Editor Tom Jarvis on “Carpool Karaoke” with Paul McCartney
Editor Tom Jarvis spoke with PremiumBeat on working The Late Late Show with James Corden and that special “Carpool Karaoke” segment with a childhood idol.
PremiumBeat: What inspired you to become an editor?
Tom Jarvis: When I went into higher education, I realized I could do subjects that seemed exciting. I studied film, media, and theater studies, and then went onto study Film and TV Production at Bournemouth University. I loved every minute and found that I was particularly good at editing. After graduating, I started working in Soho, London, as a runner at a post-production company. I worked my way up through the ranks and became one of the youngest editors at The Farm — one of the most distinguished post houses in the UK. I love film and television, how it can make you feel and think. I’ve always thought of it as a writing process, but it’s the final draft. It’s written as a script, then performed and shaped by the actors with guidance from the director. Then you have to take off those hats and look at it objectively, and try to decipher what it is each of these other components have instilled in the footage that you now have to make work.
PB: It must be something like an adventure working on The Late Late Show with James Corden. What’s the best thing about editing in that environment?
TJ: One of the best things about being an editor on The Late Late Show with James Corden is the variety of content I get to edit. Every day is different. I get to cut huge musical opening numbers like our recent “Primetime Special,” where James parodied Lizzo‘s Juice.
I also enjoy cutting the scripted comedy bits — they’re always different and challenging. As an editor, I’m tested everyday. I have to apply style and influences to an ever-tight schedule. I also edit all the Late Late Show’s “Carpool Karaokes,” which are very special, each one has its challenges. My goal is to distill these larger-than-life mega personas into one casual, funny, personable video and to reveal a new, off-the-pedestal side of them. Three or four hours gets drilled into twelve to fifteen really fiercely-edited minutes, within which I aim to find humor, sentimentality, and realness, all in one. It’s really an art and I feel privileged to be able to do it each time.
PB: Congratulations on your second Emmy nomination for Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool! How did you get involved with The Late Late Show with James Corden?
TJ: Like a lot of people in this industry, it was the right place, right time, mixed with some connections — plus a bit of luck! I was working on a talk show for HBO with an ex-employee from The Late Late Show. We were talking about previous shows we’d worked on and he was talking about the LLS. I thought it sounded like something I’d love to work on. So, later that week, I was talking to one of my best mates back in the UK and he mentioned that he knew the showrunner Ben Winston, and he’d happily forward my resume onto him. A couple of weeks later, I received a call from the LLS asking me to come in for a meeting, as one of their editors was leaving. The rest is history.
PB: What was it like filming “The Paul McCartney Special?”
TJ: With “The Paul McCartney Special,” time was of the essence. I flew over to England with James Corden, Ben Winston, and our head writer Lauren Greenberg. We even took a helicopter straight up to Liverpool from Heathrow so we could make the production meeting that evening with James and Ben’s production company, Fulwell 73. That night, we discussed how excited we were for the next day’s shoot. We knew it was going to be a fun shoot but once we started moving, we all realized how special it really was.
We shot for around four hours in the car, stopping at Paul’s family home where he grew up, Penny Lane, and then we shot a surprise performance in a pub he used to gig at. While sound checking, Paul walked on stage, picked up his guitar, and started playing “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Love Me Do.” At the time, there was only me and a few camera ops in the room, and it was a surreal, beautiful, and humbling moment. By the time Paul was performing live in the pub, most of Liverpool had gotten word and so people were crowding outside and peeking in through the windows. His performance went down in a storm, culminating in a wild version of “Hey Jude,” where James joined the band on stage. I’ll never forget that.
PB: Did this episode have any unique editing challenges?
TJ: We had a good rough cut after four days of editing but too much good footage for our regular twelve to fifteen minutes of time allocated for carpools.
Paul’s episode was ultimately twenty-three minutes, the longest carpool ever aired for the show, and even then, getting to that time was a struggle. So, Ben said he’d talk to CBS to see if we could make a Primetime Special and extend the cut to one hour. After airing the twenty-three minute video, we received an incredible response online (eighty-six million views in forty-eight hours) and we were given the green light. We brought all the footage back to Los Angeles and I began pulling in all the extra special moments we had previously cut for time. I understand that people like short format these days, but the longer version of Paul and James really gave me the opportunity to architect the full story better, show off some of the conversational subtleties, and unveil Paul’s down-to-earth-ness. Ben and I worked together for two weeks crafting the special and we oversaw the whole process of finishing to air.
