I started working with Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz at Push-it Productions in 2014 editing comedy-based game shows and stand-up comedy. My passion has always been to work in narrative and a few years later, they offered me the opportunity to edit a Netflix multi-camera comedy they were producing along with Savannah Sweet and Naptown Productions starring Wanda, Kim Fields, and Mike Epps, called The Upshaws.
This was a pivotal moment in my career for multiple reasons. It was my first multi-camera sitcom and I was the only editor on the second season of a hit show (except Episode 5, where I share a credit with the talented Russell Griffin). This came with a lot of pressure and growth but also led to my first three Primetime Emmy nominations in 2023: two for The Upshaws and one for History of the World Part II.
The Upshaws: Part 3 | Official Trailer | Netflixyoutu.be
Coming from a background of editing stand-up comedy made my transition to cutting The Upshaws a fluid one. Multi-camera sitcoms are shot on a soundstage with a studio audience and because they have a laugh track, the editorial style is much like stand-up comedy in the sense that the show is cut fat with room for the laughter to play out and time for the characters to take the laughter in. Single Camera comedy, however, is usually edited in a much tighter manner, with jokes layered on top of each other. The editorial style of The Upshaws is a hybrid of the two: we have the element of the studio audience, however, our showrunners prefer that the edits are on the tighter side, which is a different take on this format. I enjoyed the challenge of landing the jokes with the proper takes and reactions while artfully weaving in the laughter.
The other thing that sets the unique format of The Upshaws apart is that the editor is involved in production as well as post. On the pre-shoot day, I will either watch a live feed from my edit bay or go to set and sit with the showrunners, writers, and the director in video village to ensure we get the proper coverage. Then, I have to rush back to edit 7-9 scenes by the next afternoon for playback for the live studio audience, so we can record laughs. This tight turnaround and making sure I’m getting the best content into the cut while landing the jokes are two challenges of editing this show. Just because I have to work fast doesn’t mean I can let the story suffer, as it will be played in front of a live audience which truly tests the effectiveness of the comedy.
History of the World Part 2 | Trailer | Huluyoutu.be
My experience editing The Upshaws led me to my next show, History of the World, Part II. Just as we were wrapping up our season, Wanda asked if I’d be interested in cutting the Mel Brooks sketch comedy series. Of course, I jumped at the chance!
Coming from The Upshaws, where it was generally just me in the edit bay combined with the multi-camera editorial style, was an adjustment as History was quite the opposite. The culture of History of the World was extremely collaborative. We would screen cuts together as an editorial team and debate how to land a joke better, or which scenes would play best in an episode together. Additionally, I had to recalibrate my thinking to the editorial style of single-camera sketch comedy.
On The Upshaws, we almost always stuck to the script and the pace was much slower. However, on History of the World, the actors in the sketches often would deliver a plethora of improv gold, and finding ways to work these moments into the sketches to layer jokes, was not only valued but encouraged.
'History of the Wold, Part II'Credit: Hulu
This mindset also really paved the way for a lot of creative freedom. Oftentimes, we were re-writing jokes in the edit bay which did a lot to elevate the comedy. Also, being that History of the World is sketch comedy, there is a large variety of sketches in each episode about moments in history ranging from The Russian Revolution to Jesus, Sigmund Freud, and Kublai Khan. This created a unique challenge to build episodes that felt well-balanced. We spent many months as a team carefully structuring episodes, trying to position historical subjects, diversity, and types of sketches with longer or shorter sketches.
The most exciting thing for me about working on The Upshaws was that I grew up watching multi-camera sitcoms. They were a household staple for us, and since my family was first-generation Mexican-American on my dad’s side, it was very relatable to see other minority blue-collar families and their struggles told through comedy. Comedy is subjective, so having that relatability really helps me craft the story and punctuate the comedy in the edit bay.
Similarly, I grew up watching everything Mel Brooks and his comedic style has definitely informed my career in the genre. So when Wanda asked me if I was interested in working on History of the World, Part II, it was an extremely humbling moment that I knew would be both incredibly rewarding and challenging. Working on these two projects obviously paid off, as they earned me my first three Primetime Emmy nominations.
My advice to young aspiring filmmakers would be to start creating anything and everything. With the advances in technology, it’s so easy to take your phone or another device and record/edit a story. Once you learn the craft well, enter your work into as many film festivals as possible and network with like-minded individuals.
Get to know others with the same goals and aspirations. Create together and get noticed. Work hard for low pay at first. If you are truly passionate and put the work in, the jobs and money will follow. Most importantly, don’t have an ego! If your supervisor asks you to bring her coffee, ask her how she likes it. She may well bring you on to the next Star Wars movie.
