting. But when you’re editing something, it’s all on your shoulders, and the responsibility of that… you don’t necessarily think about it until you have it.

It’s a huge responsibility; it’s not just that you need to get the show cut so that people can watch it, but there are a lot of decisions relying on you staying ‘up to camera’ as we call it – being at least as close to them shooting and editing, or at least going through the material as you get it. Because a lot of the time they need to tear sets down, or they have to say “Can we get rid of that location? Can we let that actor go?” And a lot of time it falls on the editor, who needs to be on it, and help in that decision-making to say “Yeah, we got it” or “Actually, no, we don’t have it, and I think we need this or that.” That’s a big responsibility because there’s a multi-million dollar crew out there who’s waiting, and you’re helping to make those decisions.

But also the rhythm of working – and that’s just in your cut. When you start working with other people, that’s a whole different level of difficulty because you’ve got someone over your shoulder, waiting for you. Editing can be a little bit ponderous, you can be exploring different things; and there’s nothing more boring than watching someone try to figure something out. So they’re back there being restless, and it can be scary and make you freeze up. I’ve seen assistants do that, and I have to be like “Just breathe. This is not life or death. This is just TV. It’s just a movie. Trust your instincts. Don’t rush things.” I have a friend who said, I’m sure he didn’t make it up but I always think about it: “What’s the hurry to fuck it up?” Why race through something if it’s not going to be the outcome you wanted it to be?

It always pays dividends to take a little bit of extra time and care when you’re doing something you actually care about. That can be applied to anything in life, but it certainly applies to working, and it’s especially a valued thing when it comes to something like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. They take way more time in the writing, and in the editing they have a schedule that I’m sure you’ve heard about in the podcast, that is very unusual, very unlike other shows, where we get to spend as much time as we do together, working on those things.

Before I forget – so, the montages

Yeah!

Ok, just shoot. I know you get so many a season, is it the same process for each one? For example, I know you did “Bad Choice Road”, so the one at the beginning with Mike and Jimmy walking through the desert looking for signal, intercut with Kim waiting for them, and then with the ‘Something Stupid’ track. With the music and the image, how much of it is thought up ahead of time, with the edits? How is it written? Tell me everything, I’m so interested, they’re amazing every single time.

They’re all different. Every one. Some of them, they write every little bit out… the thing with montages, they tend to be fairly malleable. It’s never going to be exactly what you wrote down, because that’s sort of the nature of production. They had a line producer on season 1 who said “Montage is the French word for expensive” because you’re shooting a thing that’s going to take very little screen time; even in a script, they slug them. It’s like: Stephen’s writing his paper, Stephen’s riding his bike, Stephen’s out in the park

Wait, I’m in the next season? Score!

Congrats! Come on down! But yeah, those are all places you have to go and bring this huge production, everything takes time and that means money. And so a lot of times they have to compromise when they’re making these things, and it’s up to us to maximise the material and try to tell the story the best way that we can. But every one of them is different. There’s no template other than the one you mentioned, which is the “Something Stupid” callback montage at the beginning of 509, of “Bad Choice Road”, which Tom Schnauz wrote and directed. Those ones have to be pretty meticulously-planned out.

Now the way that I was cutting them and putting them together, that was up to me, but the structure of them and the way that they shot them to make sure that they would – we talked about that on the podcast for the original “Something Stupid” with Deborah Chow, who directed that, about having to think differently about having to think differently about how you shoot something, knowing it’s going to be in a different-sized frame. They had to do that. Not everything lines up the way you hope it will, so that’s another place where my job comes in, and to have the way that we lined up the drinking; of when Jimmy’s drinking the pee and Kim’s drinking the water, that was something that I did. That type of – I love the montages.

They’re so goddamn good.

Definitely, but they can be very difficult. Because sometimes they’ll just say “And then there’s a montage of these things happening!” And it’s up to the director to figure it out with the writer. Sometimes the director will have this incredible idea – I think about Michael Morris, who I’m working with right now on this film – he did two episodes last season but I’m thinking of the episode he did in season 4, where it was Jimmy selling phones to a bunch of thugs at the doghouse before he gets robbed and beat up by the three strangest-looking hoodlums in Albuquerque.

