Jeff Probst on Editing Survivor & Making the Show for Kids From ‘On Fire’ Podcast (Episode 8)

What goes into the editing process?

Photo: CBS


On the latest On Fire podcast, Jeff Probst, Brittany Crapper, and Jeff Wolfe reunited to talk about the latest season 44 episode and the editing within Survivor. Alongside editor Dave Armstrong, they discussed the post-production of the show and broke down how “point of view” shifts the impact of a scene and how the audience perceives it. 


  • The editing of the last episode conveyed Frannie’s heartbreak over losing Matt at the previous tribal, and the audience understands their connection due to Frannie’s POV.
  • Carson getting ill is also discussed, and only the medical team can intervene to help him. Probst also raises the dilemma of considering someone sick as “easy prey” or if the human aspect can prevail over the game one. 
  • Carolyn’s decision to pair up with Carson is brought up, as players were told to divide themselves into pairs before the challenge, and they didn’t know whether they would run alongside or opposite their partner. Her decision highlights Carolyn’s character and how she’s a mom first, even in a game like Survivor. 
  • Even small editing moments can make a transition feel as impactful for viewers as it is for the players.


  • In Survivor, everything is filmed 24/7 from multiple cameras at different locations, such as camps, challenges, beach talks, confessionals, and tribal councils. This roughly sums up forty-five hundred hours of footage, and fifteen hours of Survivor are shown to the public. Overall, about 300 hundred hours for every hour airs on TV.
  • Among those hours of footage is that season’s story, which the post-production team will tell through the art of editing. 
  • Crapper reveals Survivor has twenty editors, who are divided into editing a specific part of the show; for instance, challenge editors are in charge of editing every single challenge throughout the season, or the next-time editor creates that segment at the end of every episode. 
  • The primary role of the editors is figuring out the who, what, why, and when of a season, including its highs and lows, to convey to the audience the overall arch of what that season included. There’s also the distinction of creating the “whole story” through the episodes and the individual storylines contained in each one.
  • Probst says Survivor doesn’t fabricate moments; they show the viewers what happened. 
  • Every player has their own POV and version of the story, which is not always accurate. This point is highly contested between former players when they watch their season being aired and complain about the edit, as the POV shown is not their own, and therefore, that story is not theirs. 
  • Probst compared editing to taking a picture with a background that contains several things. The image must be cut to fit when placed on a frame. It doesn’t mean that whatever was happening in the background wasn’t there; it just means that the area framed was the area that better translated the whole picture. 
  • Editor Dave Armstrong makes an appearance and gives a summary of his career. He then goes on to say that he’ll use the scene where Carolyn found the idol within the birdcage as an example to show how they edit the show. 
  • Many emotions and moments can go in to show the impact of a scene. Armstrong says that a positive moment was when Carolyn got the idol, and the negative was Carolyn’s nerves about getting caught. Back and forth between positive and negative moments, the scene was pieced together to show the audience what an impactful moment it was. 
  • Music is also significant in editing, as it’s an effective tool to show, and sometimes foretell, when a high or low moment is happening or is to come. That way, the audience is at the edge of their seats as they know something big is coming just based on the images being pieced together and the music creating a particular atmosphere. 
  • Armstrong then shows the producers different ways Carolyn’s scene was edited with different perspectives and musical tones to illustrate various aspects of the same situation. One showed all the positive moments, which gave it a monotonous tone; another highlighted the scene’s chaos; and finally, the third one started from an “unknown perspective” to create doubt about who was the player that found the idol. Ultimately, the scene shown on TV was the third one as it was the most complete one and conveyed Carolyn’s personality better too. 
  • Armstrong also says that he was the one that had the idea of Carolyn talking to a producer in the season’s first scene. He said it was an experiment to try new things, as Survivor has allowed its producers and editors the freedom to experiment and see what works. 


  • How does the editing team remain unbiased when knowing how the story eventually unfolds? Probst says Survivor is more like a documentary that relies on facts, so biases don’t factor in. Armstrong says his job as an editor entails him telling the players’ stories as authentically as possible. 
  • Who’s in charge of picking the music? Armstrong responds that the editors are and the scores are written specifically for the show. 
  • How long are tribal councils without editing? Probst says that they used to last for hours, now for about an hour. 
  • Why Jeff sucks? Probst is told that for the last several years, the target audience for Survivor has shifted from the fans towards Jeff, as he’s too laser-focused on getting a satisfying ending that he wants which comes at the expense of drama and entertainment. Also, the shift from final two to final three is the worst, plus the Edge of Extinction and the hourglass. Probst responds that he’s mature enough to accept constructive criticism and agrees that, on some level, he makes Survivor for himself, though his target audience and point of view are seen from kids’ eyes. Probst adds that a satisfying ending for him is also entertaining. 

Written by

Mariana Loizaga

Mariana is a lawyer and a writer from Mexico City, Mexico. She has a masters degree in International Relations from the University of Surrey. Her hobbies include reading, blogging, and of course watching Survivor. The first season of Survivor she ever saw was Survivor: Philippines and she became so fascinated with the game and its many layers that she went back through the archives and watched every single previous season.

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