Maintaining Consistency with Editor Mark Sadlek on HBO Max's Insecure

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

We recently spoke with Mark Sadlek, one of the producers and editors on HBO Max’s Insecure created by Issa Rae. Insecure follows Issa as she navigates her experience as a modern-day Black woman with her best friend Molly. 

Mark has been part of the show’s production from its very beginning, and has edited every season premiere and finale, including the pilot and recent series finale.

PH: Can you share a bit of your background and what led to you working in the industry?

Mark Sadlek: I’ve been a big movie fan since I was a kid, and films like Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and To Kill a Mockingbird inspired me to think about a career in the tv and film industry. While at college, avante garde and film theory classes fueled my curiosity to find out what made a good story really sing which ultimately led me to the edit bay. I liked the flexibility of editing because it was such a powerful tool for sculpting the story in the final part of the process. It really was the final rewrite. I initially cut anything I could get my hands on like music videos for punk and metal bands in San Diego or projects for other students in school. I was lucky enough to get a PA position in post for MTV which gave me access to edit equipment 24/7. I eventually taught myself how to use Avid and landed my first professional edit gig cutting the Guns N’ Roses Behind the Music for VH1.

PH: Throughout your career, what are some of the things you've learned about the job (and yourself)? 

Mark Sadlek: I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself. You are your own biggest critic and the only one doubting you is you. Don’t be afraid to follow and defend what you feel in your gut.

PH: Who are some of your inspirations? 

Mark Sadlek: I of course could say great editors like Walter Murch or Thelma Schoonmaker, but it’s also the directors of my favorite films like Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott, John Carpenter, Frank Darabont, Harold Ramis and David Lean to name a few. On a personal level, inspirations are mentors I’ve had along the way like Kevin Lopez (one of the best music editors I’ve worked with), Dean Holland (one of the best comedy editors I’ve worked with) and James Wilcox. I’ve picked up so many things from them and so many more people along the way, and I can’t thank them enough.

PH: Let's talk about your latest project, HBO Max’s Insecure. How did you get involved? 

Mark Sadlek: I had just finished editing Mike Schur’s Parks and Recreation and my agent had sent me the script for Insecure. I was blown away by its novelty, unique characters and amazing balance of comedy and drama. I met with creator Issa Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny and wanted to make sure they understood the passion I had to help tell these great stories. Prentice had just finished Brooklyn 99 with Mike Schur and was able to use Mike as a reference. I got the call soon after from Issa and Prentice that I was hired.

PH: What drew you to it—and what has your experience been like working on the series? 

Mark Sadlek: I was instantly intrigued by Insecure because of the well written, three-dimensional, every day characters from a part of L.A. under-represented in TV and film. I’m grateful to have been able to edit the Insecure pilot, series finale and every premiere and finale in between. Getting the chance to see our actors evolve along with our character’s emotional journeys and storylines was extremely informative in the edit for performance choices, edit pacing and cutting patterns. I feel lucky to have had a chance to work with talented people like Issa Rae, Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Kevin Bray and Regina King in the edit bay. Collaborating in the edit to elevate the show was always a united effort.

PH: As an editor who has worked on all five seasons, did you face any challenges? How did you handle those? 

Mark Sadlek: The biggest challenge on Insecure for me was finding the style template for this new series while cutting the pilot. In the first episode we needed to lock down the right performances for each new character, balance the comedy and drama, find the right music, build the first mirror montage of many, build the first fantasy sequence of many and find way to use our L.A. B-roll to create another character in the series.  Like all pilots it became a process of trial and error from my initial edit through Melina Matsoukas’ director's cut to Issa and Prentice’s producer’s cut and HBO’s final cut. For example, the first string out of Issa’s mirror montage was 45 minutes long, and that was initially cut down to 15 minutes of really funny moments that was then painfully trimmed down to a two minute version for the editor’s cut. In the end cutting the pilot was a meritocracy and the best idea ruled until the final cut was greenlit for series. 

PH: How do you maintain consistency as an editor working on the same series for five seasons? 

Mark Sadlek: Editing every Insecure premiere and finale for all five seasons was a huge help for me to keep our editorial aesthetic consistent because I was always the first one in and the last one out of the edit bay every year. Also, because the show’s overall feel was always fresh in my head, it allowed me to help the show evolve in the edit while still maintaining the core aesthetic of Insecure

PH: Can you share any of your upcoming projects? 

Mark Sadlek: I’m editing an Apple TV+ series called The Big Door Prize based on a novel by the same name. That’s all I can say.

PH: Overall, what are you looking forward to in 2022? 

Mark Sadlek: More time with family and friends, no new variants and working with good people on challenging projects. Oh and a White Sox World Series win!

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