In this latest “print” edition of my episodes of PVC’s Art of the Frame podcast we’re back talking unscripted and reality post-production talking about A&E’s Zombie House Flipping. This chat is with Jeanette Christensen and Dan Wolfmeyer both of whom are editors living in Los Angeles and have a long resume in the unscripted world. If you’re on Twitter you may have been following Dan as he’s been on there for years. In fact, click over there if you want to see Dan’s smiling face (I’ve got a picture of Jeanette below). They’ve both spent a lot of years working for Pilgrim Media Group on a number of their shows including, Wicked Tuna, and Ghost Hunters, as well as other shows like Survivor and Intervention, all of which we talk about in the podcast.
As usual, this is a cleaned-up transcript of a free-wheeling chat so please pardon any typos or weird run-on sentences! Please subscribe, like and all that stuff to the Art of the Frame podcast be it Apple, Spotify or any other place you get podcast. We have a lot of different types of interviews there with a lot of different topics, many of which are not post-production-related at all. Enjoy!
Jeanette: Hi, thanks for having me on.
I have been editing here actually in Los Angeles for 25 years. I started in commercials in Chicago, in the early nineties and then realized that I didn’t want to advertise for the rest of my life. So I moved out here, made the big jump and fell into reality and haven’t left.
Scott: Very nice.
Now, a commercial post-production with agencies that is its own unique world. We talk a little bit about that a couple of weeks ago when I talked with Chancler Haynes, cause he does a lot of agency and commercial stuff, but boy that, I mean, that’s its own dedicated discussion and we will have another time.
Dan, what about you? What’s your, uh, What’s your history besides the fact that you and I have known each other for years on Twitter, but we’ve never actually seen each other in person.
Dan: No, I haven’t seen most people in person in the last two years anyways.
So, it’s normal.
Scott: Your Amazon person, you see them walk up.
Dan: That is true. Unfortunately. I guess as far as I go, my background is I started off in local news in Phoenix, in like the mid, late nineties. Got burned out on that after a few years and moved to California. And decided Hollywood is where I wanted to try to make a career for myself.
So I ended up in docs and reality, and I’ve been here since 2004, just freelancing that whole time.
Scott: Very nice. It’s I think when someone can spend a lot of years as a freelancer, that they’re a very unique soul because it’s not for everybody. There’s a lot of stuff you can do wrong to make it very, very difficult, but at the same time, if you do it well and you enjoy it, there are some really great freedoms that come along with, with being a freelancer like Jeanette, your freelance as well as that.
Have you always been a freelancer once you got out to LA?
Jeanette: Yeah, it’s a unique situation in the industry is I’m technically staff on every show I’m on, but once the show is done, they cut me loose. So yeah, I’ve pretty much freelance the whole time. I’ve never been a, except for one, one instance, I’ve never really been a staff editor.
Scott: So that’s interesting. You say your staff on the show are you working for a post house, sort of where you’re kind of like air quotes here on staff for a post house there or is the show, is there a company entity that you would sort of be working for during that, during that stint of time.
Jeanette: It depends on the company. I think most production companies sometimes they’ll have like a subsidiary that’s for that particular production. But generally, you’re hired by the post house and you work on that show for a specific length of time. And then if they’ve at the end of that, if they’ve got another show, they can roll you on to.
Then that’s a wonderful benefit that can happen, but it doesn’t always happen. I know Dan’s been at Pilgrim doing exactly that for a number of years now.
Dan: Yeah. I’ve been off and on, on their shows, pretty much the last decade. So it’s like, Janette’s saying it’s, you’re freelance, but I guess everyone throws the term “permalance” around, out here to where, you’re not really an employee of that company where you’re going to get, like a full benefits package or anything, but you’re an employee of that company where you’re paid through payroll and, it’s predictable schedules of pay and if they can keep rolling you on to shows and they like you they’ll keep doing that.
Scott: That’s an interesting dynamic, because when you talk about, when you think about working for someone in any sort of somewhat permanent role, the idea of benefits, 401k, health insurance, which is a very large thing in this country, that is something that,
freelancers “permalancers” just we learn how to deal without. You do it yourself. You either can do it or you can’t do it in that, in that kind of case. But I would, I would guess that as far as unscripted post-production out there on the west coast, is that kind of the norm, would you say what you, what you two have been doing for the last number of years?
Dan: Very much. There used to be a lot of 1099 work when I first got here, but there was a whole thing with like FedEx and UPS, drivers being misclassified, and everyone panicked about 1099ing anyone. So I haven’t had a 1099 job in years. Like everything went through payroll companies and you basically you’re like a temp.
Scott: And I would say for those, new to the podcast I’m in Nashville and I’ve been a freelance editor for 20 plus years, and I would say probably this market is, it’s 85% of my stuff is, is 1099. So it’s just a different, different type of world, a different type of a market.
But now speaking of the world and the market, Dan, you mentioned documentaries. I would like to ask this question and I’ll throw this one out to you, Dan, because. Editing documentaries and editing unscripted stuff. Some people would say, oh, that’s kind of one and the same. It’s not, but it’s much more similar than editing the scripted versus unscripted or scripted versus documentary.
