Based on the book of the same name by Todd Grissom, Brand New Cherry Flavor is a surreal new horror series now streaming on Netflix. In it, Rosa Salazar embarks on a macabre tale of supernatural revenge in 1990s Los Angeles.
We had the chance to chat with editor and producer Greg O’Bryant, who edited all eight episodes remotely after the series was shut down during the height of the COVID lockdown. The shutdown affected a significant portion of the editorial process, from music to sound to VFX.
If you were curious about how the show brought those kittens to life or what went into establishing the distinct tone that expertly blended horror and comedic elements, then keep reading to learn about how Greg worked with the show’s creators and his fellow editors to make the magic of Brand New Cherry Flavor happen!
Going behind the scenes of Brand New Cherry Flavor with editor Greg O’Bryant
1428 Elm: How did you get involved with this project? Were you familiar with the book beforehand?
Greg O’Bryant: I had done several seasons of TV with Nick Antosca, I did the first three seasons of Channel Zero, and I did The Act. When we were finishing The Act, he said, “Hey I’m going to do this book, it’s going to be my next thing.” He didn’t have the pilot yet. I think Lenore [Zion] was involved, but it was mid-adaptation.
He sent me the book, and I read the whole book, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is the craziest thing that’s ever been on TV, I have no idea how you’re going to do it.” And he said that he and Lenore were looking at it and planning to do the first third before [Lisa] runs off to Brazil. I was like, please tell me when we’re doing it. I’m all in.
1428 Elm: As the editor, what components of the show were you working on? Was it everything or specific elements, like VFX, music, sound, etc.?
Greg: Yeah, I did it all. I’ve carved out a cool niche with editing TV, which is a bit of a wild west right now because everybody wants to do fancy TV, movie TV, which is great. When I started doing this, Nick and I essentially learned how to do TV together on the first season of Channel Zero.
We’ve just built this weird workflow, and I’ve applied to other shows too, and it’s essentially I come on, and I’ll do the first episode and the last episode of a season, usually almost always a limited series. Usually, I’ll do a couple more, too but definitely the first and the last one. Then I help the other editors out where I can. I manage consistency across all the episodes with VFX, music, sound design, color, anything that applies to all the episodes I supervise.
How did COVID affect editing Brand New Cherry Flavor?
Because I’ll stay on until the very last mix, I’ll be the first one in post on and the last one off. In the case of Brand New Cherry Flavor, we got shut down because of COVID. We got to the point where they weren’t finished filming. They still had a few weeks left to film. Due to COVID regulations, only Nick, Lenore, my assistant and I were permitted to finish the series.
I had to take everything over because no episodes were finished. Every episode was missing pieces. We had this unique situation in the world that required Nick, Lenore, and myself to work remotely, to really dig into every single episode and think, “okay, what are we missing? Do we really need it? Is there something better we could get since we have time, an indiscriminate amount of time to figure out what we need to do?”
We really made a plan to finish the show. Then I’d make sure we had the takes and surrounding scenes of performance to support it. We came up with a big blueprint on how to finish the show in 11 production days in L.A. They took that to Netflix, and Netflix approved it. Then we shut down completely, and when we came back up to shoot, which was almost a year after they started shooting the first time, we only had, after they finished that shoot, we only had a week per episode to finish picture.
We had one week for episode one, send it to Netflix, one week for episode two, send it to Netflix, and they sent back notes, we did it. We did the entire score at that time, the entire VFX at that time, all of it. Some of the VFX was really simple. Nick always, and I think Lenore does too, but I’ve worked with Nick enough to know, Nick loves to do a practical effect and then supplement it later digitally.
1428 Elm: That’s what I was going to ask because it seemed like a lot of the effects were practical.
Greg: It was all shot practically; it’s just now been supplemented. Like the cats, we’d do one take with nothing in her mouth and then another take with a ball of fur, and then Mr. Wolf is our VFX vendor. We’ve worked with them on a few shows, and they’re amazing.
They made it slimier and animated the mouth a little better; they did stuff like that—little mattings in the fur, just cool details that make it look alive. And then the demon, the mom demon, was a dancer in a skintight rubber suit, and it looked like a dancer in a skintight rubber suit.
I think it was Lenore’s idea to have the eyes glow. Somehow, we all three came up with the idea of making it jittery as if it was trying to cross dimensions, and we felt narratively that was an interesting take. Then it was just test, test, test; they would send us versions too jittery or not jittery enough. Luckily, Netflix was a pretty good partner in this, and they understood what we were up against and were cool with us working that way. A lot of places may not have been. That was a real gift, too.
1428 Elm: The show is obviously a horror show, but it also has many comedic elements. How did you strike that balance between those two genres?
Greg: I think we got really lucky with Rosa [Salazar who played Lisa], Catherine [Keener who played Boro], and Eric [Lange] who played Lou, because I think they really got it. That was something in the book that really made it. When you read the book, it’s like, okay, you have to make this because it’s too weird not to make. The comedy was a huge part of it.
Using actors like that that get it and have timing and inhabit those characters in authentic ways came down to finding the most authentic stuff. A lot of what I think is the funniest stuff in the show are these characters not reacting in ways that we would say “normal” people would react to things.
There is a lot of humor in not playing the obvious thing. I think those actors did a good job of giving us those options, and Nick, Lenore and I just spent hours going through it all. And the other editors too. I don’t want to take the other editors out because they did a lot of work before being shut down. But literally, just combing takes to find the right eyebrow. Rosa is so good with an eyebrow.
1428 Elm: I think the comedy is natural, but then you always have to think because I’ve noticed in some shows if the silence is off or the beat goes just too long or doesn’t land right, it can ruin the joke or detract from the humor of the situation. I imagine a lot goes into that from an editorial standpoint.
Greg: Totally. It’s just watching the takes over and over again and comparing them against each other. You put one in and try it, and then sometimes you change the scene partner’s take; you do this dance and keep doing it and then eventually you play it back and are like, “Oh, there it is!” And it’s being open to it, and that’s the thing; you know it when you see it.
1428 Elm: I know the show has been billed as a limited series, but as you said, you guys only adapted a part of the book. So I’m curious, have there been any conversations about continuing it?
Greg: I’m not sure I would be on that high level of conversation about it. I’ve certainly said, “hey, if we do Season 2 there is stuff we could do,” and they’re just like, “oh, no, it’s one season, don’t jinx us!”
You never know. There have been so many shows; Big Little Lies was one season, and Mare of Easttown they’re talking about bringing back for a second season, so you never know. When people respond really well, it’s kind of hard to say no. So, never say never.
1428 Elm: I feel like the term “limited series” doesn’t mean much these days.
Greg: It just means you don’t have to pitch Season 2 while you’re in the middle of editing Season 1 [Laughs].
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The entire first season of Brand New Cherry Flavor is now streaming on Netflix.