Today we’re talking with two of the editors of the TV series, Wednesday. They are Jay Prychidny, CCE and Ana Yavari.
Jay joined us just a few months ago to chat about editing Scream 6. Jay has won or been nominated for numerous Canadian Cinema Editors Awards for projects including The Alienist, Orphan Black, Canada’s Next Top Model, The Next Step, and Lost and Found Music Studios. He also won a BAFTA for The Next Step. His other credits include the TV series Snowpiercer and Altered Carbon.
Ana edited the TV series From, which is currently airing. She was also an editor on The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Hardy Boys.
Art of the Cut: WednesdayThank you for joining me to talk about Wednesday. Tell me a little bit about collaborating with Tim Burton and how he is in an editing room. How do you deal with a new director, and what are you trying to do to make them feel comfortable or understand how they collaborate? Was it all remote collaboration? Jay, what about you? In other words: music and sound effects. A lot of the comedy of Wednesday is in the dwells. It's in the uncomfortable moments. Can you talk about building those or making room for them? So you did some ‘Mickey Mouse-ing’ to temp score? Those episodes are a little more horror. I thought I saw something about her not blinking? Did you try to edit her so she doesn't blink?
I actually did a documentary with John Astin, the original Gomez. We did a whole documentary about the making of the original TV series. He pointed out how loving they were - that they were one of the most loving families on television at the time.
PRYCHIDNY: The thing I like best about it is it really gives you a perspective on our world. I love that in our show, Wednesday commented on social media and things like that. It's like you get to look at our world through a different lens a little bit.Let's talk about the difficulty of the transitions in tone because there is a horror side of it and there's a little bit of the detective story side of it, and there's also the comedy side of it. Is there a trick to making those transitions in tone, or is that all taken care of by the script?
YAVARI: Jay, did you consciously think about that while cutting?
PRYCHIDNY: Often I do, just because it's something that I really like. I've worked on a bunch of shows that really shift tone a lot and I just love that because to me that's an important tool in my toolbox of ‘How do you keep an audience engaged.’ I love when you have those opportunities to really switch into a different mode of storytelling. That makes it just pop and makes the audience sit up and ask, “Oh, what's happening now?” As opposed to everything just running together. So, I definitely try to make the emotional stuff really emotional. I try to make the comedic stuff really comedic and just find the horror elements and then just try to find ways of transition.
Sometimes it is just about slamming the audience into the next tone and sometimes that can work in a fun and surprising way. Sometimes it's a gear-grinding moment where the audience feels like they're being forced into something they weren't prepared for.
YAVARI: It does also need to be believable within the language of the show. I never felt like the tone switched too much, you don't ever wanna feel like you're watching a different show.
For example, in the seventh episode of Wednesday she goes on a date with Tyler and they wanted to show this softer side of Wednesday and Jenna performed it a couple of different ways. There was this girlier side of her watching this horror movie, which turned out to be Legally Blonde and she also performed it in a way where she was more grossed out or disgusted. We wanna go romantic comedy here but still within her realm.
PRYCHIDNY: Definitely for me, Wednesday's perspective was always the kind of grounding force for me, and the show is called Wednesday. Jenna is in almost every scene. So, it's a no-brainer for me to just play things from her perspective as much as possible and see the world the way she sees it.
One of my favorite scenes is in Episode Six when Enid and Wednesday have their argument about Wednesday not understanding what friendship is. For me to be able to play those kinds of things from her perspective and seeing her lost and adrift in other people's emotions and not knowing how to deal with that. I think that's a valuable thing to explore because that's a thing a lot of people face whether they're neurodivergent or not. For me, to explore that from Wednesday's perspective, I thought it was fresh and interesting.
YAVARI: You finally see Enid stand up for herself. I feel like we all have that friend who is the flower and then people who are the watering can. Enid is like the watering can friend, she'll take your crap all the time and keep giving and giving until they've had enough.
Wednesday is caught so off-guard at that moment. It's almost like it finally clicked. At that moment, it’s like oh, maybe I haven't been paying attention to other people.In that scene in episode six, did you feel like you consciously needed to be in her perspective? And what do you do editorially to be in her perspective?
PRYCHIDNY: I'd say “great!” I just had this idea, I thought I'd try it but I'll edit it the other way and you can see that and you can decide what you like better. More often than not he would say “No, that's okay. We'll just go with this.” So he trusted that, which was really nice and he was open to seeing things.
It's not like I did anything crazy outside the box on this show because you can only go so far with that footage. I tried to tweak it a little bit and more often than not he was really open to seeing things done in surprising ways that he wasn't expecting.I can think of a very specific editorial idea, probably Jay's the best person to talk about this - the flashbacks. Whenever she would have these "Touch somebody and her head flies back in a vision" moments, can you talk about cutting those and any experimentation? Ana was talking about the fact that she didn't get to see your episodes. How did she deal with those once you've already established a rhythm or a way to do those flashes?
PRYCHIDNY: They were done in isolation. I did mine differently from Ana's, and then I think they are different - they aren't consistent even within my own episodes, they're not entirely consistent.When you get to those moments, it seems like you have got to be on the frame. If you go too far or too short that flashback doesn't feel like it's gonna work.
