The HBO Max series, A Black Lady Sketch Show, received an impressive total of 8 Emmy Awards nominations, including Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming. Editors Daysha Broadway, Stephanie Filo and Jessica Hernández, who worked on the project have more than 15 years’ experience using Avid Media Composer.
They recently sat down with us to discuss how they used the technology to shoot and edit during Covid, their favorite features, and more about their work on the second season of the show.
PH: Hi, how are you? How have the last few months been for you?
Jessica: This year has been such a blur of emotions and winning the Emmy was such a bright spot in the storm! It’s been a wonderful experience and the opportunity to enjoy it with both Daysha and Steph has made it that much more unique.
Daysha: I’ve been very blessed the past few months. I celebrated a birthday, signed onto a project I’m really excited about, won an Emmy, and had a couple days off. It’s been great.
Stephanie: I’m great! It’s been a whirlwind few months. I’ve been so grateful for the recognition we’ve received for ABLSS, grateful for the ability to work during this wild year we’ve found ourselves in, and really looking forward to seeing what the coming months bring.
PH: Can you tell me how you got involved with A Black Lady Sketch Show?
Jessica: A friend of mine was actually chatting with Robin when I called her, and they had been discussing Robin’s need for an editor on ABLSS Season 2, so she asked if I was interested. Being a fan of the show, I said absolutely! I then met with Robin and the rest is history.
Daysha: I had just wrapped cutting the pilot for Lena Waithe’s Twenties and my resume got passed to Robin Thede. I then met with her, Lauren Ashley Smith, and Dime Davis. I was hired to cut the first season with two other editors.
Stephanie: I had worked with Daysha on a few projects in the past, she was returning to ABLSS after season 1 and she passed my resume over to Robin Thede who called me in for an interview. I really loved the first season, and I was thrilled when I got that call to join season 2!
PH: What drew you to the project? And how does it feel to be a part of a show that’s received Emmy nominations?
Jessica: I was a big fan of the first season, so it was an easy draw to the project. I am not shocked in the slightest that the show would be nominated for an Emmy because it is such an avant-garde and innovative brand of sketch comedy.
Daysha: A few things drew me to the project but the main one being that I had never heard of a sketch comedy show where black women were centered and celebrated, and I wanted to be a part of that. Once I met Robin, Lauren and Dime I was definitely on board. Something just clicked in that meeting.
Stephanie: There really aren’t any other shows out there like this, and I remember watching season 1 and just thinking about how special and how needed a project like this is. I love that ABLSS highlights and celebrates black women and I jumped at the chance to be a part of that!
PH: Can you share how you got into the industry?
Jessica: My absolute very first gig was as an unpaid PA on short film my college professor was an actor in. My first editing gig was many years later when I was working as an assistant in development. By chance I had an idea for a trailer and my boss was kind enough to entertain my idea. I taught myself Final Cut Pro and turned in a trailer they loved, that’s when I decided on this career path.
Daysha: It was definitely a long road. I had no connections, so I went back to school to get an MFA in Film Editing and to meet like-minded people. From there I got an internship at Bravo that turned into paid work, cutting digital content. I then got a job as an Assistant Editor in reality television. From there I got bumped to Editor and decided to make the switch to scripted after a few years.
Stephanie: I was originally a professional dancer, but knew I wanted to be involved in TV and Film in some capacity. When I got to Los Angeles, I didn’t know anyone and basically knocked on every door I could find until I eventually landed a job as a night assistant editor on a French documentary. I really fell in love with the process and wanted to explore it more. The editor on that project referred me to a different AE job and from there I just kept working and eventually worked my way up to editor.
PH: What’s your editing approach for the show?
Jessica: My number one rule in cutting ABLSS was the funniest joke wins. Beyond that, the show is made up of a series of ‘short films’ each with their own genre and tone, so each require different tools in my editing ‘tool kit.’
Daysha: I watch everything. There is so much improv on the show that I want to make sure I have a grip on everything that was shot. I then pull my favorite jokes, looks, reactions, etc. into a bin for safe keeping. Then just cut away. I try to make myself laugh as much as possible and keep it punchy.
Stephanie: Usually I will look at what tone a sketch is supposed to be in (is it a rom com? Horror? Corporate video style?) and then I will watch some examples within that style to try to brainstorm elements that might be helpful, whether it be sound design, music style, pacing, etc. I watch through every frame of the footage to make sure I have pulled out all the improv moments and funniest takes and then try to use all those elements to make it as funny as possible!
PH: What are the benefits of using Avid Media Composer? How has it been an asset?
Jessica: Having worked in other programs, I can honestly say that Media Composer is the gold standard for editing. The tools and quick keys at my disposal help me not only stay creative, but quick too.
Daysha: Avid is my favorite NLE. I enjoy the options you have for getting things done. There are several different ways to complete one task and every Editor can choose what works for them. It’s also the cleanest it seems, when it comes to sharing projects and work with other editors.
Stephanie: Avid is definitely an asset when it comes to editing a show like this. Since there are several editors and assistant editors using the same master project, Avid’s shared storage and project sharing are crucial to making sure our process remains smooth.
PH: What was shooting and editing like during Covid? What challenges did you encounter?
Jessica: There were definitely some advantages to working from home (#1 being napping at will) but it also created lots of challenges. Mainly, the interpersonal communication that happens at the ‘water cooler.’ We tried to adjust by having weekly Zooms to get to know each other, Evercast each other our sketches for feedback and Slack our assists and co-workers. We made it work but I do miss seeing everyone’s beautiful faces.
Daysha: Communication was always a challenge, but we had apps like Slack and Evercast that allowed us to get through the notes process. It’s also just harder cutting comedy without being able to bounce ideas off the editor in the bay next to you.
Stephanie: The biggest challenge to working remotely was figuring out new ways to collaborate since we weren’t all in the same office. Though it was a challenge to figure out a new workflow at first, I think we did a good job of adapting – we used Slack and Evercast to try to replicate the experience and I think in the end we were able to come up with new and creative ways to solve problems and tell stories.
PH: Can you share some of your favorite features?
Jessica: My favorite features are extend edit, auto-patch, 3D warp and timewarp. I use these endlessly.
Daysha: My favorite Avid feature is how customizable the interface is. Being able to color clips, rename tracks, resize, and move windows, etc. I also use these tools quite a bit: Extend Edit, Quick Head and Tail Fades, 3D Warp, Time Warp, Animatte, and Toggle Source/Record. I have most of these mapped to my keyboard and it makes things very quick.
Stephanie: My favorite Avid feature is the ability to customize your shortcuts to match your needs as much as possible. I live for the Select All Right feature, and also since I use a Wacom Cintiq tablet, it’s really easy to customize shortcuts to the buttons on my tablet remote and pen as well.
PH: What are you most excited about this upcoming year?
Jessica: I am lucky to have some very exciting projects coming up. Ava DuVernay’s Colin in Black & White premieres on Netflix Oct. 29th and my current untitled ‘lakers’ project will begin airing on HBO in March 2022.
Daysha: I’m excited about the project I’m working on right now. I’m working with a director I greatly admire, and it’s been fun so far. I’m also excited about the fall holidays coming up and spending time with my nephew and family.
Stephanie: I’m honestly just excited to see what the year has in store. I’ll be hitting a milestone birthday this time next year (no, I’m not sharing which milestone it is exactly!), so I’m thinking of ways to commemorate that. I’m excited for the project I’m working on now to be released to the world and I’m optimistic about the future!