I’d love for you to speak a little bit in the sort of the parallels and even some of the major differences, which you would consider between a true documentary edit or editor, and those that are editing in unscripted.
Dan: I mean, I think a lot of unscripted kind of falls into the soft scripted world where things are kind of planned out.
You might have an idea for something and you roll with it. Or, manufactured after the fact with a little help from wild lines or something. But in, in docs, it’s all, it is, you have what you have and you, you tell a story with that and I’ve worked on things where there was an idea going into it and you follow, your subject for however long, you’re going to follow them until you get your story and you don’t always end up staying with what you thought that original idea was going to be.
I’ve worked on very formatted things to where, it’s a historical dock, so, the story going in cause it’s very well researched and it’s just a matter of, piecing together interviews with archival.
Those are usually scripted out before the edit, by a writer But, in reality TV, tends to be a lot of just, what can we make work? What can entertain somebody for 43 minutes plus commercials? Right?
Scott: Jeanette, do you have much of a background in straight-up documentary editing?
Jeanette: I’ve never cut a documentary. I’ve actually cut a feature film, but I haven’t done doc, but going off of what Dan says some of the shows that I’ve worked on reality shows are very much in the documentary world. Most notably intervention. Because it’s the same situation whereby you have what you have and there are no pickups, there’s no going back and asking them to do something over again.
, the subjects are wildly erratic and you might have an idea of where things are going to go and it ends up taking a hard right and you’re off somewhere else. So you have to use the material, you’ve got to make something that’s cohesive and coherent, and that can be really challenging at times. So I would say that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to any sort of real documentary filmmaking.
Scott: Well, you both are working on Zombie House Flipping, which would be a home repair home rehabs, I mean, that’s its own unique genre of unscripted. So, so let’s compare that to Intervention because I would definitely say Intervention it skews, much more in the documentary world because you have a, you have a subject, who has a, I wouldn’t say an issue, a problem of, of a specific thing that you are concentrating on that subject to learn about if you will, and you kind of have what you have in that person, whereas a lot of the, like a re a home rehab type show you, the home is what it is, but there’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into making, being able to twist all that around versus I’d say a person that you’re concentrated on.
So do you, have you found those two shows sort of wildly different in your approach or just, or just how you as an editor get into them?
Jeanette: Well, stylistically they’re worlds apart. I mean, Zombie is very much more lighthearted and that shows in the music and the editing style and hitting the comedy beats and the personality beats of the four people who are doing the flips They’re similar in that with a home makeover show like the show starts out with an initial walkthrough where the team walks through the house and says, “oh my God, this is horrible. We got to change all this. ”
Well, if you didn’t pick, if the field didn’t shoot something during that walkthrough, and it comes down later that we really need the story point. You can’t go back and pick it up because the first thing they do to the house is to tear it all apart. I’d say that’s the only thing that’s similar.
Scott: Dan you worked on you spent a season or two or some time on, I think it was, was it Wicked Tuna.
So I see that as being the way it’s unscripted, but it’s way different than what you get with a Zombie House Flipping, which again, sort of a DIY, I don’t know if DIY is the right word, like a rehab show. How would you compare those two, as far as the approaches to telling the story?
Is it kind of similar to what Jeanette was saying?
Dan: Think so? I mean, with Zombie, it’s a show really doesn’t take itself too seriously. it’s meant to be kind of a fun show. I mean, Wicked Tuna is very much, man, versus the elements. you got someone who’s fighting a fish, six hours or whatever and how do you condense that down to like, what amounts to maybe seven minutes of screen time in an episode where for other people that are also gonna fight, a fish for that long on their own boats, and it’s also a competition. In that, like all of these boats are kind of competing to see who can bring in the most money in a season who can catch the most like tonnage of fish and Zombies not like that.
Every episode’s a one-off it is not like, yes, they are flipping in reality, multiple houses at the same time that never plays in an episode because it’s just, it’s too hard to serialize a show like that. I think it would also be something where the network couldn’t be like, Hey, we just want to throw six random episodes on, but you don’t want to be locked into airing them in a certain order.
Wicked Tuna is serialized. You can’t watch them out of order and follow the competition at all.
Scott: That’s probably a different way than you have to potentially edit and what we’ll get to sort of like the story producers and things like that in a bit. But I think if you are if it seems like if you’re working on a series where it is somewhat serialized or completely serialized, do you have a different sort of mindset as you dig into it than something that we’re each episode can be standalone?
Dan: Yeah. I mean, they’re both shows done by the same company, but under different executive producers. So the teams are broken down a little differently. But Wicked Tuna has a pretty big post crew compared to Zombie. I mean, we actually have a big crew on Zombie this season in addition to Jeanette and I there are four other editors. But on Tuna, I want to say there are usually like eight editors, and everything is done in pods on that show. which episode is going to go in there, not like these free-floating pods that can end up in an episode because of the competitive nature of it.
