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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with Zachary Marsh, the Hollywood Critics Association's Montage Maestro

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

This interview has been in the making for over a year now, and I am so happy to tell you all about Zachary Marsh and his phenomenal montages.



If you don't recognize the name, that's understandable but, if you're a fan of Bo Burnham, I have a feeling you'll have seen his breathtakingly beautiful montage for the Hollywood Critics Association.


Some backstory: In August of 2021, the Bo fandom was excitedly watching the HCAs award ceremony online because we had read ahead of time that Bo was going to be the first-ever recipient of their Virtuoso Award.


Since Bo had been elusive (to say the least) after releasing Inside three months earlier to universal acclaim, we all were champing at the bit for some sign of him at an awards show. This particular ceremony was virtual, but we excitedly watched and hoped he would show up in some capacity to accept his award.


Prior to Bo's absolutely insane "speech," the fandom was falling all over ourselves about the montage that had preceded Bo kissing the camera and saying "thank you" repeatedly.



It was GLORIOUS—a stunning mix of YouTube reactions and covers, Bo's roles in movies and tv shows, his Vines (!), and of course Inside footage perfectly paired with Comedy's lyrics. Whomever created it had to be a huge fan, and Zach was kind enough to talk to us on Reddit about the montage.



Fun fact: I had actually pointed him to the appropriate thread so he could get his much-deserved accolades (and we'd DMed each other later on since we both saw Inside at the Ritz in Philadelphia in 2021)!



Anyway, when coming up with my best Bo-related videos list, I of course included the Virtuoso montage, and I had reached out a few times to Zach about doing an interview. Luckily, he got back to me recently and answered all of my questions about his editing, what it was like meeting Bo (and getting a hug!), and how the heck the HCA folks reacted to his surreal speech.


Here is my interview with Zach, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.


Stand-Up Comedy Historian: Hey, Zach! Thanks for getting back in touch with me. I can't wait to chat with you about your mind-blowing montages, particularly the Virtuoso Award one for Bo in August 2021 (and we have to discuss his truly bizarre "acceptance speech" haha).


WTFIGO indeed


Zachary Marsh: Of course! It's my pleasure.


SUCH: Fantastic!


So first off, please tell my readers about where you're from and what you had studied in school.


ZM: Hi all, my name is Zachary Marsh. I am 26 years old, born and raised in the Philadelphia/South Jersey metropolitan area, and graduated in 2019 from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY with a BFA in Film.


SUCH: Yes, we're both Philly-ish natives! And that major makes perfect sense considering what you do for a living now.


What compelled you to create your first video? When did you get started? And what software/tools do you use for editing?


ZM: My first montage-based video was made in 2012 or 2013 while I was in high school. I made it both as a school project and as something to upload to a YouTube channel I was on called “We Live Film,” which I was doing video movie reviews on at the time.


I was compelled because I liked the idea of syncing music and video clips together, and finding a common theme between clips and a song definitely helped me to play around.


I use Final Cut Pro as my sole editing software. It’s the one I’m most comfortable using, and it’s the one I’ve used the longest.


SUCH: Wow, you've been doing this for over a decade—so cool!


When did you first discover Bo and his works? Are you a longtime fan or a newer one because of Inside?


ZM: I think I first discovered Bo when I saw the Can’t Handle This clip from his Make Happy Netflix special. I thought it was incredible, but I didn’t think too much of it after initially checking it out.



I wouldn’t call myself a “longtime fan” or anything like that because me becoming a fan of his is kind of a long and somewhat unusual story, so please bear with me.


My friend Scott Menzel asked me to make a few montages, including the opening montage, for the 2019 edition of The Hollywood Critics Association’s (at the time known as the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society, or “LAOFCS” for short) annual awards ceremony after I had done a good job on the sole montage I made the previous year, which was a “Trailblazer Award” montage made to honor Jessica Chastain


Scott Menzel


Along with the opening montage, I also made a “Trailblazer Award” montage for Brie Larson and an “Acting Achievement” montage for John Cho. On top of me making these videos, Scott invited me to come out to Los Angeles for the ceremony itself, which was a HUGE deal for me.


This was my first time in LA, too, and it was at this ceremony where I would cross paths with Bo.


SUCH: So you’ve actually met Bo in person before—how exciting! Can you tell me more about that experience, and did you consider yourself a fan of his work by that point?


