Daysha Broadway, the editor on the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody, was given the delicate task of editing Whitney Houston’s remarkable life down to a feature film length. Throughout the editing process, her biggest priority was to showcase Whitney in a relatable and empathetic manner to return her dignity and respect.
Additionally, Daysha balanced scenes of Whitney’s on and off-stage life and ensured that all characters’ arcs were completed to fully represent what motivated Whitney throughout her life, her relationship with loved ones, and her struggles.
PH: Happy New Year, Daysha! Can you talk a bit about some of your professional aspirations for this year?
Daysha Broadway: Happy New Year! This year I’m looking to get back to writing a bit more. I miss developing a character. Even if no one ever reads it, I find understanding character and story is so crucial to being an editor that you might as well keep the tool sharp.
PH: What drew you to editing? Can you share some of your professional background?
Daysha Broadway: What drew me to editing was great editing. I’ve always been a lover of films since I was a kid. I would run around with friends recording them on the video camera my mom got me, and I’d go back home and edit using two VCRs. As I got older and became more interested in filmmaking, I started gravitating toward films that I thought were edited skillfully and beautifully. In college, I was floored by the editing in films like City of God for the match cutting, reveals, and time jumping, and I thought The Hours perfectly weaved together the lives of the three main characters with perfect rhythmic timing. There was no film editing track in undergrad, but I went to grad school for film editing so that I could try to master the craft. From there, I interned, got an assistant job after graduation in reality tv, got bumped to Editor, left reality tv for scripted, and here I am. A few leaps of faith (faith in myself) put me on this road for sure.
PH: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Daysha Broadway: I’m inspired by great art and great storytelling. I get inspired when I see my peers succeed and create something meaningful that they can give back to the world. That’s what our art is good for. Whenever you get stuck in a rut, a great film can inspire you to keep pushing. Recently, Nope lit a fire under me.
PH: Let's talk about your recent project, I Wanna Dance With Somebody. First, how did you become involved in this project, and second, how incredible was it to edit the life of Whitney Houston?
Daysha Broadway: I got involved in this project by recommendation. Kasi’s long-time editor, Teri Shropshire, recommended me for the job. I met with Kasi, and we hit it off right away. We talked passionately about the type of film we wanted to make for Whitney. Shortly after, while getting ready for the Emmys ceremony, I found out I got the job! It was such an incredible ride. I definitely felt the pressure to get Whitney’s story right and to also, through editing, be able to help sell Naomi Ackie as Whitney. Naomi is fantastic and really embodied Whitney, especially on stage, so she made that part a little easier on me.
PH: How do you prepare for a project like this one? Can you share some of your creative process?
Daysha Broadway: I was a big fan of Whitney growing up, so I knew a lot about her life as Whitney, the icon, but not much about her personal life. So there was a lot of research that I undertook. I wanted to try and get to know Whitney. I grabbed any interview and performance I could find and watched them from the 80s to the 2010s, allowing me to see her evolution on camera. I rewatched her films, read Robyn Crawford’s book, and watched two documentaries. I didn’t want to watch any biopics beforehand, and I didn’t want to be influenced by things that had been done before. I thought Whitney’s movie should feel different, it should feel like her. I also watched a couple of Kasi’s films, so her style of filmmaking was fresh in my mind.
PH: What did collaboration with others on the crew look like?
Daysha Broadway: Our post team was fantastic. The editorial was pretty small; it was just myself, post support, and my AEs. Our VFX and Sound team were in London for the majority of the post, so that had its struggles just because of time differences and trying to communicate things virtually and not in person, but the team was full of Oscar-winning pros, so they made it easy. Just a lot of Aspera transfers and meetings to make sure we were all on the same page.
PH: As an editor, how did you showcase Whitney in an empathetic manner? How challenging was that task, and what other challenges did you encounter?
Daysha Broadway: I think this was something that was always top of mind for me as an editor. Point of view was extremely important. Kasi and I wanted to stay with Whitney and make sure we were on this journey with her and not just a fly on the wall. In many ways, that meant getting close to her in coverage and staying on her for moments when she was thinking, taking something in, reacting, or belting out an impossible note. The beauty of working with Naomi was that her performance allowed for shots to hang on her. We can watch her process information, turn away from herself in the mirror, or make that fatal decision. Some of our first cuts didn’t have enough of that point of view, so I went in and did a pass for the next cut, in which I watched every scene closely to make sure I understood what Whitney felt in those moments. If coverage didn’t exist, I created it.
PH: How did you create balance for her on and off-stage life to showcase her life as a whole?
Daysha Broadway: That was very tricky. There were a lot of scenes in the film. The editor's cut was over 4 hours because it had every scene in it. So the task then becomes bringing the film down, keeping the most important elements we want the film to discuss, and wrapping those moments around these big performance pieces. Some of that involved intercutting the performances with scenes from her life, where we learn new information that adds emotional weight to the performance. One example is It’s Not Right But It’s Okay. That scene was scripted as two separate moments, listening to the demo with Clive and a reenactment of her music video, but by intercutting the scene with the music video, there’s better pacing, it’s more dynamic, but it’s also more unnerving. We know Whitney is not okay in that scene, and there is still the pressure to move forward: do another album, do another video, do a 70-date tour, etc.
PH: Overall, how long did the editing process take?
Daysha Broadway: I was editing this film for a year. From principal photography to final delivery. It took a year.
PH: Do you have a favorite edit - if so, can you describe it and why it's your favorite?
Daysha Broadway: One of my favorite sequences in the film is the “sometimes interview,” as I like to call it. Whitney is being interviewed by a reporter who is clearly pushing her buttons and asking her what it’s like to go from being the family member to suddenly being the boss of her whole family. That interview is intercut with Whitney moving into her first big house, John passing out company credit cards to the staff, and Whitney and John arguing over firing Robyn. It was another sequence of intercutting that was scripted to be several consecutive scenes, but I find them much more effective intercut and balanced out. She is commenting on what we are seeing. Also, there’s one of my favorite Luther Vandross songs playing under the whole sequence. I dropped that song into my editor’s cut and am still so happy it made the film’s final version.
PH: What are some of your goals (personal or professional) for this upcoming year?
Daysha Broadway: I intend to get plenty of rest and then get back at it. I want to feel creatively refreshed before hopping back into work. Spending time with family and just sitting with my thoughts is something I need to get back to. I’ve never taken a month off of work before, so we’ll see how that goes!
PH: Are there any other projects on the horizon you're excited (and allowed) to discuss?
Daysha Broadway: I have a project coming up that I’m not allowed to discuss yet! But It’s very exciting. It’s a first season show and I love working on projects at the very start of them.