PRYCHIDNY: With the beginning of production there's a lot of energy and nervousness and insecurity. The producers kept saying we have these flashbacks. We don't know what we're doing with them and they were scripted as being very punchy and visceral, Tim shot them like normal scenes and so there was this kind of anxiety "Oh they're supposed to be like this, but they were shot like this."
The showrunners on this show - Miles and Al - have very strong opinions and Tim Burton obviously has very strong opinions. The kind of tension between them was something I had to be aware of a lot of the time. I was aware that Al and Miles really wanted them to feel punchy and visceral. For me the style of that flashback with the flashes and the cutting was just my attempt to try to serve both masters in a way.They worked great to me! I feel like they were shot the way they needed to be shot to pull that off. Ana, do you have any thoughts on those flash moments?
PRYCHIDNY: The idea of taking something shot and making it feel really punchy and visceral. That was what I came on and I really didn't have any other ideas. Luckily everyone liked it, it worked for Tim, it worked for Al, and Miles.Ana, what did you see in his edit that you needed to copy?
YAVARI: It was the rhythms, how quick, what parts we concentrate on a little bit longer, what things we do quickly. There was also a lot of reframing, there was a lot of recoloring, which I do think changed. I don't remember if our offline coloring was what ended up being on screen.
There were some frame rate differences which my assistant Tom Loundsbury helped with a lot. I had done more of the rhythms offline, those were the flashbacks for when she would get a vision but then in my episodes there's a point where Wednesday starts to accuse Xavier and she says, "When you were at this location" then we go into those flashbacks.
My initial thought was that those aren't visions, those are just flashbacks and that they're very different. I didn't make them stylized at all in my cut. It was quiet, I didn't have sound bites that punched us into them. They were just quick shots in silence in the Nightshades’ library with Xavier, for example. When I was working with James Marshall, the director, he wanted to punch them up a little bit.How did you stylize them? Color or sound? While we’re talking about tonal changes, did it ever happen where you eliminated a scene or rejiggered something and caused two tones that weren’t meant to be juxtaposed?
YAVARI: I didn't have that exact problem but I had other problems. Episode eight, the finale had 25 minutes cut out of it. There were a lot of scenes at the end that got completely cut out because they were closing Bianca's storyline, Eugene's storyline. There were all these kinds of things. They took them out for time. It didn't really affect the tone because they were within the tone of the end already.
PRYCHIDNY: They were probably taken out for pacing more than time, no? We didn't have time restrictions.
That desire to cut dialogue out of a scene. We've all been there but do you ever do that in the editor's cut?
PRYCHIDNY: I always want to feel like the scene's moving forward. That's where I start to have a problem. If I feel like there's dialogue or words that are not pushing us forward. When I come up with those kinds of lines, usually what I try to do is make them so quick and so unimportant that anyone watching the cut would just go "This is superfluous!" I try to keep the dialogue intact as much as possible but really I just place my emphasis in the scene where I think it belongs.
I just really hate the feeling of cutting a line of dialogue and someone saying "Why'd you cut that? That was really important." It feels like you're trying to trick them in some way and sometimes they feel like you're trying to trick them. I don't like giving people that feeling,
I do try to keep the dialogue in as much as possible. The only time I do is if it's really making it impossible for me to present something the way I think it should be presented. Sometimes even in my first cut I'll try to do something creative with cross-cutting scenes together and if I just feel like that's the right way to go and these certain lines are making it impossible then I will cut them and say “This is just what I'm trying.” I'll be transparent about it.
YAVARI: I've never cut out a big back-and-forth. If I want to cut something like that out because I'm confident that it would majorly improve a scene, I might do it but then I will put it at the end of the episode. I'll present it after the end credits to make sure they know this is how I think it works best but I'm not hiding something from you.I'm always thinking about cutting off the first three or four lines of a scene or the last three or four lines of a scene. That's where I have the desire. I've learned my lesson because I did that and it, it backfired horribly. Yeah, and the other thing somebody pointed out to me was you've got a process where those lines will come out. It's better for the director to see them. You've got a couple of months or at least a couple of days or weeks for them to say, "We could probably lose those," but if you lose them at the beginning, they have a stigma to them that from then on. The director might want to protect them because you cut them out.
YAVARI: That is so true, that's happened to me. You go and cut a whole scene out or something because you think it's going to make it work better and it ends up backfiring, they get more protective over it.
PRYCHIDNY: Ana to come back to what you said about Al and Miles. I think that was because there was a cut of the episode they'd already seen and then you were tasked with trying to make it all better. Al and Miles are not precious about their dialogue. They're probably the most critical! "What is this? Why is it here?" (Jokingly)
I said you're being asked for your perspective and you're being asked to make it better. You should have free reign to do whatever you want at that point because it was already deep into the creative process.Anything else you two wanna chat about? Anything you feel like you want either highlight?
PRYCHIDNY: What did you love about the show Steve? Why did you love it? I wanna ask you the questions. (Laughing)I loved every part of the show. I was captivated from pretty much two or three minutes into the first episode. I'd never seen anything with Jenna in. I thought she was fantastic. Of course, the shooting of those graphic novel compositions is fantastic. It's interesting that the two of you edited without seeing the other person's work because it did give you a chance to start as a comedy and then become more and more horror as it went on. I think that was an endearing thing for the audience. It helps you to become immersed in it before you become terrified! One, Two, Five, Six. The two of you did a great job. Thank you so much for talking about it with us and good luck on your current projects.