The first four episodes of Wednesday are classic Tim Burton. It’s the director having mean-spirited yet strangely sweet fun with an iconic character, Wednesday Adams. The titular character, played by Jenna Ortega, is the star of the highly entertaining new Netflix series.
It’s basically a YA series with more charm and style than the average young adult show. There’s a murder mystery and a monster, yes, but the show boils down to Wednesday Adams as an anti-social protagonist navigating the social world of school. It’s a fish out of water story, which Jay Prychidny edited four episodes for Burton.
The editor, who recently crafted the exceptionally entertaining Scream 6, brings his expertly nice and light touch to the Netflix series. Prychidny recently took the time to explain to us how Wednesday turned out to be one of the biggest hits of 2023.
Below-the-Line: Congratulations on a great year with Wednesday and Scream 6. How’s it feel?
Jay Prychidny: You can never really anticipate it. So much of it to me is the lightning in a bottle aspect. You bring your best A-game and your craft and everything you have to it, but ultimately, that doesn’t matter in the end if just the story doesn’t hit with an audience. Wednesday was way beyond anyone’s expectations. No one thought we were making a show in the upper echelons of Netflix’s library. There’s a certain magic to it. I still don’t even fully understand why the show hit as hard as it did. I’m just grateful that it did.
BTL: I think it was just entertaining, a kind of show you could recommend to just about anyone.
Prychidny: That was one of the things that I loved about it, ‘cause I’ve worked on a lot of shows that are very labyrinthine and have difficult plots. You have to pay attention to Wednesday because it’s a mystery and you want to find the clues, but one of the things I loved about it was how digestible it was.
BTL: Oh, it was nice and light.
Prychidny: Yeah, exactly. It’s easy to watch. To me, that’s quality. I’m working with Tim again on a project now, and we were just talking about that today. We want things to be short, things to be fast, and things to be fun. We are not into these ideas of TV episodes that are an hour and five minutes, or feature films that are two hours and 40 minutes. Get in, get out, and have a good time.
BTL: Are you on the set of Beetlejuice 2 with Tim?
Prychidny: I’m in the studio, but not actually on the set. Tim can go back and forth when they’re doing setups. He can run into the editing room and then go back to set. He wants me nearby, but not actually on set [laughs].
BTL: He has such a particular style. For Wednesday, how do you reinforce his sense of style?
Prychidny: Whenever I approach material, I have a strong idea of what I think the pace should be, and what the rhythm should be. I find that when you’re collaborating with someone, then it’s easier for them to react for or against it if you have a strong idea as opposed to having something that… When you edit something, the rhythm of it hardly ever, rarely, ever matches the rhythm of the scene on set. Sometimes if you leave it as is, it can lay there a bit too flat, so I’m always looking for ways to vary up the rhythm to make things surprising and give it my own stamp on it.
BTL: Tim’s shots are often beautiful. Do you typically want to let them breathe more?
Prychidny: Oh, for sure. There’s a real sharpness and precision to Tim’s framing. He doesn’t move the camera a lot when he does, either. It’s really for a specific purpose. He loves these composed frames where everything is in place and his eye is crazy. He’s seeing all parts of the frame, the people in the background, the arrangement of the props, and everything. He wants everything to be just so, you know?
When you do come to editing, you do have to play that same game. You have to edit in a precise way, just to match the style of the framing. You can’t really go too crazy or wild or abstract. You need to really respect the frame that he created.
BTL: How about sharpening his comedic timing?
Prychidny: Wednesday has this cutting humor, and I instinctively felt the editing should mirror that in a way. The editing should have this sharp cutting pattern to it, precise but sharp. I want to be an ally to Wednesday’s one-liners and make them hit even harder and have more effectiveness.
BTL: Most of the show is from her perspective, but it is a large ensemble. Did you ever debate how much you should or shouldn’t cut away from Wednesday?
Prychidny: I edited the first four episodes, and I’d say 90% of that was from Wednesday’s perspective. It’s always nice when you can have a central character to filter everything through their perspective. It grounds everything more. Really, it’s a gift to have such a strong central character that you ground the world in. There were a few moments that were outside of Wednesday’s perspective in my episodes, but really, not that many.
BTL: How was shaping Jenna Ortega’s performance?
Prychidny: One of the things that I was most amazed by in the editing was her performance. In a practical sense, it really is take after take after take of her staring ahead or shifting her eyes to the left, shifting her eyes to the right up. There’s not a lot that she’s doing and you’d expect that to be boring or one note, but the magic trick that she did, which I do not understand, is that in those simple movements, she was able to communicate different emotions buried under the surface.
I’d go through the takes and it would be, like, she’s just standing there and staring ahead, but this take is aggressive or this take is more meek, or this take is vulnerable, or this take is emotional. I would ask, “How is that possible when she’s hardly even doing anything?” So that was actually the fun thing that those emotions were communicating to me. It’s funny to talk about that as being variety when literally she’s standing there, sitting there staring ahead a lot of the time [laughs].
BTL: I know you’ve been asked a lot about the already infamous dance. I did want to ask, though, did any musicians or music videos inspire how you cut the dance?
Prychidny: Well, when I was a kid I was obsessed with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I watched the music video a million times. I still know a lot of the dance moves. This dance had a similar spooky vibe, so I did think about that music video. Especially in the way the dance begins with starting in on her face and the rest of being out of the camera, that to me was an editing homage to “Thriller.”
BTL: Obviously, you worked closely with Tim, but how was your collaboration with Netflix?
Prychidny: Netflix had notes and opinions, of course. The great thing is that Tim just had a strong sense of how the show should be, and Netflix respected that. If there was a difference of opinion between Tim and Netflix, often they defer to Tim, which was great because we were able to make what we thought was the best show.
BTL: I also wanna talk about red herrings with the mystery. Was that ever a challenge in handling the prime suspects?
Prychidny: Oh, for sure. Whenever things were pointing too strongly towards Christina’s character or the Tyler Galpin‘s character, people got nervous about that [laughs]. I have a different point of view on it. Sometimes people have a knee-jerk reaction if it’s too obvious. For me, that’s not always a bad thing. Not that you wanna make it obvious, but if you’re hinting, if you try to not put a lot of suspicion on someone, sometimes that makes them look more suspicious. It’s that weird balancing act to spread out the suspicion in an even-handed way to different characters.
BTL: The canoe race was a big challenge, right? What else was tricky?
Prychidny: I mean, the canoe sequence is definitely the one that comes to mind. It was shot over such a long period of time. You know, the beats of it were constantly rewritten in post. Tim would shoot a partial scene of that, we’d cut it and put it together with storyboards, and then we’d rethink it, change it, and try to make it more exciting. It is the scene that went through the most evolution.
BTL: When you look back on your work on Wednesday, what are you most proud of?
Prychidny: You know, it is a dream when you have a show that hits an audience in this way. You wanna have a show that means something to people, you know? Wednesday is a character that means so much to a lot of different people. I think there are different reasons why people relate to her. One of the things that was most interesting about this iteration of the character was that she’s portrayed as such a competent character in terms of being able to do everything. She can fence, solve mysteries, and succeed at botany class, all that stuff.
Wednesday’s social interaction and her emotional understanding is her weakness. I mean, that’s something I thought about a lot because you wanna bring out a character’s weaknesses as well as their strengths. Personally, that’s what I thought was cool about this iteration that people can relate to, having socialization being a real challenge. I think bringing out that aspect of her character in a way that has meaning for people is one of the most rewarding things about working on the show.
Wednesday is now available to stream on Netflix.