But you do kind of want to constantly check in with your story producer, cause say, do need to, like, I know they, they hooked up when a camera wasn’t rolling and maybe you need something to happen. Like, well, what can you cheat? Because a fish is caught on a shooting day it’s part of the competition.
Right? So you can’t cheat that for some other fish. Yeah, you could probably get away with it. Showing a different shot of a reel or something like that, something nonspecific.
Scott: It’s fascinating how unscripted has developed these sort of sub-genres where you have them, there’s you mentioned that the DIY has flipping sub-genre. There’s Intervention, My 600 Pound Life or the public health sub-genre, you’ve got competition cooking shows.
You’ve got Jeanette you’ve worked on Survivor. You’ve got that type of I’m in the Outback, in the wild type of survival show. There’s so many of them, the other like a fishing reality show of catching, living things out of the water. Cutting giant forest down.
Like that’s its own genre of unscripted. It’s just it’s I don’t know where I went with that either. That quite fascinates me.
Jeanette: Yeah, it has gotten very specialized. it used to be when I started out in reality and I started out when reality was kind of starting out.
And if you were a reality editor, you could. Any topic, any show it’s just, they would, you would just pile onto something. But now when you get job notices through it’s “must have paranormal experience, must have cooking shows.” Its whole clinical experience must have Bravo experience.
Scott: Bravo experience, it’s often a controversy on some of the online groups kind of funny.
Jeanette: Everybody’s got their little niche and showrunners production companies are a little loathe to hire outside of those niches sometimes. And it could be tricky, but storytelling is storytelling. It doesn’t matter to me. If it’s a ghost or a house, I can tell a story about this happening to a person. But yeah, that’s something that’s changed in reality.
Scott: That’s a good point because you are telling stories, no matter what kind of story you are telling. But if someone, if they’re asking for a specific Bravo experience, is that because they don’t want to have to train somebody on the nuances of dealing with, notes and network and it just, specific workflows or do they really think that someone who has cut, RuPaul’s Drag Race can’t get on and cut Wicked Tuna because, because the sensibilities of the shows are so different, is it, what is the thinking?
Dan: I think the response to that is “what is the thinking there?”
Everybody that does the job knows that, for the most part, like a good editor can jump on to any kind of show and find their way I think there’s like schedules have gotten ridiculously tighter and, budgets keep shrinking, even though the companies that own these networks are making record profits, budgets keep shrinking.
And it’s just a matter of like, we don’t want to take the time to get some new person up to speed that can’t jump in on day one and start cutting. I mean, I remember years ago, you’d start on a show. And you weren’t expected to have anything cut the first day, probably not even the first week. It’s like get used to the show, the footage, look at stuff, see what’s going on now.
It’s like dive in day one, start cutting. I’ve been on shows where people want to see a cut at the end of the first day of a scene. I spent half today filling out, start paperwork!
Jeanette: I rebuild my settings.
Dan: Yeah. You got to rebuild your settings, you’re not allowed to import settings anywhere.
Imagine a world where editors can actually sit and watch their footage in real-time and make notes on them. Yeah.
Dan: It almost never happens anymore.
Jeanette: I mean, that’s kind of what the story producers do now, and this is something that I’ve noticed over the last 10, 15 years, and it’s, it’s kind of a shame is that now that Avid has moved into the story department and the story is doing their own string outs. They take the raw footage and they go through and they, they start to create the story by actually, creating a sequence in Avid, rather than putting it on. I started out with scripts, you would get a script and the script would go to the assistant editor and the assistant editor would build the string out.
And that’s how people would learn how to edit. That’s all a story now. And the AEs are left pretty much just being media jockeys. they’re, they’re importing, they’re grouping, they’re fussing with codecs and stuff that didn’t even exist when I was an assistant editor and they’re not really editing anymore, ?
Scott: Which do you prefer?
Jeanette: As an editor, it’s always easier to start with a sequence.
Scott: Are you telling the best story that I, as a storyteller, do you sometimes think to yourself, like, boy, if I could dig into all that raw footage, I may have structured that differently or wonder like what else there is.
Jeanette: But I always, I’ve always done that, whether it came to me as a script, a paper script, or as a string out, if, if I’m watching something and I get a question in my mind, it’s like, wait, what happened there? Or is that really his real reaction? I always go back into the raw and I’m, I’m not at all afraid or shy about,
rebuilding something. If I think there’s a better way to do it, or if I think what I’m handed isn’t working, but as far as the coming from story, I think it’s helpful because then the story producers kind of really, really know what the footage is and what’s in there and what’s not there.
Our current showrunner on Zombie, he’s actually doing some of our string outs.
And so when I go to him and say, look, this cut is really difficult to make because I don’t have the coverage I need, he doesn’t fight me on it anymore. And he’s like, well, you gotta find a way to make it work. He’s like, no, I’ve been through the raw I’ve seen they didn’t shoot it. ? So that’s kind of helpful that the story people really know that footage rather than just writing up a paper script and then forgetting it.
