Director Benjamin Caron and editor Yan Miles first began working together on the Season 1 episode of “The Crown” entitled “Assassins,” and they immediately hit it off.
“There was a familiarity,” Caron recalls of their first meeting. And now, “after five years together, I spend more time with Yan than I do my wife sometimes. I think there’s a very honest understanding of each other’s lives and that is part of the journey.”
A shared understanding of stories and an appreciation for the same films helped them cement a close collaboration that has gone on through each season of the Netflix royal family drama, most notably including Season 4’s “Fairytale” episode, as well as the upcoming Disney Plus “Star Wars” series “Andor.”
When it came to “Fairytale,” the two sat down for tea and cake to discuss their approach to the episode that would show off a new side of soon-to-be Princess Diana (Emma Corrin), as the young woman faces etiquette lessons and extreme loneliness. While to the outside world her life appears to be a dream come true after catching the attention of Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), inside the palace walls her groom-to-be doesn’t answer her calls.
Caron’s copy of the script, which was filled with his notes, helped Miles hone in on where the most important points of focus would be for the final cut of the episode. “It gave me an insight, because it was filled with references next to the ballet sequence and the roller-skating sequence about how he was going to stage it, dramatize it and how pivotal those scenes were,” he says.
The ballet sequence, during which Diana dances alone in the palace, was essential to play into the “silence and the stillness” of her new world, Caron says.
Music and expression had previously been used in the series with Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), but with Diana they wanted to show what it would be like if she was in a room alone and finally felt free, in a way that also recalled earlier episodes.
“I wanted this scenario where, ‘What if the ballet teacher hadn’t shown up and she finds this freedom of all that has been bearing down on her, and she loses herself in youth and music?’” Caron says.
Caron and Miles’ long relationship means they have a shorthand that aids in their collaboration. “Every time he films, he talks — narrates things through — and then it comes to me,” Miles says.
In this case, Miles’ early cuts captured the emotional arc Caron was going for first by trying Cher’s “Believe” on the sequence, and then trying one that had no music but “kept the rawness of her breath and her feet on the floor moving,” Caron says. That cut was almost four minutes long, and ultimately they didn’t have time to keep all of it in. Miles shortened it and then laid Martin Phipps’ score over the scene. “That had more power and was beautiful,” Miles says.
But then the Elton John estate permitted the use of “Song for Guy.” Not only was it fitting given the friendship between the singer and Princess Diana, but it also evoked exactly what Caron was after: the young spirit of Diana. Miles brought in an instrumental cue, which segued into the music of “The Crown.”
“That music moment stressed the duty of the crown and that the crown always wins. We had never really done that before and it was powerful,” says Caron.