ZM: So I was flown out to La La Land for the show and my montages were shown to a lot of positive fanfare in the room that night. Toward the end of the show, right before he announced the Best Picture winner for the night, Scott invited me on stage to speak to the audience, introduce myself, and say whatever was on my mind.


I made a little bit of an ass out of myself after I made some remark about killing someone if Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse didn’t win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars (for context, two of the three directors for “Spider-Verse” were attending the show that night), but other than that, the impromptu speech I made was overall sweet.


So after I made this speech, I walked down the set of stairs off the stage and the first person to say anything—and I do mean ANYTHING—to me as I went to sit back down was Bo.


He walked towards me and said something along the lines of “Dude, those videos were so good,” which really meant a lot. I had to give him a hug for that because, again, it meant so much to me.  


Regarding the second part of your question, I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself a “fan” of Bo when I met him, as I had only really been familiar with “Can’t Handle This” and his film Eighth Grade (which is why he and Elsie Fisher were attending the event in the first place). 

Bo and Elsie at the LAOFCS ceremony on the red carpet and with Zach


After that night, though, I became more familiar with his stuff, and it wasn’t until I saw what. for the first time shortly after this encounter where I truly became a fan of Bo and his work.


SUCH: Yeah, there's something about meeting Bo in person that really heightens the obsession (at least that was my case...less than a month after Rothaniel I had started my Bo Burnham Historian fan account).


So when did you first watch Bo's masterpiece? What was your impression of it?


ZM: I first saw Inside within the first week of it dropping onto Netflix. I adored the hell out of it when I first saw it and watched it at least two more times since (not including the times I’ve simply had it on in the background).


I also got to see it in theaters when Netflix did the theatrical run of Inside in the summer of 2021, so I would definitely say that I’ve watched Inside distraction-free at least four times.


SUCH: Yes, that theatrical run was so much fun!


Back to your montages. What is your exact process for making videos? How long do they typically take to make from concept to the final product?


ZM: My process? It honestly varies depending on the montage, but for this example I’ll discuss how I do it with the opening montages I’ve done with the HCA.


When I talk to people about how I make the montages, specifically the annual “Year of” montages, I describe it like a sandwich. The first thing I always try to figure out is the music, which I consider the “bread” as it holds everything together. Without the music, then there’s no video. There’s no vibe or voice. Music evokes the emotions and feelings I want to convey to viewers, so that’s always my starting point. 


Making a montage is like making a sandwich, eh?


Once I have a rough set of songs that I want to include, I narrow down the tracks to a few that I think will fit best with each other.


With the most recent “Year of” montage I made for the HCA, I knew I wanted it to begin with something that sounded sincere and inspiring as I figured starting out with a celebration of film as a whole would be a good way to bring people in. 


It was also the only way I could fit nominated movies like The Whale and Women Talking into the video since they don’t exactly have much material I could use with faster, more dance-friendly music.


Once I dedicated the first minute of the video to this slower vibe, I used the rest of the video to go ballistic and fast and wild the way I both like to and think people expected it to. There’s a much longer story I could tell about figuring out the music itself in this section, but I don’t want to burden the readers with too much information.


Anyways, once I figure out the overall soundtrack of the video, then I figure out what titles I need to include for the video, depending on the project (for example with the Bo montage, I made sure to include at least one clip from everything he’s been in that I could find). 


Once I have all of the needed titles accounted for and included in the video, then I’ll take some more creative liberties and add in titles that aren’t needed but I personally feel have some importance when it comes to the overall catalog of films in a given year.


So when you see clips from films like The Munsters, The People’s Joker, Morbius and the two other Pinocchio titles that came out—among many others—that’s all my choice.


Scott and the people at the HCA have given me a lot of carte blanche regarding the music chosen, the footage used, etc., so pretty much every single clip used and song used was all on me, with the very rare exceptions, of course. 


SUCH: That's awesome that they are so flexible and let you be as creative as you want!


Your montage was the third most impressive Bo-related video on my list last year. I especially admire how many roles and cameos you were able to squeeze in (like We Bare Bears, for example).


Bo as Andy Bangs, with Patton Oswalt voicing the koala Nom Nom


Did you just go through Bo’s IMDb page, or had you actually seen all of those shows/movies/music videos? Are there any Bo pieces of media you haven’t watched?


ZM: Well first off, thank you! I’m so happy the montage connected with so many people, you included! 


I basically went through Bo’s IMDB, but there are ones where I just knew he was in it off the top of my head.


