First-time Emmy nominee for his work on “Stranger Things,” editor Dean Zimmerman grew up immersed not just in Hollywood but also in the specific career path of editing, thanks to his father, the Oscar-nominated Don Zimmerman. Being in that environment from such a young age, Zimmerman was able to learn about a variety of genres and watch the industry change with emerging technology, which helped lead him to such big-budget features as “Rush Hour 3” and the “Night at the Museum” franchise before turning his attention to TV. “I owe everything to my father,” Zimmerman says. “He has been very blessed to have worked really hard and become as big as he is, and my influence is 100% him. He taught me everything I know, and I credit everything to him.”
Coming from the world of feature films, what made you want to make the jump to the smaller screen with a project like “Stranger Things?”
I was looking for something with a little more of a slower pace than what I had been doing. A very good friend of mine gave me the pilot script, and I read it, and I gravitated toward it. It stirred the nostalgia within me. It felt like a lot of moments from movies that I loved growing up, and I felt it could be something fun.
What were your expectations for the show once you started working on it?
When we started to shoot the series, it all became very clear that we had something special. The kids were really incredible and were bringing performances that were unexpected. I think as we all were heading down this road of finishing episodes and seeing more and more come, we were realizing we had something special.
What was the collaboration like to create the tone and all-important transitions between worlds on the show?
When we started, the Duffers wanted to these Edgar Wright-esque big sound transitions and building big moments, but then cutting to something quiet. So we took that idea and ran with it. As they were shooting we would go to the set, and we would offer some opinions and suggestions and shot ideas, and they were so welcoming for any kind of suggestion. It was very collaborative.
What is one thing your work as an editor requires that you think gets overlooked, or that most people just don’t know?
My father, who’s been in the business forever and has been my mentor and my teacher, describes it like this: A project is a wagon wheel, and we’re the hub. Every spoke leads to us. So, I think the biggest thing for me is just how much we do and what we’re responsible for: making sure the color is perfect, the dialogue is perfect; there’s so many aspects, especially on this series with how fast the Duffers wanted the series to be paced but still have moments where scenes get to play out with dramatic pauses. Those balances are incredibly important. And at the same time, giving the sound team a template, combining elements of different pieces of music to craft the ultimate score, and then also the amount of visual effects we had.
Speaking of visual effects, what extra challenges did they pose on the show?
How many of those shots we could use in a certain scene. Those numbers are all preconceived until you get the actual footage and see what’s what. It was about being very smart in the usage of them. If you can have something that doesn’t necessarily have visual effects, that may have a greater impact. It was walking that delicate balance and being responsible and using them so that they were more of an asset than a crutch.