Scott: How much interaction do you guys have with the story producers and, and are they open to you often coming back in those cases saying, Hey, I don’t have this or do we, do I need this or this doesn’t work for this reason? Or do they try to push it to you and say, all right, you’ve got what you got now, leave me alone.
I’ve got another story.
Dan: I mean on some shows. Sure. It can be like that. I find on Zombie, it’s not like that at all. The story producers we have, this season and even the ones we had in the past, they, they’re all very receptive to having constant dialogue about, how can we make this work?
They’re open to any ideas that I have. we do have they do have to write things for the show. They’re not offended at all if we have to rewrite something because we don’t have enough coverage, like, Hey, I need this to be shorter. So I just, I rewrote it. So it’d be shorter. They don’t get offended by that.
I’ve been on shows where like, You can’t do that. Story people would get very offended. But ultimately it’s like, you just want to make the best show you can make with what you have. So, those battles are pointless anyways. It’s like everyone just needs to kind of get on the same page and, and make the best show you can make.
Scott: Are the story producers often on set almost like a script supervisor watching along? Or are they, he, or she almost literally watching the footage from beginning to end in real-time? Because you think about a show that generates a ton of media and I’m thinking probably Zombie doesn’t generate as much media as a Survivor or as a Wicked Tuna, which would generate.
Dan: They’re not on set for sure, because the show shoots in Orlando and we’re based in LA. The same thing with Tuna, it shoots on the east coast and it’s like here in LA.
I assume they’re watching it at high speed. I can’t imagine that they even feel like they have the time to watch it in real-time, but they do note the hell out of it. There are locators all over the place with all kinds of descriptions that you can search to try to find stuff. I mean, that’s, that’s kind of the norm on like every show that I work on now at every company.
Scott: Yeah. Would they, would they be getting transcripts of I’m sure, of like sit down interviews they do, but I wonder if on just some of the wild stuff, if they get transcripts of the, because I am on documentaries, I love to do transcripts of even stuff that seems like it’s untranscribable because then you can really, I don’t know,
I’ve just found, I found ways to find information in a transcript, I don’t feel like I would ever be able to find it because you’re right, you don’t have time to watch it in real-time and even double-timing. You can’t always hear stuff quite this quite the same way. So I wonder how much transcribing is being done.
Jeanette: We don’t have any transcripts on Zombie Dan, is that correct? We don’t transcribe.
Dan: I think they only transcribe the, like the OTF that is shot in the field at the time. And that’s the only thing I think they transcribe, which I don’t know why that is. Yeah. We don’t use those a lot. They’re not always helpful.
Thanks for trying, but maybe we need something way more specific.
Jeanette: Right? Yeah, we usually have the field producer is the guy in the field and he will communicate he or she will communicate to us, what happened in the field, they’ll sometimes they’ll be script notes, camera notes, and that information gets sent back to us and the story producer, but I’ve found traditionally that it’s kind of not helpful for somebody to be knowledgeable in the field in the moment, because especially in reality, what you have on tape is what you have. And there’s a phenomenon called “field vision” where the people in the room in the moment will say, “oh man, this is the most powerful moment.
It’s going to be amazing.” And you watch the video and there’s like, there’s nothing there. It’s not translating. It’s not coming over. So I think it’s more valuable to have the original story come from people watching or scrolling on tape because what you’ve got on tape is what you’ve got.
Scott: I’ll let you in on a little secret, DPs and directors often get that too. And they’re like,” oh, but that shot where’s that shot? We did that shot!” Like, man, that shot doesn’t work. Sorry to take it out. Sometimes you do have to shoehorn that stuff in and it’s often it’s like, it kind of takes you out of the moment, but Hey, if it, yeah.
If it makes you happy, what’s the line from the song? It makes you happy. It can’t be that bad, but then again, perhaps it ha perhaps it can be.
So let’s talk a little bit, technically is Zombie is cut on Avid? A lot of reality is cut on, cut on Avid. Are you working, Jeanette is working remotely, Dan, I guess you’re working remotely as well right now during the pandemic.
Dan: That entire company on, I believe every show they’re doing is working from home.
Scott: What are your thoughts on, and Jeanette and I were talking about this, we should have been recording before we started recording.
Dan, are you enjoying the remote side of things, or did you like being in the office?
Dan: Oh, I, I love working from home. I think if I never have to go back to an office again, it’ll be too soon. I’ve got, I have phones. I’ve got FaceTime. Like what do I need to, I sit in a room by myself and I edit whether I’m at a company or I’m at home.
So why not just be at home? I don’t have to commute anywhere. I can go make myself lunch when I want to eat. Like, that’s huge, .
Scott: As long as you get your work done.
Dan: Yeah, it’s great to be able to just work from home and.
Scott: So when, when, when an episode is shot, that’s going back to the post house has been media managed. Are you guys getting bins sent to you with these, with these string outs or, the, if you have an hour-long show, that’s, 40, some odd minutes when it, when it airs, are you, are you assigned a particular piece of the story or are you assigned an entire episode or Jeanette, I’ll go to you on that one?
