Top 10 2023

Amid the high anxiety of post-9/11 NYC, a struggling post-production house is hired to remove a shot of the Twin Towers from the intro to a hit TV show.

In the wake of post-9/11 anxiety in New York City, a struggling post-production house faces a daunting task: removing the Twin Towers shot from the intro of the hit TV show ‘The Sopranos.’ Directed by Dustin Waldman, the short film ‘Never Fuggadaboutit’ immerses viewers in the emotional editing room struggles. The team grapples with the ethical dilemma of altering the show’s iconic sequence while confronting their own connections to the tragedy. As tensions rise, friendships are tested, and the creative process becomes a cathartic journey of healing and remembrance for the city and its resilient inhabitants.

‘Never Fuggadaboutit’ poignantly explores how storytelling can reflect society’s wounds and foster unity, or division of some sort. It serves as a tribute to the Twin Towers and a testament to New York’s indomitable spirit. The film leaves a lasting question: can history truly be erased, or does it become an eternal part of the stories we tell? We checked in with Dustin who told all about his experience on this production:

How did you come up with the idea for the short film “Never Fuggedaboutit”? What inspired you to explore the struggles of a post-production house during the post-9/11 era?

My fiancee and I were finally watching The Sopranos during Covid and when we got to season 4 I immediately realized the shot was missing from the intro. I’ve been working professionally as an editor for about 10 years, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have felt like to be in that edit bay at that time. It felt especially potent considering with Covid, we were in another unique, historical moment that was completely upending people’s lives as well as completely transforming the culture in unpredictable ways. So in a way the moments felt linked.

In your opinion, what does the struggle to remove this piece of history symbolize within the context of the short film? What larger themes or messages were you aiming to convey through this storyline?

There’s a lot wrapped up in it, but in the context of the film I think it’s about how as an editor you’re often given notes and expected to enact them whether you agree with them or not. Sometimes that can be more painful than others, especially if in a situation like this there are perceived political ripples in the choice. There’s something about the hierarchies that exist in these media environments that I find interesting. I think on a larger thematic level, the way we process stuff in America is through these cultural proxy wars and so this seemed like an opportunity to inhabit a nice little microcosm of that.

Can you discuss the creative process behind portraying the editor’s emotional journey in the film? How did you approach depicting the internal conflict and the weight of responsibility they felt?

I think a lot of what I’m interested in as a filmmaker is heightening and intensifying what are otherwise somewhat visually boring environments and situations. Editing is just people in a room looking at a screen, but when you understand the emotional stakes it becomes incredibly tense. I have a lot of experience feeling stressed in an edit, so I had a lot of personal emotion to draw from. I think in this film our biggest help came from our sound design and score, which really suggest the neurotic panic going on in the minds of the characters. We also shot progressively subjective and claustrophobic coverage as the story develops, to stress the weight of the decision. I also had this idea that there was like an omnipotent viewer in the room, so sometimes we shoot high and wide to suggest that.

Did you conduct any research or interviews with professionals who experienced similar challenges during that time? How did you ensure authenticity and accuracy in portraying the post-production industry and the events surrounding 9/11?

I have friends who have worked in post-production since the early 00’s and I discussed lots of the technical details with them (as well as borrowing some of their period-appropriate gear). I was ten in 2001, so I also spoke with lots of older New Yorkers about their experiences around that time, and the emotional sense of that moment.

How did you navigate the line between respecting the sensitivity of the subject matter and the creative freedom to tell a compelling story?

I’m always interested in treating the emotional stakes of any situation with the intensity and care it deserves. My actors all understood and had a respect for the gravity of the situation and I think that is reflected in their performances. At the same time I think there’s something useful about being removed in time from a moment and being able to see things a bit more objectively.

Were there any specific scenes or moments in the film that were particularly challenging to create or capture? How did you overcome those challenges?

The scene where the assistant editor edits out the shot was originally written as a very involved, in-the-weeds style editing montage, but when it came time to shoot it, we ran into some trouble with the CRT monitors. I had to jerry rig a long chain of adapters from my laptop to get the images on the screens. Ultimately, we realized that it really didn’t need so much specificity about the edit interface itself, and so the way we shot it, focusing on his face and the keys/mouse, ended up leaving much more room for the emotion of the moment, which I’m happy about.

I am sure Sopranos must have been one of your favorite TV shows, but do you have any other shows or films that you always turn back to for inspiration?

I think The Sopranos is one of the best longform pieces of media ever made. Its actually the only classic “prestige TV” show I’ve ever been able to fully get into. I tend to like stuff that manages to be emotional, profound and funny, so I love all of Danny McBride’s shows, as well as Pen15, Atlanta and Dave, among others. I also think two shows that are pushing what “reality tv” can be are Alone and Couple’s Therapy, which are both pretty excellent.

What short films have you seen lately? And is there any short film that you can call you favorite?

There’s so many amazing shorts coming out. I just screened in a great shorts block with Nobudge Live in Brooklyn, some excellent shorts in that program. Some of my other favorite ones from the last few years are Edy Modica and Ian Faria’s Nicole, Taylor Cohan’s Vibrations, Kristoffer Borgli’s Former Cult Member Hears Music For the First Time, Eavvon O’Neal’s Mister Backlash, Frank Mosley’s The Event and Xiaoxuan Jiang’s Graveyard of Horses, which was probably my favorite short at SXSW. Too many to list though!