In the first episode of “Wednesday,” Jenna Ortega’s title character performs a cello cover of the Rolling Stones’ gothic anthem “Paint It Black.” Making such a scene required licensing the song, orchestrating a new arrangement, and teaching Ortega how to play it, all while going through the traditional engraving process. It’s a fusion of old and new that helped make the show a cultural phenomenon when it debuted on Netflix in November 2022. And while the production team may have made it look easy, it required intense coordination across multiple departments.
That kind of collaboration was a recurring theme to celebrate at IndieWire’s Consider This Event on Saturday June 3rd. IndieWire hosted nearly 200 TV Academy, Guild Members and other industry players in attendance for an event at NeueHouse Hollywood that included a Welcome Reception, Lunch Buffet, Item Raffles Rabbit hole whiskey, Stanley cups ea Dell computer followed by a welcome cocktail. Our editors moderated four panels featuring the artists behind Starz’s ‘P-Valley’, Paramount+’s ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’, Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Beef’ and ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Yellowjackets’ Showtime. There will be video content and more on IndieWire’s social feeds in the coming days.
But despite the wide range of genres represented at the event, panelists from each series returned to the subject of departments that go far beyond their job descriptions to fine-tune the details of our favorite shows.
“For ‘Wednesday’ we arrived very early, because in the first episode we had the cello performance in front of the camera of ‘Paint it Black’. So we had to create it and really get involved,” music supervisor Jen Malone said. “We also had to get it to Jenna in time for her to learn it, which she did phenomenally.”
While Malone coordinated with Ortega, composer Danny Elfman and co-composer Chris Bacon were busy writing the music for the rest of the series. Director Tim Burton brought in his lifelong collaborator Elfman to score the episodes he directed, while Bacon worked concurrently to compose the music for the remaining episodes. The music that ultimately emerged from “Wednesday” was a combination of the two men’s ideas, but they never worked side by side.
“It’s funny because Chris and I have shared responsibilities, but our experiences have been completely different. Chris was more in the traditional lane, working with the showrunners on the four episodes he made. And I was working exclusively with Tim, because when I work with Tim he just likes to keep a closed circle. Like a tank that no one can enter,” Elfman said. “I also got involved very early on, because Tim didn’t know for sure what the tone was going to be. It just involved a lot of experimenting and finding out what “Wednesday” means musically. And Tim doesn’t like to be in a hurry. So I came in early, came up with a bunch of ideas and finally fine-tuned it to ‘feels like Wednesday’.”
“Beef” composer Bobby Krlic explained that creator Lee Sung Jin gave him a level of access to his hit Netflix series that composers rarely get. Being able to read scripts and watch rehearsals before anything was filmed allowed him to grasp the tone of the show earlier and make bolder musical choices.
“Sung invited me to the first bed table that the cast and everyone had. It was really nice of her to do that, because composers normally don’t get to do that,” Krlic said. “So I could see the pacing and the dialogue and hear all of the workshop that everyone was doing. I think I literally drove my car 100mph, couldn’t wait to get back to the studio. And instead of thinking about the soundtrack, I just started writing songs. I wanted to write songs for a band, so what I originally played was just guitar, bass, drums. And I only sent them four or five songs that ended up going into the theme of the show. This has really been a project for me where everything I’ve worked on in my life so far has come full circle.
Over its wildly popular first four seasons, ‘Stranger Things’ gradually morphed into a sci-fi epic with one of the biggest budgets on television. As the show has gotten bigger, so have the soundscapes. Re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor Craig Henighan explained that he continues to employ the same open-minded approach he used in season one, but the large scale of the show now forces him to look at other departments. much closer.
“It’s a lot of experimentation. That’s a lot of trial and error. Dynamics are a big thing. It’s just about understanding what the scene needs,” Henighan said before explaining how his work is constantly being shaped by sound artists in other departments. “To see what Michael (Dixon) and Kyle (Stein) are doing with the soundtrack and see if I need to wrestle with it or actually flow into it. But it’s just a lot of trial and error. I’m very lucky to have many episodes up front.
Making an Emmy-worthy TV show is challenging enough, but adding musical numbers makes things infinitely more complicated. Luckily, the entire creative team behind ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ was up for the challenge. Appearing on a panel moderated by IndieWire’s Marcus Jones, show choreographer Jamal Sims explained that the show’s camera team went to great lengths to make sure they could capture the dazzling numbers correctly.
“We had amazing cinematographers, DJ Stipsen and Mark Chow. And the great thing about working with them is that they would love to come to our rehearsals. Which is so important in a musical film, because you want to know where the dancers are, where we need the cameras, how can we hide the cameras, all this stuff,” Sims said. “A lot of cinematographers say ‘I’ll only see it when it came,” but actually they came to rehearsal and we accompanied them. As for the choreography, I would film a pre-vis first, just to show what are the best angles of the dance. Then our directors would come in and they could choose to use it or less. But at least we were giving the dancers a chance to be seen, because you can miss a dance just by putting the camera too low or too high.”
Karyn Kusama continued the dialogue about collaborations between departments when she explained her role as executive producer of “Yellowjackets” in a panel moderated by IndieWire’s Dana Harris-Bridson. She famously directed two of the show’s biggest episodes: the pilot and the shocking season 2 finale. She said she used the opportunity to act as an outside perspective who could help shape the story without being in the writers room every day. While this experience was a departure from what she had done as a director, she said it ultimately made her return to the director’s chair a more creatively enriching experience.
“I think EPs who don’t write find different ways to be useful or to take on a more minor role. I think for Seasons 1 and 2, I was lucky to actually be on the team and included in the team and able to, in some way, be an outside voice to the day-to-day internal process,” she said. “I was able to reading the scripts and drafts and looking at the cuts and looking at the director’s cuts and looking at the producers’ cuts and offering my outsider thoughts Sometimes those thoughts were part of a larger collective of voices and sometimes I was an outlier, and I’m comfortable with that.But obviously as a director, then when I got to the finale after doing the pilot and having some stuff from the pilot come in the finale and I finished some arcs, that was a really satisfying experience.
The latest example of cross-departmental collaboration could come from the “P-Valley” panel. J. Alphonse Nicholson—who plays Southern rapper Lil Murda on Katori Hall’s Starz series—told Marcus Jones that many of his character’s rap songs were written by someone who began his career as one of the restaurateurs of the show.
“There is a short story about Katori who only trusted the locals. One of the guys that creates the music for Lil Murda, his name is Antoine, but we call him New Money,” Nicholson said. “He was a chef at ‘P-Valley’, a restaurateur. He was a member of the crew. stopped as I was walking by and said ‘Hey, Alphonse, I’m a rapper and I want to write for Lil Murda. I said ‘Bro, rap for me, I’m going to make a video and send it to Katori.’ So I recorded a video of this guy who was just a chef at the time. He loves it, he takes it off the chef line and puts it in the writers room, and now he’s a writer for Lil Murda.
The entire event was a reflection of IndieWire’s longstanding commitment to spotlighting the work of artists at all levels of film and television production. But while the day gave many artisans and artisans their moment in the spotlight, the lesson was clear: No one is an island. Truly elite television comes only when everyone is willing to keep an open mind and work across departmental lines in service of their show’s ultimate vision.