How, how has the work first divided up for a show like Zombie.
Jeanette: Well on, on Zombie, in particular, we kind of, we start out with dedicated episodes, Dan and I hand off back and forth, who’s got I would, for lack of a better word, call it lead duties on a particular episode, but with a show like Zombie you’re married to the progress of the house.
So, for example, I finished off my first episode because it was shot almost entirely, when I started editing, they only had to do the final walkthrough and the house was done. So that was just a scheduling issue and they shot it and I was able to complete the episode, my second house. I think they’ve gotten halfway through the construction and they’ve come to a screeching halt.
So on just in the nature of the house flipping and the nature of the construction and the crews and whatever the hang-up is, the construction hasn’t progressed. So the episode hasn’t progressed. So I’ve, in that downtime, I’ve helped Dan out with one of his episodes. I’ve moved on to a third episode and I started the first couple of acts of work worth of work on that.
And Dan’s going to pile on to my episodes when, When something, when he’s come to a halt on his progress he helps me out with my episodes, and we all just kind of tag team on a show like Zombie.
And it’s easy with their set because. Pilgrim is using Jump Desktop. So, and this is crazy to me. We’re actually logging in and working off of the Avid that’s in the edit rooms down at the office building in North Hollywood.
Scott: Good old Jump. Yeah,
Jeanette: it’s been fantastic. So I can jump onto Dan’s episode and he can jump onto my stuff. When I was working on Intervention, which is the only other show I’ve worked on during the pandemic.
It was, I had a drive here at the house and had all the media. And I was able to send cuts to them and they could read my bins, but we couldn’t read each other’s media. So that was very dedicated. I had that episode and that’s all I worked on. As far as the business in its entirety, it very much depends on the show, whether you’ve got a dedicated episode or whether everybody just kind of takes a scene and runs with it.
Scott: I think when the pandemic began, it was shipping hard drives or go come pick up this RAID and take it to your house. But as we’ve been in it for longer periods of time I’m really surprised at the number of people that are, that are using Jump because I think before there’s a feature jump implemented that where the audio latency was finally good enough, you could actually playback and edit and hear the audio from like that, wasn’t always possible, but Jump, but once they implemented that feature, then I’ve done the same thing in my office. I’ll have that machine running and I’ll just jump in there and have it, do something. Then I’ll come back and keep working here at the house on a whole different job.
So Dan, let’s say you’ve got a show that’s been shot. It’s gone through the story producers, have they sort of strung-out an entire, have they built the whole episode or written it kind of by acts or do they just have one super long story and it’s up to you to chop it into acts?
What are you seeing in your Avid, to begin work on, on a new episode?
Dan: They start by doing like a spreadsheet grid of the episode. So it’s six acts and it’s broken down basically like scene cards.
And what they string is the scenes. Since Jeanette and I are basically the leads on our episodes, we are, solely responsible for act one in six of our episodes. And then whatever else we have time for. And then we each have two editors, working with us, those other two editors tackle, like all of the scenes in between act one and six.
Scott: Let me stop you for a second. Would those be considered easier and acts one and six are the most important because that’s the intro of the show and the big payoff, why is that structured that way?
Dan: One and six are the most highly stylized parts of the show.
Scott: And when you say stylize, are you talking about, just because you’re doing flashbacks and you’ve got some music?
Dan: Music effects all of that.
So like, one is always the initial walkthrough of the zombie house. So Kind of setting that tone is key to, making the episode work, like how horrible is this house and you really sell it with, their reactions with music, with sound effects with some wild cutting here and there some montages of like, I’ve seriously, I’ve seen some of the most disgusting houses I’ve ever seen in my life working on this show.
A lot of the zombies are abandoned or people have been evicted, but they were evicted several years ago and, all their stuff is still there including a refrigerator full of food three years ago or whatever like it’s gross.
And then six, obviously it’s the big reveal. So you’ve got, all the finished work plus flashbacks to what it used to look like. So that’s why the lead editors on the episodes handle those ones and not the other editors. They mostly focus on, all of the transformation stuff that happens.
Basically from demo right up to the end of the flip. And then, as like, say I get done with the initial walk-through and the house actually isn’t finished because more often than not, we’re we try to start editing these things as quickly as we can. So that means a lot of times we’re cutting while the house is still under construction.
So if that’s the case, you get done with your act one and then it’s just like, Hey, what scenes still need to be cut? for the body of the show, we’ll jump on whatever we can. As soon as all the final stuff is in, we shift our focus to act six.
And then once the whole show is done, I’ll take and assemble my whole episode out. Jeanette will take and assemble her a whole episode out. And at that point, it’s like she’s responsible for all the notes on hers. I’m responsible for all the notes on mine. Obviously, with some crossover, I’ve also had to do a few like housekeeping things and work on a new show open.
So Jeanette has taken notes passes on my episodes. I’m sure I’ll take some on hers at some point.
