1) It took over 450 hours to edit the first season.
465 hours, 30 minutes and 50 seconds to be exact. According to Soderbergh, the production team posted edited scenes rather than dailies because “watching all the dailies is a pain in the ass time-waster.” And, okay, edits provides a “much clearer indication of directorial intent.” But we like the first reason better.
2) Cinemax convinced Soderbergh to end Episode 1 with a “reveal.”
In what Cinemax called its “most radical structural thought in this series,” the network suggested to Soderbergh that the episode’s original opening sequence — in which series protagonist Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) is introduced with an opium pipe in hand — should be pushed back as a way of “propelling us into the next episode.”
While Soderbergh had some major reservations as to how this would impact a pivotal scene (in which Nurse Lucy Elkins found cocaine on his nightstand), he found a way to re-structure the episode by including a haunting flashback sequence instead. As Soderbergh explained, “By doing this, we imply that Thackery’s attempt to go without cocaine was instigated by his late night flashback.”
3) Hospital Manager Herman Barrow is the show’s “secret weapon.”
When asked to cut down a scene between Barrow and his wife, Soderbergh explained why that couldn’t happen: “He’s a fascinating character beautifully limned by Jeremy Bobb, and because his double life is so crucial to the show (both this year and next), any interaction with his wife — who has only a single speaking scene in Season 1 — gives us vital information about him. That’s why I am going to resist making any huge cuts in this scene, although I did get out of it early. It’s my job to have the mosaic of the entire show (visually and narratively) in mind whenever I make any decision during prep, on set, or in the editing room, and this, in my opinion, is an instance where a short term gain in moving things along hurts one of our key characters.”
4) Soderbergh tended to get hilariously frank with his executives.
When Soderbergh was asked to score a transition in Episode 3, the director gloriously responded, “Stole a cue from EP 5 that works so well you might want to make pudding in your pants.”
Not only can he be funny, but he has a tendency to get a little snarky: In Episode 2 he was questioned about a scene feeling surreal, to which he responded “You say ‘surreal’ like that’s a bad thing!” And when asked if something “made sense” in Episode 4, Soderbergh got a little esoteric: “Setting aside the fact that ‘making sense’ is not only subjective but overrated, I have executed this note.”
5) In one instance, Cinemax backed Soderbergh up on a cut he was dying to make.
In the original script of the season’s penultimate episode, Lottie sees a newspaper report of the war ending. When asked “Do we need this scene?” Soderbergh gleefully interjected, “OMFG! I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the shoot and no one would listen to me! I didn’t even want to shoot it! So glad I can hide behind you to make this cut!”
6) Conversations about music were frequent (and specific).
Cliff Martinez’s invigorating score was one of the most heavily-praised aspects of “The Knick,” but between Soderbergh and Cinemax were multiple conversations per episode on precisely how the music should be used. In fact, it might have been the topic that was returned to most frequently in the production notes process.
For an idea of just how specific and interactive these conversations were, talk over a scene in Episode 2 is a fine example. In the episode, with lights flickering on and off repeatedly, Thackery — patience lost — takes an axe to the electrical box. Unsure of the scene’s tone, Cinemax asked, “Is there anything we can do with music or sound design underneath the scene… Perhaps some electrical hum, arcing sounds and pops.” Soderbergh responded that “scoring is tough—you don’t want it to become comical because we aren’t making a show that is overtly funny, but if you score it with something serious, the somewhat amusing ending will feel out of sync with the score.” No indication is provided on who won this battle.
7) Sometimes the man just wanted to be left alone.
When provided with the first of a “buffet of options” for musical cues on Episodes 2-3, Soderbergh half-jokingly shut down Cinemax’s promise of suggestions: “It has also been my experience that trying to help can sometimes make things worse. Just one of life’s crushing ironies.” Amen, Steve.
8) The word “cocaine” appeared on 56 pages of script.
Through the 10-hour season, 539 pages of script were shot, and the word “cocaine” appeared in over 10 percent of them. Soderbergh also added that the word “Douse” appeared on eight pages as one of a few “fun, completely useless facts.”
9) In the end, the conversation between Cinemax and Soderbergh was mutually appreciated.
In their final note on the season finale, Cinemax wrote to Soderbergh, “In all seriousness the dialogue on these cuts has been a true pleasure. Thanks for your engagement and terrific work.” The director wrote in reply, “A year ago we didn’t even know each other and now we’re locked on a ten-hour show. Crazy.”
Check out ‘The Knick: Anatomy of a Series’ by clicking here.
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