Andrea Arnold was hired by HBO to direct season 2 of Big Little Lies as season 1 director Jean-Marc Vallée was busy with HBO's limited series "Sharp Objects".
Arnold was given free rein, but it was never explained to her that the expectation was her footage would be shaped by Vallée into the show’s distinctive style.
Vallée and Arnold never spoke, nor was there ever a clear showrunner or creative producer who Arnold was answerable to on set. Showrunner Kelley made only a handful of set visits, each lasting approximately an hour.
David Kelley’s soapy scripts, featuring many scenes of two characters sitting across a table talking (which required his approval to alter), were not Arnold’s bread-and-butter, the director was free to shoot them as she saw fit.
The show wrapped production in August 2018, but before Arnold and her London editing team were able to even complete an official cut of an episode, Vallée, now finished with work on “Sharp Objects,” started to take over.
Post-production shifted from London to Vallée’s home city of Montreal, where his own editorial team started cutting what is now airing on HBO. Soon after, 17 days of additional photography were scheduled.
Vallée was now an extremely hands-on EP for the additional shooting in February of 2019, dictating not only what would be shot, but how it would be shot, oversight that Arnold never had during the initial shoot.
Vallée’s reconfiguration of the second season was removing Arnold’s signature contributions. Sixty-page scripts were slashed down episodes that were roughly 40 minutes of length.
While elements of Arnold’s work do remain on-screen – especially in the first episode – the scenes seem truncated, the editing especially choppy. Eleven editors are currently credited on the show.
Andrea Arnold is said to be heartbroken about the experience.