Scott: But I want to get to notes in a second, but I’m going to Jeanette throw this one to you. How much, cause you mentioned the, like the open, the first act that has a lot of stylistic stuff. You’ve got lots of music cuts, You’ve how many sorts of like visual effects stuff are you doing? So I think people often wonder, being that these shows are cut on Avid, Avid isn’t known for its high-end effects, but yet there’s a lot of effects that go into a lot of these types of shows and they’re all cut and finished.
You’re like, you’re not going into that sort of After Effects to finish the whole show. You’re doing a lot of this work in Avid. Talk a little bit about sort of the cutting all these different music tracks and, and what you have to do to kind of style to stylize the show itself.
Jeanette: We’re in our fourth season, so it’s something that’s sort of organically progressed over the last couple of years.
I say we’re in our fourth season, but the show has been running for like eight or something like that. Because again, because of the delays with the house construction, it takes a long time to get a season out. But it’s, I wouldn’t say it’s visually graphics-heavy. we, we do a lot of speed ramps and a lot of whooshing of the house, you start with a slow pan and then use zoom across to the other end of the house and put a whoosh sound effect underneath that.
We do some desaturation especially in acts six when we’re showing the before and after of the reveals, like, remember how this living room used to look and we desaturation the image from what it was an act one, just to make it look a little creepy and to make the reveal of the transformed room a little more, eyepopping a little more attractive. But other than that, I wouldn’t say we’re very graphics-heavy. I mean, a lot of our flash comes from the music, which very much drives the mood of the piece, the mood of the scene. We kind of run the gamut emotionally from, like you say, the horror music when, when they do the walkthrough to act six, when everything is bright and beautiful and it’s happy and it’s upbeat and it’s triumphant music and we get silly in some of the scenes in the body of the show and that’s a lot more lighthearted, but then when the crew runs up against a real obstacle, we’ll play the dramatic strings and reality music and really try to enhance what the crew is experiencing at any point in time.
And then of course the process beats, that’s the most fun for me, the process beats, or when we say we ripped out this entire bathroom and installed this great, beautiful tile and they shoot time-lapses for those.
And those are fun to play with speed ramps, and you literally see the wall whoosh up, we try to make the title go from the bottom of the top and a second whoosh, and you instantly see that transformation and the tile or the, if they’re staining the floor or painting the rooms and a lot of flashy cutting a lot of, hammer, sound effects and drills and saws.
I think we rely more heavily on just old-fashioned, good editing to get those, all of those vibes across, we don’t use a whole lot of graphic interface.
Scott: You said being in the fourth season, I guess you probably have to sort of a toolbox has been created where you can go back to some of those graphics,
, stylistic things and toss in. But now talk about like music and sound for a second, cause that’s a really important part of the show and, and a lot of unscripted stuff because the music can drive the mood. Are you guys doing, are you cutting your own music? Does it go out to the sound design for all of the sound effects? You build all this yourself? Can you just sort of half-ass your music edits and let a music editor figure that out later?
Jeanette: We are DIY baby. We do all the music. We do all the sound effects
Scott: DIY for the FYI Network.
Dan: That’s right. A&E let’s get that right.
Jeanette: That’s right. That’s right. We grew up,
Dan: They bumped it over to A&E.
Scott: FYI is I can’t get FYI. Or couldn’t get it,
cause it was in like the top tier of Comcast in my market and we don’t have that, that top tier. So I would, I have caught it on the YouTube and on some of the On Demand. But anyway, yeah. So you’re doing all of that stuff yourself. You don’t have the luxury of passing a passing that off.
Jeanette: No. Yeah, wouldn’t that be lovely?
Dan: Do people exist in reality, I’ve always had my own music and sound effects.
Scott: That’s an interesting question. I do know a few sound mixers who do a fair share of reality and I’ve heard them say, we fixed your music edits all the time.
Cause they’re not, they’re not right or something like that.
Dan: I’m a drummer so I’d be insulted if they said about my music edits.
Scott: Drummers or drummers are the best music editors. You guys can hear some of those beats I’m like, no one’s ever going to hear that. Like, I hear it. I’m a drummer, it says the producer. I’m like, all right, fine, we’ll fix it.
Does Zombie, uh, have a finishing editor who then who will take it to do the final color and do literally do all the final finishing for broadcast, or are you guys doing that right out yourself? If you’re the lead on the show?
Dan: No, it goes to online. We do all of the, like getting it to time, zeroing everything out.
But then it goes to online and they do all of the color. We actually work in standard Def at 10:1. After us, it gets oppressed to HD and then finished by our online team. Like we have in-house sound and online so all of that is done within the Pilgrim ecosystem and they have really great people that, do this on all of their various shows and they always do a fantastic job.
Scott: You’re getting a full-on broadcast mix. They’re just not going back and doing sound design and redoing your, your music and stuff. I got ya. So the 10:1 standard def is that a, is that because there’s so much footage or is that because it streams better over, over Jump or?
Dan: It’s partly because of the amount of footage it is also because Pilgrim is one of the bigger reality producers in LA.