PB: Specifically for Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool, you had an embarrassment of riches with the footage. How did you decide what to include and what shouldn’t make the final cut?
TJ: That’s always the challenge with every carpool. With the McCartney carpool, I wasn’t sure how we would make six hours of shooting into a segment for the show. Ben and I started by cutting down every bit of the chat (around the singing). We edited down every talking beat into succinct stories, then evaluated which ones were the strongest/funniest/most interesting. Inevitably, we always ended up with great content, but we simply did not have the time to put it all into the show.
PB: What is the editing process like for The Late Late Show and how does it compare to a traditional, weekly, TV series?
TJ: The fun thing about The Late Late Show is that every night (Monday — Thursday), we have a show which has to go to air. During the daytime, I edit carpools, comedy bits, music performances, etc. Then, at 5 p.m., we start recording the show including monologue, in-show comedy, chat, and musical performances. The acts are divided up between the editors and we each make cuts for time. It’s a pressured environment but we have an excellent team who each excel in their roles.
PB: You’ve also edited quite a few award shows. When shows are happening live, what is that editing process like?
TJ: I edit “the nominees are…” and “tribute” packages in the run-up to the live show. Then, occasionally, if the awards are not aired live, I will have a few days to tighten up the show (overall), edit down for time, switch cameras (if they’ve missed anything), and mix the sound — all the while keeping in mind that the show is “live” so to keep its integrity and style of a live show.
PB: What are the challenges that come with editing unscripted TV?
TJ: You have to be able to do it all. You have to story produce, be extremely organized, technically minded, know your editing software, and, of course, be creative! Often, I have to do the job of three or four people — edit, produce, make GFX, audio mix, and grade. I feel like these days most production companies want an editor to do it all.
PB: What programs and software do you typically use for editing?
PB: Do you have any favorite segments from The Late Late Show that you’ve worked on?
TJ: I edited a segment with the UK football team last year in the run up to the World Cup — that was pretty cool. I love cutting the big musical numbers. Recently, I cut a bit with James and Paul Rudd — “The Untold Story of the Naptime Boyz” — a sort of retrospective mockumentary where James and Paul set out to be the biggest phenomena in children’s music. Instead, unknown to them, all their dance moves were wildly inappropriate for kids and kept them from finding any success — that was a lot of fun.
In my job, I get to meet, see, and edit some of the world’s greatest artists and that privilege is not lost on me. But getting to work with Sir Paul McCartney and shoot with James and our team in Liverpool was one of those once in a lifetime, pinch-me moments … which I hope is reflected in the edit. For most people on the planet, and very much from my native England, he’s a legend and his music has deeply affected my memories of growing up and life. (My dad used to play The White Album on repeat, and my wife and I used “In My Life” as our wedding song.) My mom even met him when she was fifteen at a party in West London — he kissed her hand. So personally, for me as a music lover, Beatles fan, and Brit, it was very important to do him, his work, and his legacy justice.
Working with James over the years, it’s clear he’s a natural and one of the hardest working folks I’ve ever worked with. It takes such skill to be able to bring out so much color and comparability in the people he has on the show. But, the other thing you forget about when you watch these bits is all the people behind the camera working to make a fifteen-minute segment of two adults singing in a car! I work with an incredible, talented team who challenge me daily and we have such fun seeing the ideas come to life. An added benefit is breaking the internet on occasion. Some of these carpools get released and the world goes wild, and that makes my day each time. But nothing so far has been like “The Paul McCartney Special.” To see the viral phenomenon that McCartney became — 150 million views and counting — I had friends I hadn’t talked to in years, old teachers, and even strangers emailing me saying that the special had made them cry. I mean, that really was touching and the highlight of my career, so far. To be nominated for an Emmy is icing on the cake.
PB: Is there someone you’d love to work with that you haven’t had an opportunity to, yet? Or a specific genre you’d like to work on?
TJ: There are a bunch! Recently, I’ve really enjoyed Fleabag and Killing Eve. For me, they excel in the perfect mix of action, comedy, and emotion — they have such heart. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius — I’d love to work with her.
PB: Do you have any advice for editors trying to break into the industry and find work?
TJ: Keep at it! Everyone’s route to becoming an editor is different, it can take time so be prepared for that. For me, enthusiasm and a smile go a long way. Keep up with your connections — an email checking in now and again can often lead to something.
PB: What’s next for you?
TJ: I will have been at The Late Late Show for three years on October 31. We’ve got some other exciting things in the works but I’d have to kill you if I told you about them. Or James would kill me. Whichever comes first.
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