Yearly Departed is a series of eulogies for the year 2020, where a lineup of all-women comedians will deliver everything from casual sex to beige Band-Aids and everything in between that we’ve “lost” in 2020. After a year of societal upheaval, plague, murder hornets and banana bread, Yearly Departed will give 2020 the huge send-off it deserves, from some of the world’s funniest women.
Yearly Departed is an Amazon Original Comedy Special that is produced by an extraordinary group of women including Bess Kalb (Writer, EP), Rachel Brosnahan (EP), Paige Simpson (EP), Samantha Ressler (EP), Nathalie Love (EP), and as well as Done + Dusted’s Katy Mullan and David Jammy, both EPs. The special is directed by Linda Mendoza (Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready).
Editor Kelly Lyon talks exclusively with ProductionHUB about working remotely with the heavy use of green screen, as well as how she was able to be successful by using innovative tools like Productions in Adobe Premiere Pro.
PH: Can you talk about Yearly Departed and how you came to work on the project?
Kelly Lyon: Yearly Departed is a series of eulogies for the year 2020, where a lineup of all-women comedians deliver everything from casual sex to beige Band-Aids and everything in between that we’ve “lost” in 2020. After a year of societal upheaval, plague, murder hornets and banana bread, Yearly Departed gives 2020 the huge send-off it deserves, from some of the world’s funniest women.
Done + Dusted reached out to me because of my previous work on stand up specials like John Mulaney's Kid Gorgeous and Amy Schumer's Growing. The interview took place over Zoom. It was so exciting to be a part of, because the screen was populated by 12 boxes, each inhabited by an incredibly smart and talented woman. This was something I'd never seen before and I instantly wanted to be part of the team. Director Linda Mendoza and I immediately clicked, so I was thrilled to be hired on to the show.
I usually edit stand up specials by myself, but this project was different. Because of COVID, all of the talent was shot separately and had to be comped together to feel as if they were in the same room afterward in post. Even though the show has the feel of a multicam stand up special, the process felt more like editing a single-cam show. The tight turn around schedule and heavy VFX work required all hands on deck, so we brought in the incredibly talented Giselle Murillo to help oversee all of the VFX heavy scenes (like the intro and musical guest). Giselle and I collaborated seamlessly, handing scenes back and forth via Adobe Premiere Productions, run through the facility SIM. We all used Jump Desktop to remote-in to physical computers within SIM's facility in LA. This let us have editors and assistants scattered across the country collaborating together in real time. It was actually a lot more painless than I thought it would be.
PH: What is your favorite part of editing female comedians and women-centric comedy?
Kelly Lyon: Having worked with many of the top comedians (male and female) at SNL and beyond, I would say that when someone is effortlessly funny and charismatic, they win over the audience regardless of gender. Because so many writers rooms are dominated by male voices, however, it is so refreshing to work on comedy that comes from women's perspectives. As a mother of 2 young children, I could relate deeply to Natasha Leggero's eulogy Having anymore Children. Bess Kalb (head writer and EP), who wrote that eulogy with Leggero has a young child, as well. Leggero sums up the experience of raising kids in the pandemic beautifully - "I love my daughter, but in the same way I love LSD - in micro doses." To hear jokes like this from other mothers is not only relatable, but it actually helps normalize some of the darker feelings that one experiences as a mother. This kind of joke would not have the same impact from a male comic. Yearly Departed's writer's room also included many women of color, and their perspectives shine throughout the special, as well.
PH: And more broadly, when editing comedy, what's something extremely important to keep in mind? How is it different from editing other projects?
Kelly Lyon: The best way I've found to add extra laughs in the edit room is by surprising the audience. We can do this by setting up an expectation, then breaking that expectation. Since all of the women were shot separately for Yearly Departed, we had hours and hours of green screen footage of their reactions to the eulogies. Giselle and I would often grab a reaction that was shot for something totally unrelated, then use it to surprise the audience. For example, when Tiffany Haddish is talking about how nature shows turn her on, we first cut to Rachel Brosnahan reacting the way any normal person would: with a look of shock and confusion. This primes the audience to think "Yes, this is weird." At the end of Tiffany's run she says "Have you ever seen crickets do it? It's amazing!" We cut to Patti Harrison, and the expectation is that she would be disgusted/confused, too, but we surprise the audience by having Patti be 100% in agreement with Tiffany "Oh totally!" This heightens the joke from Tiffany, and also gives Patti an extra laugh.
PH: Can you talk a little about your work with green screens?
Kelly Lyon: It is amazing how much "work" a live audience does for us as editors. When I'm editing a normal stand up special (before COVID), I would occasionally sweeten a laugh or applause break here or there, but that was the extent of it. Because of COVID, all of our talent delivered their comedic monologues to an empty room. In fact, the reverse shot of the audience is actually a 2nd "B stage" so that we could keep everyone socially distanced. There were also several isolated green screen "pods" where performers recorded their reactions one on one. It took an incredible amount of sound design and VFX just to make the room feel "natural". At the end of the special, there is a short behind the scenes look at the filming, and it is really quite striking. Some of the reactions you see throughout the special were filmed on the B stage, but many of them were filmed on green screen and had to be comped together. I believe there were 175 VFX scenes throughout the special, but when you're watching it, it should feel like there are almost 0. This obviously would have been a lot easier to cut together in non-COVID times, but the production went above and beyond to make sure everyone stayed safe during filming.
PH: How did you utilize green screens for this project to give the illusion of all comedians being in the same room?
Kelly Lyon: Linda Mendoza meticulously mapped out the seating chart and planned the cameras accordingly, so that each woman could be filmed at such an angle that you wouldn't see anyone else in her background. They shot plates on the B stage with stand ins, and then set up the chairs and framed the shots to match those plates in the green screen pods. There was also a MOCO on the B stage to capture all of the women entering and interacting for the opening montage. It really blows your mind that they were all shot separately. It feels so seamless. Barn Storm (the VFX house) did a fantastic job stitching it all together.
PH: How did you use Productions in Adobe Premiere Pro and Roto Brush 2 in After Effects?
Kelly Lyon: This project was my first time using Adobe Productions and it worked very well (see answer from first question). Our assistant editor Josh DePew is an after effects wiz. He was able to quickly comp hours of green screen footage for us in After Effects and bring it back into our Premiere Production, so that we could all access the comped footage. (I just confirmed, he didn't use Roto Brush 2).
PH: How do you think the industry has changed since last year? Will this way of editing become a "norm"?
Kelly Lyon: For me personally, it has been interesting. Once I left SNL, I moved to Portland, Oregon and figured my opportunities for big time comedy gigs would be over. Luckily, I found the niche of working remotely on stand up specials with minimal travel required. Of course, COVID shut down almost all new stand up specials, but it also brought new opportunities for me. Now that everyone has to work remotely, I'm booking jobs like Yearly Departed, which otherwise would have required me to be in LA or NYC. I also worked on SNL at Home, which was amazing because I never imagined I'd be able to edit for SNL again. As much as I want the pandemic to be over as quickly as possible, I'm not in a rush to return to an office. Even though there are technical challenges and it is harder to work through rough cuts via Evercast than it is to work in person, the flexibility has been so great.
I love that I can stop work for a few hours to have dinner with my family and tuck the kids in for bed, and then hop back on and continue to work later at night (rather than missing out on that family time). I think a lot of us are enjoying the increased flexibility and the opportunity to collaborate with top talent from all over the country. Of course, I miss being in the edit suite with my collaborators, but I hope that remote workflows continue to improve and working remotely can become more of a norm.