Cutting Aboard The "USS Callister"; Reflections On "Black Mirror"
Selina MacArthur
Editor Selina MacArthur earns her first career Emmy nomination
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The “USS Callister” episode of Black Mirror (Netflix) garnered a total of seven Emmy nominations this year, including the first for editor Selina MacArthur. “USS Callister,” which is in the running for the Outstanding Television Movie Emmy, is a departure from most Black Mirror episodes, with its share of comedy and deployment of special effects. It introduces us to tech wiz Robert Daly (portrayed by Jesse Plemons) as he lives a double life. One has him bullied at his own company called Callister. The other puts him at the helm of the USS Callister, a Star Trek-like spaceship which he captains through the machinations of a video game adventure.

MacArthur got the opportunity to cut “USS Callister,” the season four opening episode of Black Mirror, thanks in part to her history with director Toby Haynes. “I’ve known Toby for a long time,” recalled MacArthur. “I assisted years ago on M.I. High [BBC], one of my first jobs, which was also one of Toby’s first directing gigs. Our paths have crossed many times but we had never worked together as director and editor until ‘USS Callister.’ We met one night for drinks and he told me about this project [‘USS Callister’]. There couldn’t have been a better script. It was the perfect collaboration.”

MacArthur said that as an editor she was backed by a “USS Callister” ensemble that included Haynes, DP Stephan Pehrsson, BSC, a brilliant script and cast. “This wasn’t one of those shows where you had to creatively deal with story problems or cut around performances--none of the factors that would have made for a difficult edit. It was a dream job.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge was the volume of great material being delivered. “Toby and Stephan [cinematographer Pehrsson] worked together way back on Doctor Who and thus managed, since they knew each other so well, to speed through an incredible amount of material,” related MacArthur. “The sheer amount of rushes coming in was the most I’ve ever received--a lot of character cover, great performances that make for a great show though we were pressed for time in assembly. I couldn’t rest for a second. But it was a great experience in that Toby completely trusted me to go for it in assembly.”

MacArthur numbered among her many career highlights the chance to work on “USS Callister” as well as her extensive involvement in the UK Channel 4 series Flowers, a hybrid drama/dark comedy about the eccentric members of the Flowers family. MacArthur’s efforts on Flowers won her a Royal Television Society (RTS) Craft & Design Award for Best Tape and Film Editing in 2016.

This is the final installment in a 15-part series exploring the field of Emmy contenders, and then nominees spanning such disciplines as directing, cinematography, producing, editing, music, production design and visual effects. The series will then be followed up by coverage of the Creative Arts Emmys ceremonies on September 8 and 9, and the primetime Emmy Awards live telecast on September 17.

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