They generally have a lot of shows going. Pre pandemic, when that building was full, there could easily be a hundred editors working there on any given day, and that’s just editors. Then you’ve got the story and all the assistant editors. It’s a big place. four floors of a big building in North Hollywood.
It can fill up so I think that’s why all these shows tend to cut at 10:1 M not just 10:1, 10:1 M.
Jeanette: I was going to say, I don’t know about the actual aspect ratio, the 10 to one, that’s all technical jargon that doesn’t sit in my brain, but every show I’ve worked on has always been lo Rez for offline editing it to save storage space, whether it’s a huge company like Pilgrim or a one-off, a boutique where they’re only wanting re-running one show you want to economize as much as you can. So you get only one drive to hold all your footage versus 10 and high Rez. So that’s just part of the beast.
And sometimes it can trip you up. If you don’t think somebody speaking and low Rez, but when they, when they up-rez the footage for online, it’s like, yeah, you’ve got massive lip flap in the scene we had to recover. that’s a problem, but I’ve always edited on low Rez.
Dan: The other fun thing is to like, did this shot’s out of focus the whole time? There’s no way you could tell lots of that. Yeah. I’ve been at places though, where they’re like working 14 to one and you really cannot tell if things are in focus.
Scott: That’s that is really, really tricky
Dan: It was crazy.
Scott: I remember on music videos years ago, years, years ago, and, AVR 3 resolution and, and you’d have to like wide shots. You’d have to go and up rez it just to make sure that they’re in sync when they’re singing. And there’s a perfect shot, but we can’t tell if the lips are in sync and I’m like, I thought all that was kind of a thing of the past, but working at those resolutions yeah.
How often will they let something like a soft shot slide or is that, is that like, no, it’s gotta be in solid focus if it’s not, then it gets cut from the show.
Dan: I would think it would depend on each individual situation and how long the shot is up and how crucial it is.
Jeanette: If it’s, the look that you’re going for, if it resolves, then you can get away with.
Dan: I feel like on Zombie, I’ve never had anyone come back and say, Hey, this shot’s bad, we need to replace it. That definitely had happened working on Ghost Hunters, which is also a Pilgrim show.
Scott: That’s probably a lot of stuff at night.
I’m going to guess it’s a lot of darkness.
Dan: A lot of darkness. It’s all shot, well, most of it is shot in infrared as well. So. Yeah, there
Scott: There’s no focus in there like it could be soft as can be.
Dan: Right, right. It’s not that stuff. It’s the daytime shots where it’s like pre-investigation where it’s like, uh-oh, this whole entire thing is out of focus.
We need to redo this.
Scott: Would you guys, and since you’ve worked on some really different styles or different sort of, sub-genres of, unscripted stuff, do you feel ultimately, whether it’s a ghost show or a, or a catching fish show or a cutting timber show or a rebuilding a house show, is it sort of, do you kind of feel like it’s the same, you’re just telling, you’re just telling a different kind of story or are there literal I don’t know, almost guttural differences between this show that I’m working on and this totally different show that I’m working on.
Do you have to, like, I need a week off between these two shows because they’re so different and maybe Jeanette, you can go with that one is, is it, or is it just, what, I’m a storyteller I can pivot with the best of them.
Jeanette: I’m pretty much in, in the pivot field. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of a week off in between shows to recalibrate. But I think. For me, every show I work on, I try to make it a little bit different. I try to make it in league with what the subject is, ? So when I’m cutting Intervention, I’m I let the shots sit a little longer.
I try to be with that person in the moment. I’m not so snappy with the interviews. if they say something emotional, I like to sit with them for a moment before I cut off onto something else versus Zombie, which is snap, snap, snap, snap, move, move, move energy. Let’s keep it rolling. Let’s keep it energetic.
And it’s the shifting back and forth between those styles that is why I do what I do . Even in my like dream job for a time, I was working for VH1 on a show called The List and I was making packages. It was Politically Incorrect, but for music. So they would have a topic that they had celebrities argue over the best male singer.
And my job was to cut a package, a one-minute package of male singers throughout the years, who’s a Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Bruno Mars, all these people and I wasn’t pig and shit, cutting that, to watching music videos and cutting music and stylized and graphics and all that good fun stuff.
And I got bored with it after two months. It’s like, okay, well, I’ve done this, let’s do something else. So then I shift back onto something that’s a little more heavily narrative and I don’t feel like I need to shift gears mentally for that, because that mood, that vibe should be there in the material.
It should be there in the footage. It should be there in the story that I’m given from the story producer. So I find I’m able to just kind of hook into The story itself and how it needs to be told by what’s there in front of me.
Scott: That’s great. I love that answer because I think many of us that have been in post-production editing, especially craft editing for a really long time,
it is all about just finding the cool story.
Dan, I’ll toss a question out at you here, but kind of, sort of started to wrap this up.
What is the process of some of this unscripted stuff or just unscripted post-production in general, what, in the process, cause you’ve done it for a while now?
What would you like to see change?
