Ep40: Breaking “Bad” From Assistant to Editor | with Kelley Dixon, ACE (pt 2)

Kelley Dixon is the Emmy-winning editor of such iconic shows as Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Shameless. She has been nominated for an editing Emmy every single year since 2012 (winning in 2013 for an episode of Breaking Bad), she has been nominated for an Eddie Award seven out of the last eight years, and she has received numerous other nominations as well.

Needless to say, Kelley is a film editing badass.

In part 2 of our conversation today (Click here for part 1 of this interview) we dive as deep as I’ve ever gone into all of the steps necessary to climb from the bottom of the ladder to the top in Hollywood. We go over all the details of Kelley’s “overnight success story” where it took her just short of 20 years of being an assistant editor before exploding onto the scene with Breaking Bad. We chat about the mindset necessary to persevere, how to build relationships with producers, directors, and your editors so you put yourself in a position to be promoted when the time is right, how to develop your skills as an editor even if you’re buried with assistant work, and most importantly we talk about the importance of playing chess with your career and making the right strategic moves rather than always chasing after the next shiny object and playing a game of checkers.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • How to know when you’re ready to transition from being an assistant
  • Kelley’s long and twisty path to becoming an Emmy-winning editor
  • Building good relationships in the industry
  • The art of being a good conversationalist
  • What to do when it’s “your time” after being an assistant for two years
  • The importance of reminding yourself that there is no one way to make it
  • Finding good editing mentorship to learn more as well as recognize your own style
  • The danger of moving up the career ladder too quickly
  • Honing your editing craft by discussing subtext
  • The right way to approach experts instead of always asking, “Can I take you out for coffee?”

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Kelley Dixon

Ep39: Breaking “Bad” From Assistant to Editor | with Kelley Dixon, ACE (pt 1)

Our Generous Sponsors:

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Guest Bio:


Kelley Dixon grew up with a single mom who taught grade school on Chicago’s South Side.

After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in Technical Journalism, Kelley’s sights were set on a writing career in advertising. So it was WEST! To Los Angeles! And no openings in any of the ad firms of her dreams.

So instead… Kelley landed a job in MGM’s mail room, and there started a career in the film biz without going to film school!

Kelley has spent the last 10 years editing Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, Preacher, HBO’s Luck, and Shameless, among others. And has worked with some of her admired Directors and Producers and Editors.

She has won 1 Emmy for Breaking Bad. And has received 9 Emmy Nominations and 6 ACE Nominations for her work.

She wishes she had a better written bio than this and thinks talking about herself in the 3rd person is the most obnoxious arrogant thing and hopes you’ll excuse it this time!

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Jakin Rintelman. Special thanks to Krystle Penhall and Sarah Furie for helping to spread the love!

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”