Greg O’Bryant served as editor and producer on Netflix’s new limited horror series Brand New Cherry Flavor. Based on a book, the series centers around Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), an aspiring filmmaker who comes to LA with the intent of directing her first movie. Her dream project, however, turns into a nightmare - one with zombies, hit men and supernatural elements - and she now has to figure out secrets from her past in order to stay alive.
The series began streaming on August 13th and O’Bryant edited all eight episodes, as well as served as its producer. COVID affected much of the editorial process, during which he supervised everything, from music to sound to VFX.
As a storyteller, it was important for O’Bryant to establish the tone and flow of the show during the editing process. He did this by striking a balance between the horror and comedic elements of the show while also developing a story arc that builds up to its supernatural elements. He also identified important moments and beats that, when edited together, helped enhance the performances of the actors.
He recently took time to answer a few questions about his work on the Netflix series.
How did you get involved with this project?
“I have a few people I work with regularly, but showrunner Nick Antosca is someone I work with a lot. We've done three seasons of Channel Zero and The Act together. He had sent me the Brand New Cherry Flavor novel as he and Lenore (Zion) were adapting it. Within a few chapters I was hooked. It was such a unique blend of genres and styles, and I was captivated by Grimson's hyper-specific version of 1990s LA. I told Nick right away I wanted to be involved, and luckily he and Lenore agreed to have me.”
What was your workflow on the series and how did COVID affect the process?
“We started out with a pretty standard process — but COVID had other plans. With about two weeks left to shoot, we were forced to start 'work from home' protocols. Once the showrunners came back from Vancouver, we realized pretty quickly that we still needed to ‘find the show’ a bit, as well as figure out what we would need to shoot once production was able to resume. Due to the uncertainty, only myself, an assistant editor and the two showrunners were permitted to stay on to finish the series.
“At this point, we went back into the dailies to figure out what we had versus what still needed to be filmed to finish a satisfying narrative. We came up with a plan. Nick and Lenore pitched it to Netflix, and once they accepted, we shut everything down for a period of months. When we came back it was pretty hectic. They did two weeks of reshoots in Los Angeles, and then we had only one week per episode to submit to Netflix for feedback. Then we locked each one shortly after.”
You worked as both editor and producer. Can you explain your roles?
“I've been lucky on the TV side to carve out a little niche as a ‘producing editor’. Basically, I edit at least the first and last episodes, and then support the other editors in any way I can. I’m usually on a show from the first day of dailies through the final mix of the finale. I take responsibility for maintaining consistency across all the episodes as it applies to VFX, music, sound and color — and, along with post-producer David Kirchner, who is another frequent collaborator of mine, I also try to weigh in with an editor’s perspective on staffing, scheduling and workflows.”
Can you talk about the show’s editing style as it pertains to helping to tell the story?
“One of the biggest challenges we faced on Brand New Cherry Flavor was maintaining a consistency of tone across eight episodes and five directors - especially since so much of the approach changed after the COVID shutdown. Frankly, it took us a few tries to find it, but once we did, I started the work of dialing in all of the performances and making sure they had an emotional continuity, even though some scenes were filmed almost a year apart.
“The biggest priority was maintaining this delicate balance of horror and comedy that we had so carefully constructed. If something felt too funny, it lost its teeth, but if it was too scary or disturbing, we lost the levity. Ninety percent of this was done in tuning the performances, but choosing the right music (score and source) was a big help too. Once this heavy lifting was finished and the episodes were approved, I worked with our partners at Mr. Wolf VFX and IMN sound to create the specific textures of the creatures, locations and mythology.
“The hardest thing to get right was the jaguar demon. In order to avoid full CGI, Nick and Lenore had everything filmed practical, with a plan to enhance via VFX. In dailies, the jaguar demon was this lithe dancer in a rubber suit. After months of trial and error, we came up with the glowing eyes and the blurry, shuttery effect of the jaguar demon ‘crossing over’ to Lisa's dimension. However, that blurry, shuttery effect turned out to be pretty complicated and we were literally fine tuning up to delivery.”
What are your thoughts looking back on it now?
“We couldn't have finished the show without the contributions of the other editors - Curtiss Clayton and Ken Ramos. I also have to mention my assistant editor, Steph Perez, who bailed me out by stepping up to do some editing on Episode 105. And before we go, I should thank Nick and Lenore for being so creatively generous, entertaining so many of my reckless ideas and letting me play in this weird, beautiful sandbox.”