I haven’t watched all of the shows/movies that he’s been a part of, but rather skimmed through them to find the clips I thought would work best depending on where I didn’t have a clip yet at the time.


I did watch all of the music videos, though, which was an absolute treat.



SUCH: Well if you (or anyone else) is interested in the sources for those clips, you can read my Bo Burnham primer. It has practically EVERYTHING Bo's done in one convenient article!


So how long did it take you to compile and edit the montage? Were there drafts? Did anything change or get removed that you wish had stayed in?


ZM: I think, in total, the Bo montage took a couple weeks to compile and edit, though at the time I was working on two other montages simultaneously so this “couple weeks” was spread out over a couple months or so, if I remember correctly. 


Absolutely there were drafts, though it’s mostly just the same video with lots of empty black space in between clips.  Things were definitely changed, but I don’t have any regrets on what was taken out and what stayed in. 


SUCH: Glad to hear it!


Was there a clip you really wanted to add but couldn’t for some reason?


ZM: Regarding clips from Bo-related projects, I pretty much used everything I wanted to include. Maybe there was something I wanted to use at the time but couldn’t find a place for it, but it was so long ago and my memory is kinda awful at times, so I don’t remember.


I’m overall very proud of the montage with one exception. My one true regret with the video is that I didn’t have more non-white and non-male content creators featured in it. 


I briefly used snippets of F.D. Signifier’s video as well as Hannah Bayles’ video when I was fading videos on top of each other toward the beginning of the montage, but that was it. 


People in the comments at the time rightfully called me out on this, and I had said that I would possibly do an updated version with more non-white and non-male content creators in the future, but as time has said, that hasn’t happened as of now.   


SUCH: Yes, I remember reading those comments as well. Totally valid point!


Luckily, my friend and video editor Alicia (AKA ravenhpltc24) did an INCREDIBLE job incorporating women and people of color in her One Year In(side) video.


What do you think of her editing style? It reminds me of yours in that she also bases her montages and trailers on music.


ZM: I had probably seen the Bo Burnham Eighth Grade standup compilation video in passing, but I hadn’t remembered it.


Going into their trailer and montage edits, I have to say that Alicia’s videos are some of the sharpest and most inventive edits I’ve seen in the time I’ve been working in this pseudo-profession of mine.


I’ve had ideas of doing stuff like this with tons of movies, including Inside, but it’s amazing to see people out there who have that creative push and knack to throw these together with such precision.


Alex Wolff [Ed. note: actor and filmmaker who starred in Hereditary] once said to me about one of my montages (and I’m going to be paraphrasing this, so bear with me) that you can tell that none of the editing choices were half-assed and it was all made with a kind of love that you can feel when watching it. I think that sentiment also applies here.


Wolff in the film, and Bo and Jerrod Carmichael with director Ari Aster (not Zach, although they do look similar at first glance haha)


I literally just finished rewatching the trailer Alicia cut for The Inside Outtakes and it’s the kind of thing that almost makes me envious about how good it is.


If Alicia is reading this, first off: Hi, how are you?


Second, please don’t stop making this kind of stuff. Please don’t stop editing. You have such an amazing gift that it would arguably be criminal if you stopped doing it (unless you somehow lose the passion to do it which, unfortunately, is something I can relate to). I would love to collaborate or work with you on something in the future, and I’m not saying this lightly.


Even if you just wanted to talk so I could pick at your brain a little, I’d be more than up for doing something like that. Bottom line: keep doing you, Alicia, and don’t let anyone tell you that your editing work is anything less than inspired and fantastic. 


SUCH: Aww, that is so kind of you, and I COMPLETELY agree! Her videos are my favorite for sure, and I can't wait to see what she does next.


Back to your work though. Did you have difficulty finding clean clips to fit into the montage? Bo’s comedy act can be quite filthy (as you well know since you, as you put it in the YouTube comments, “fell down the rab-Bo-t hole” haha).



I ask because I tried to create a profanity-free playlist to listen to around my young kids in 2019, and I could only come up with 8 songs at the time (Inside and The Inside Outtakes helped beef up the list, thankfully).


ZM: Luckily I didn’t. Once I figured out the song I was going to use (it was always going to be Comedy, by the way. That was my first idea for the video from the get-go) and trimmed it down accordingly, it was all about going through everything and finding the visuals that I thought would work best with the lyrics/tone of the song.


SUCH: That makes perfect sense!


