Although the Starz series P-Valley is set in the fictional town of Chucalissa, Mississippi, the editorial and post-production for the first 8-episode season of the popular series took place in New York with a number of Post New York Alliance (PNYA) member companies involved in that process. Those companies include Goldcrest Pro, HARBOR, Technicolor PostWorks, Foley specialist Alchemy Post Sound and The Molecule for VFX.
P-Valley is based on Katori Hall‘s stage play, and Hall is the series showrunner, as it centers around the employees of a strip club called “The Pynk.” The series was recently renewed for a second 1o-episode season. Principal photography took place in the Atlanta area, but almost all of the post work was done in New York where Hall, her production team and Editors Agnes Grandits, Hye Mee Na, Ryan Denmark and Sky Gewant, are based. Doing post in New York allowed the production to take advantage of the resources available as well as the state’s generous tax incentive program, specifically for post.
Series Post-production Coordinator Tiffany Brown said, “P-Valley is a post-intensive show, and every aspect of it, including editorial, sound, color and visual effects, was managed through New York. We oversaw extensive ADR sessions. We tracked stock footage and music. We conducted background research involving the tiniest details.”
One of the main challenges for the post team was capturing the unique look, sound and vibe of the Mississippi Delta, as explained by Series Producer David Wood. “Although Chucalissa is a fictional place, we wanted to do justice to the Delta region in terms of how characters are depicted, how they sound and the way their world looks,” he said. “The cast had an incredible ability to inhabit the dialect and mannerisms of people from the region and production did an outstanding job in finding locations that sell the idea of Chucalissa. When they handed it off to post, we took it and ran with it.”
The ADR used to create the right ambience took place at recording sessions at Goldcrest Post and HARBOR, where actors created background dialogue and vocalizations for exteriors and interiors inside The Pynk. Dann Fink and Bruce Winant of New York-based Loopers Unlimited cast the voice talent for these sessions. Wood recalls, “Dann and Bruce found amazing, Broadway actors who were able to match the dialects voiced by the principal cast. Katori knew many of the actors, some who had performed in her plays. ADR editors Kris Chevannes (Goldcrest Post) and Bobby Johanson (HARBOR) did a fantastic job in blending their voices to create the crowds in the club.”
To create the distinct sonic environment of the club and other locations, sound editorial and mixing took place at Technicolor PostWorks with a team led by Supervising Sound Editor John Bowen and Re-Recording Mixer Chris Foster. About that aspect of post, Woods said, “The club is old and ramshackle, and it has a distinctive rattle. Chris and John blended the sounds of a chiropractic massager, glass bottles and other objects into musical cues to simulate the reverberating building. When we are in Uncle Clifford’s office, you can hear music from the stage booming through the walls and floors. It was a cool effect that they manipulated to support the story.”
In the first episode, Mercedes (played by Brandee Evans) performs a gravity-defying routine that involves hanging upside down from the top of a pole, and Brown explains how the sound team created the sonics for that scene. “Chris came up with the idea of depicting that moment from Mercedes’ perspective. The music and crowd noise fades and all you hear is her breathing. It captured her athleticism and artistry, and had a powerful effect on the audience.”
The ATMOS mix was enhanced by Alchemy Post Sound’s Foley to support pole dancing, costume and the actors’ performances from different perspectives, as Woods said, “The level of detail and authenticity is something you don’t often find in a television series. They even nailed the squeaks of the pole. It’s almost like another character in the show.”
While much of The Molecule’s VFX contributions may be harder to discern, the studio was hired to create several fanciful visuals with memorable impact, including a sequence in Episode 6 where Mercedes and Autumn draw a large amount of cash from a bank and head off down a highway in a rattletrap car. The money, stuffed in a leather bag in the back seat, is picked up by the wind and bills start flying from the windows. Woods mentions that this scene was largely created digitally. “The scene ends when a $20 bill, with Harriet Tubman’s face, fills the frame. It’s pretty cool, and almost fully CG. A lot of work went into that.”
HARBOR handled the final post-production finishing, including high resolution color grading by Roman Hankewycz, who worked closely with Hall and Cinematographers Nancy Schreiber and Richard Vialet to finalize a look that captures the world of P-Valley both physically and emotionally. “It’s meant to look gritty, but also beautiful, and the look achieves that. The characters lead challenging lives, but you also see their beauty,” Woods said in conclusion, adding a thought on the decision to do the show’s post in New York. “We all felt that this was the hardest work we’d ever done for a show, but it was also the most gratifying.”
You can learn more about the Post New York Alliance at PostNewYork.org.