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Joaquin Elizondo (‘Griselda’ editor): ‘Our focus was to have Sofia Vergara really stand out’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

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Joaquin Elizondo understood from the get-go that there was no fuzziness in what his priority should be as an editor of the six-part Netflix biographical crime drama “Griselda“: it was to make sure that star Sofia Vergara was made to shine as brightly as possible. “And she definitely did,” he observes. “I would be reviewing scenes daily with (director) Andi (Baiz), and (Sofia) stood out so much. She killed it.” It was the first dramatic role for the actress who played Gloria Delgado-Pritchett for 11 seasons on “Modern Family.” Here, she portrayed the real-life notorious Colombian drug “queenpin” Griselda Blanco, and Vergara is in practically every frame of the six-hour project. “We cut this for about a year, and it was a great experience.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Still relatively new to editing on high-profile Hollywood projects, Elizondo started out in local TV news in his native San Diego after studying film at the University of Michigan. He honed his craft in news working on documentaries, sports and talk shows. His first big break (“Griselda” was the second) came in 2018 when he was hired as an assistant editor on “Narcos: Mexico,” where he got to know “Griselda” executive producer Eric Newman and director Baiz. He had been hired in part for his bilingual skills, knowing both English and Spanish. “It was great because some of the editors didn’t know Spanish, so I was able to be in the cutting room to guide them,” he recalls. “It afforded me great access.”

Still relatively new to editing on high-profile Hollywood projects, Elizondo started out in local TV news in his native San Diego after studying film at the University of Michigan. He honed his craft in news working on documentaries, sports and talk shows. His first big break (“Griselda” was the second) came in 2018 when he was hired as an assistant editor on “Narcos: Mexico,” where he got to know “Griselda” executive producer Eric Newman and director Baiz. He had been hired in part for his bilingual skills, knowing both English and Spanish. “It was great because some of the editors didn’t know Spanish, so I was able to be in the cutting room to guide them,” he recalls. “It afforded me great access.”

One day while working on “Narcos: Mexico,” Elizondo heard chatter about a Griselda project and was immediately interested in joining it. “I was like, ‘Ah, this is something I’ve got to do’,” he remembers. He had learned about Blanco while watching the 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” and when he became aware that Vergara was being considered to star in the project, he was even more intrigued. He pitched himself and finally got back a “Yes” to work on the project, in this case editing episodes 1, 3 and 5. His Spanish skills came in handy on “Griselda” as well, as the narrative shifts regularly between English and Spanish with subtitles – tailor-made for Elizondo’s skill set.

The first six months of Elizondo’s job came during the actual “Griselda” production, working remotely from home. The next six months were in the office working side-by-side with his colleagues (including director Baiz). “During production, Andi wasn’t in the cutting room with me but wanted us to send him scenes from that day’s work every day,” he says. “Every evening, Id send him a sequence of scenes or a single scene, and he would give me notes either that night or the next morning. He just really wanted to be on top of it and see what he was shooting and if he misses something and needed to get something else. It was even better being in the office and feeding off of Andi’s energy. I honestly prefer that in person versus on a computer screen.”

Working on the first episode, where the tone of the entire series was being set, provided perhaps the biggest editing challenge for Elizondo. “We were really switching around a lot of scenes,” he points out, “and unfortunately we had to lose a certain number of them. We were doing a lot of exploring with music, with pacing. We experimented a lot, tried a lot of things until I think eventually it was just a feeling we got in our gut that was like, ‘All right, I think this is it. It feels right.’ We tried a different beginning to the episode and a different ending. Lots of moving parts.”

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