So, how much careful planning was involved in editing together the montage? You had matched up lyrics with the perfect clips, in my opinion, and the part where you have “I swore I’d never be back” with him leaving the stage at the end of Make Happy always makes me verklempt.


I'm seriously Mike Myers as Linda Richman by that point in the montage


Was that the intention, or were some of those choices coincidental?


ZM: Some of the choices were definitely coincidental, but others, like the “I swore I’d never be back” part you mentioned, were 100% intentional.


For example, not using any of Bo’s standup bits until the “If you wake up in a house that’s full of smoke” part was accidental on my end. 


My good friend Nicole caught that one!


Mixing in Chris Rock’s and Jerrod Carmichael’s stand-up specials the way I did was also intentional.


Bo directing Tamborine and 8, respectively


It was an overall mixed bag of intentional choices and happy accidents that occurred while I was editing.



Basically I wanted to convey just how much of a cultural influence Bo has made, especially with this special. I also wanted to make it as a way to show Bo (if he actually saw it) that if he's ever feeling down or depressed or alone that he's not and that his words words words mean so much to so many people out there. In other words, I wanted to show just how well he's healing the world with comedy.

SUCH: Healing the world with his comedy! So very true, and I appreciated how you had explained your reasoning in that thread. Very sweet of you!


So I have to ask: Did you know ahead of time about Bo’s “acceptance speech” for the Virtuoso Award? What was your reaction since you are both a fan AND an editor? Bo should be a horror movie director, right? Even Fangoria agrees with me on that point!



ZM: I knew Scott was talking with Bo’s people about getting him to film an acceptance speech. I had actually wanted to film some sort of introduction to show just how much Bo’s meant to me and why I felt he was deserving of the award.


The anticipation was building!


Ultimately this idea was shut down by Scott and he ended up doing something similar, which was sent to Bo’s people.


A screenshot I took of Scott's speech during the HCA ceremony


They sent that to Bo, and it was Scott’s little speech that got Bo to finally agree to film some sort of acceptance speech.


I remember Scott telling me that Bo agreed to do an acceptance speech and him sending me the raw video Bo had sent to his team to send to Scott. Seeing that thing for the first time was surreal, to say the least.



It can definitely come across the wrong way if you aren’t familiar with Bo’s sense of humor, but considering that Bo was intentionally trying to be private and reclusive when it came to talking about or acknowledging the special in the press, it was honestly a miracle that he ultimately sent anything at all.



SUCH: Oh, for sure. You guys were literally the ONLY acceptance speech for Inside that Bo did, so it's amazing that he was willing to do it considering he did absolutely no press for his masterpiece (and only had two award ceremony appearances in person, which he unfortunately lost both of those awards to Hamilton and Adele's director).


The two ceremonies in question (Emmys and DGAs)


Have you worked with other media organizations to edit their montages? How do they compare to HCA? 


ZM: I’ve been in a very lucky position that I rarely get notes about the work I create unless I’m struggling and looking for specific feedback.


I had a brief interning stint with Troma (the indie studio behind The Toxic Avenger and Cannibal! The Musical, among many other things) where I edited a music video for them, and they only wanted me to take out one shot that they thought was a bit too much, so that was nice.


Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman and his most famous movie character


Matt and Trey's musical prior to South Park (Shpadoinkle Day is the song that plays during the Braniff airline logo in the end credits of their flagship cartoon)


Last year I was lucky enough to work on some social media videos for an indie movie called Tankhouse where I got needed feedback whenever necessary.  



The videos I’ve made with the HCA have been the most artistically expressive I’ve been when it comes to making montages, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t ever any pushback and demands for edits.


They haven’t usually been from the HCA directly, mind you, but rather from the publicists representing actors/filmmakers. It’s sometimes hard to know if the talent is directly giving feedback about what you’re doing even though that’s what the publicists are saying, but in a couple of cases, the feedback given was somewhat disheartening. 


I’m not going to specify which celebrities’ teams I’ve had some difficulty with, but I will tell you about the two most difficult videos I had to work on: the first instance had me going for a more humble/“back to your roots” vibe with a recipient that I thought would humanize them. Their team came back to me and said the talent didn’t like the choices I made with this and told me to take this part out entirely as they wanted distance from this particular thing from earlier in their career. 


The second instance involves someone who I was tasked with making an honorary montage for that ended up being scrapped entirely because their team was being very difficult and picky with changes right up to the 11th hour.