Any things that stick out to you on, just the unscripted world in general, that you think that you don’t, that you don’t like that you’d like to see fixed or…
Dan: Yeah, I think the biggest thing it’s not going to change is I always wish I had more time, and that’s just, it’s not the case.
Because you can deliver a show in the ridiculous schedule they gave you there and you do it all the time. They’re like, oh, you don’t really need that much time we’re cutting it by five more days. And I feel like that’s just the direction everything’s going to keep going, where we’ll get to a point where you can just barely get a show out and that’s where everyone, who makes the big bucks we’ll be satisfied with the schedules.
Time. That’s the thing I always want more time.
I will say working on Jump, I do miss having a real client monitor. I mean, got one it’s sitting right here and it’s been black for the last 18 months. That I miss.
Other than those things, I like what I’m doing. I like, how everything’s going right now?
Scott: I mean, those are good points, and when you talk about, time and the time factor, I mean, we never truly finished anything. You just kind of, you kind of wrap it up and you move on to the next thing.
But I kind of feel like, we’re 50 minutes in, so maybe a lot of people have tuned out or, people who get mad when I say this, but it feels like that editing documentary, unscripted, real type of stuff is more difficult than scripted stuff because while scripted can be very difficult, you have, a multitude of different ways, you can cut any one scene. It is still scripted. There is a roadmap that you began with, whereas with doc and unscripted stuff, they’re often, there may be a roadmap, but it is a way different roadmap than you have when it’s scripted. And that roadmap can sometimes just get, you can get burned they’re in there in the process.
So, I mean, I don’t want to say it’s yeah, it’s more difficult, but it’s just a whole different beast. And I think if you ever needed more time, it would be in doc style unscripted stuff, because you always can go and we may not have a story, but yet you still have to craft a story, even when there’s no story there, which is its own world of discussion.
Dan: Right. I mean, like, with docs, you don’t always have those kinds of false time constraints that you do with reality TV, because most docs it’s like, it’s the director’s project and they haven’t necessarily pre-sold it.
What you have, there is a lack of funds. So, unless you’re like best friends with the director, you’re not going to want to work on something indefinitely for no money and the promise of money when this thing sells because they never sell their docs.
Unless you’re like Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, you’re not getting a ton of money for your doc when you sell it. You’re lucky to recoup your costs.
Scott: Yep. Speaking of docs Dan, you’ve got a couple of Nashville kind of connections on documentaries because you did a recent documentary, Can You Hear My Voice that showed at the Nashville Film Festival?
Yeah. And I think if I remember correctly, years ago, you worked on a doc about tattoo removal. You remember the name of it, but it was, but didn’t they have to do that through like Vanderbilt?
Dan: That one was Erasing Hate, a former neo-Nazi who was going through the process of having his facial tattoos removed.
And yet it was done at Vanderbilt. I want to say he went through like 20 to 30 tattoo removal sessions. They were excruciating to watch. Wow. just the injections of all of the like numbing agents followed by a couple, hours of laser sessions and yeah, it was It was tough, but it’s like, it’s the kind of story that has to be told.
I mean, I even remember on that there was because MSNBC had funded it, there was a battle between the network and the director over the runtime. And, it was like, this thing needs to be a full feature and MSNBC wanted an hour doc. So I think in the end they agreed that like, they’d run an hour-long version on TV.
And, for festivals and whatever, we had a full-feature version of it, which was vastly superior to what ran on MSNBC. But yeah, that one was interesting.
And then Can You Hear My Voice? That’s the most recent one that I did and it follows a choir of a laryngectomy. Like cancer survivors, who’ve all had laryngectomies. Based in the UK and the director, same director as Erasing Hate.
The reason this was such an important project to him is that he is a cancer survivor and he also had a laryngectomy and finding this story was kind of a way for him to, deal with the trauma of having a laryngectomy and, and learning to be, okay with that in the world again.
And, people look at someone with a stoma and they’re like, oh, that thing in your neck, I don’t it’s gross or whatever insight it’s not. It’s they survived cancer. this has given them a way to speak again because they literally don’t have vocal cords anymore. And it’s just a really amazing story and he is a part of the story as well.
And I think it’s an important film that, people can somehow track down and see it if they can. I think he’s still working on distribution for it, but it’s still making festival rounds.
Scott: I think it won, one of our, the Nashville Film Festival, their real emphasis on music documentaries and, and sort of any sort of like aural based kind of stories.
But I mean, That’s one of the great things about docs is they are real, real stories and, and unscripted is, even though, it’s, it’s manipulated as you’re telling it, they are still real stories.
And I think, I think people really connect with real stories and thankfully, they’ve got us through some of the pandemic.
Remember Tiger King. Tiger King and a lot of people through um, that was a real story.
Well, Hey, Jeanette, Dan, thanks for joining us here. I appreciate the chat on Zombie House Flipping it then just, unscripted documentary and just that world that you two are doing post-production in.
So I wish you continued success and hopefully more cool shows to come down the uh,
come down the, uh, come down the pipe.
Jeanette: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.
Dan: This was fun.