He just had a vision for how that montage would go, and he shot those pieces – he’s tremendous. Also he was the director of the episode last season that had the ants montage, which was… really challenging. But that’s another one where it’s almost entirely up to us; the thing was written but ants can’t act, so it was up to me to tell a story even close to what was scripted. I like that stuff because it not only requires me to be creative, but it encourages it.

Sometimes I’ve known editors – not on Saul or Breaking Bad – who are just like: “You need to find the best take of that line, and then that line etc.” I think that’s boring, I don’t want to do that, because the best moments are usually unexpected moments, so I think that you need to watch all the material and think about it in terms of how I can make it different. And with montages a lot of times you’re taking big creative swings. Sometimes they have an exact thing in mind, but sometimes it’s just kind of a “who knows what we have.” But all of them again are a big collaboration between us and everybody else.

Like everything else on the show, right?

Mhm. The other montage from last season in 501 where he was trying to hand out phones to say “I’m a lawyer now” with all the bells – the bells were not even in the script, and it was Bob’s idea. They shot a few of them but then I was like: “I need more bells. I need so many more bells.” So in my original cut I just kept using the same shots of them, knowing – hoping that they would shoot more. And what was scripted was sort of different than what they shot, and the director [Bronwen Hughes] who’s brilliant, she had a different idea, so we did something new. And with Peter who wrote it, he had a totally other idea. So that thing just kept changing and changing, and we put so much work into that; there’s three totally different vibes that have been into that montage. But I love the way it turned out.

So do I!

Thanks!

Ok, before we wrap up, I have to ask, how’s season 6 going? Because I’m assuming you would have been filming by now?

Well… they’re writing!

Good. Gooooood.

Yeah. It’s coming along, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to say when shooting is supposed to start, but like with so many productions, there’s an intention of when it’s supposed to start… Every production keeps getting pushed. But the last I heard, it’s on track to start this year. I haven’t read anything, I haven’t seen anything.

I don’t believe you. Tell me exactly how it ends, right now.

[laughs] I wish I knew!

How many horses die in this one?

All of them! It’s a horse apocalypse.

No one’s expecting that!

My friend’s will be so mad I said that. I have some friends who are very into horses.

No horses were harmed in the making of this interview.

I’m just as excited as you are about it, because you get to both be a fan and a part of it. The tiny little bits of information that I know are really intriguing but I haven’t even seen an outline. I mean, I know that there are scripts that I could technically read, but… but…

I guess you don’t want to start the process of it being the end, do you?

Of course not. It’ll be strange.

What’s your plan after this huge chunk of your life is over? You told me you’re working on this film with Michael Morris – can you tell me anything about that, or is it under wraps?

It’s public, it’s a movie called To Leslie – it’s certainly what it’s called right now, movies have a tendency to change titles. But it starts Andrea Riseborough and Alison Janney and Marc Maron and Stephen Root. It’s a beautiful story – hard to describe – about this woman trying to get through life. It was shot with the absolute, total safety precautions during Covid, but when you see the movie you won’t know that. You’ll never suspect that this movie was shot during Covid, because it doesn’t look like it. There are scenes at a restaurant! And it looks like business as usual, but what’s not on camera is a limited crew on a set. P.S. everybody has been tested and quarantined, all wearing masks and shields. It adds a huge amount of time and expense to every production.

And I get tested multiple times a week, I wear a mask; I’m actually working in an office with filters. But a lot of places, a lot of things are working from home, a lot of editing. I don’t prefer that but if it’s the only way to do it safely I do prefer that. I feel safe in what I’m doing right now. We’re going to get through it eventually. But as far as the movie goes, it’s an independent so who knows when it would ever come out, but when it does, I hope people will give it a shot. It’s just a stunning movie – the DP is this guy, Larkin Seiple. He’s shot movies and tons of music videos; one of which was Donald Glover’s “This is America” video, which is just one of the best.

Say no more, holy shit.

He shot that, he’s the DP on that. Michael and I are frequently just kind of marvelling at his camerawork, it’s just really stunning. It’s a very special movie that I wish I was able to describe better. It’s going to be wonderful.

I can’t wait! Look, this has been an absolute joy. Thank you so much for doing this.

Oh, sure! Thanks for staying up late.

Eh, it’s only like ten o’clock. Not like I’ve got anything else to do.

You can watch Prom Queen

Of course. Always.

Chris McCaleb’s various credits can be found on his IMDB page. “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” can be found on Netflix and physical media. If “Prom Queen” can be found anywhere, please tell us.

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