I was literally trying to edit this thing together while I was at the ceremony in one of the dressing rooms. That was a nightmare. But overall, every experience is different, and nothing is comparable to one another, in my eyes.


SUCH: Wow, that sounds really demanding! Yikes.


I was thrilled to see that both Bo and Jerrod were nominated for Best Comedy Special (which Norm Macdonald won posthumously).  Why are the HCAs the only ones to recognize the brilliance of the Outtakes? ;)



ZM: I think it was ultimately about the qualifications of the Outtakes, as it was a YouTube-exclusive special that wouldn’t technically count as “television.” It would 100% qualify for a Webby Award, but for an Emmy? Unfortunately not. The HCA can be more lenient towards some things like with The Inside Outtakes, which I admire.


Compared to other organizations, and I am more than likely biased saying this, I feel like the HCA has the strongest pulse on what the voices on the internet are into. Not just with The Inside Outtakes, by the way. Why the hell was the HCA able to show some love to Smiling Friends but the people at the Emmys couldn’t do the same thing? That’s just my two cents on that matter.



SUCH: Totally agree with you there. I really enjoy watching the ceremonies because they often have things I've actually watched, not just the critical darlings that only played in NY and LA or the same old TV shows every year like the Emmys.


I'll have to check out that show somehow! I love animated comedies.


What’s your favorite thing to edit? Least favorite?


ZM: My favorite things to edit are these montages, especially ones where I have some sort of personal love/connection to the subject matter.


My least favorite things to edit are videos where I don’t have too much of a say or personal touch/connection in the material. I do my best to edit these together as well as possible, but these projects definitely feel more like work than something I’m having fun creating, you know?


SUCH: Yes, absolutely! I feel the same way about my website—I really enjoy writing about things I'm passionate about (and that's also why journalism wasn't a good fit for me lol).


So what's your favorite Bo song? Special? Feel free to name more than one.


ZM: My favorite special would either be what. or Inside, without a doubt.


In terms of favorite songs, off the top of my head I can think of Words Words Words, Repeat Stuff, Comedy, Don’t Wanna Know, and, in a weirdish twist, Bezos III/The Future.


SUCH: Excellent choices, and I'm completely with you on that final song. The transition from the end of Bezos III to the start of The Future is transcendent, in my opinion. I also adore Feel Good and The Chicken right now for obvious reasons haha.


My chicken earrings and bracelet 🐔


Please tell me one fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know about. Do you have any special hobbies or interests?


ZM: I love archiving video files for preservation's sake. That’s a weird hobby/interest I have.


A fun fact about myself would be that I can do various impressions of characters and celebrities, including (but not limited to) Britney Spears and Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.


SUCH: Oh wow! I actually know a number of film preservationists through my ex-husband, including the guy who did the remastering of Manos: The Hands of Fate, Ben Solovey.



And I love hearing about your impression skills! Meatwad seems like a fun voice to do. Number one in the 'hood, G!


That Adult Swim show also had a ton of memorable comedians doing voicework, like David Cross and Patton Oswalt. I remember watching it every night in college!


Cross as Happy Time Harry, a depressed doll, and Oswalt doing double duty as the Frat Aliens


So what's up next for you? Any future projects in the works?


ZM: Nothing really is up next for me at the moment. Right now I’m just trying to reach out to people to see if anyone needs any extra hands on projects.


It’s unfortunately very hard to find jobs in the film/media industry these days, especially with the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes occurring at the time of me answering these questions.



On a side note, the writers and actors are completely in the right and deserve proper compensation, by the way. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either unaware of what exactly’s being asked of or is the head of one of the studios that caused these strikes to happen in the first place.


SUCH: Definitely. You have to keep fighting the good fight! Corporate greed is killing America.


Anyway, how can people best support your work? Do you have any social media you'd like to plug?


ZM: People can support my work simply by sharing it around! Even just leaving a comment on a video or reaching out directly via social media or whatever else there is to share feedback or wanting to collaborate means the world.


If anyone does want to follow myself or my work, you can check out my online portfolio at https://zacharysmarsh.wixsite.com/website, you can follow me on Twitter (we’re all still going to call it Twitter, Elon) @ZachSMarsh, or you can find me on Instagram @thatmovieguyfromsj.  


You can also check out all of my montages on YouTube.


Thank you so much for reaching out and asking some fantastic questions! 


SUCH: Of course—love that Bluth family/Peanuts mashup on your Twitter by the way!


And thank you for helping me check off another item on my interview bucket list. :)




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