Angel Gamboa Bryant is a three-time Emmy-nominated television & feature editor with two decades of industry experience. Most recently, she edited the Hulu sketch series History of the World, Part II, starring Mel Brooks, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, and Nick Kroll; as well as the Netflix sitcom The Upshaws. In 2023, she was Emmy-nominated for the first time, scoring three Primetime Emmy nominations, including one Emmy nomination for History of the World Part II for Outstanding Picture Editing for Variety Programming, and two Emmy nominations for The Upshaws for Outstanding Picture Editing for Multi-Camera Comedy Series. Angel also has an impressive resume editing stand-up comedy specials for some of today’s most acclaimed comedians, including the Netflix specials: Wanda Sykes: Not Normal; Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah; Ms. Pat: Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy, and Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration, to name just a few.
As a first-generation American, Angel’s multicultural background allows her to bring a unique perspective and skillset to the editing room. Throughout her childhood, Angel spent her summers in Mexico, where she saw people living without the luxuries commonplace throughout America. This experience gave Angel a global mindset and understanding of different cultures and languages. As an expert in editing a subjective genre like comedy, having a diverse perspective has been extremely beneficial to Angel’s work in telling the best story and landing all of the jokes while being culturally mindful.
Angel’s diverse editorial background has shaped her into a uniquely skilled editor who can inject a distinct perspective into the films and TV shows that she works on. Her aspirations for the future are to further establish herself as a trusted editor of scripted TV and feature films and expand into editing different genres such as dark comedy, comedic horror, suspense, and drama.
Imagine you’re given a script containing a dialogue between two men that’s communicated through handwritten letters sent in the mail. The letters are penned in the script as VO but with very few stage directions or scene descriptions to match.
What we know: one man (a man of strong faith and God) heard the other man (the scientist) speak to a group of college kids about a subject that interested him. That man (of God) was so taken with the lecturer and his views that he shared his compliments and curiosities with the scientist by way of a handwritten letter. Flattered and intrigued, the scientist wrote back. Thus began a lengthy and powerful conversation between two intellectuals.
The director and I were tasked with portraying these interactions as a montage of their individual stories playing out alongside one another making their two separate worlds come to life.
Lessons in Chemistry, an Apple TV+ show, based on the NY Times best-selling novel by Bonnie Garmus, tells the life story of Elizabeth Zott (played by Brie Larson). As a woman living in the 1950s, Zott’s dream of becoming a scientist in a man’s world is challenged by a society that thinks a woman belongs solely in a domestic sphere.
Elizabeth is employed as a Lab Tech at Hastings Laboratory where she becomes paired with a Nobel Prize-nominated scientist, Calvin Evans (played by Lewis Pullman). Evans quickly realizes that Elizabeth is unlike any woman he’s ever met—she’s fiercely independent, wildly intelligent, hyper-analytical, and no BS. She was just like him.
While the show as a whole is structured around Elizabeth’s life in a linear fashion, the penultimate episode of the series (107) takes us back to the origin of Calvin Evans and continues to shed light on his side of the love story between Elizabeth and him.
Once we arrive at 1948 Calvin Evans, we get our first glance at Rev. Wakely a.k.a. the man of God (played by Patrick Walker) as he attends Calvin’s lecture at Harvard. Wakely felt so inspired and courageous enough to question Calvin’s scientific theories with his own ideas of God and how they might fit into Calvin’s world. So, he felt compelled to share his thoughts with Calvin. Intrigued, Calvin reciprocated leading to the interactions that we see and hear through VO.
These men seem to open up their minds to each other’s beliefs and worldviews. Their unlikely friendship grew as they challenged one another on various theories and understandings. They discussed family, friendship, and love. It was such a poignant display of respect and affection that they gained for one another.
Tara Miele, our director of episode 107, and I were both moved by this bond between the two men. The correspondence was so poetic and their descriptive language to each other felt so cinematic. We had to give these vignettes the photographic direction they deserved.
Tara and I discussed each interaction and broke down the emotional state as we would do with any other scene work. Whose POV is in the scene and what is the intention of the voice-over? We would then talk about the environments these men would be situated in and what their actions could be while the voice-over is recited. We found crossover with their words that created metaphoric meaning in the other man’s world. We pieced together a plan with a list of shots and locations desired for these shots.
Tara and I were shooting both episodes 107 and 108 together. Throughout our 20-day schedule, we would toggle between day-to-day shooting work in both episodes. We submitted a list of what our intentions were with how we wanted to shoot the letters as well as a list of ideal locations we felt they could take place in. Our ideas became puzzle pieces for our 1st AD (Katie Carroll); what could be paired with what to make the schedule work. This would also involve our location manager (Jesse Lorber) as he would work directly with us as well as our AD to find locations that were feasible for each idea and scenario on the same day. Taking into account that our show is set in the 1950s added even more challenges. Some conversations would have to involve our production designer (Cat Smith) in order to create the ideal sets for these scenes. We would give Cat an idea of what might be happening in Wakely’s world and see if it would line up with what she was already building. Did we need to change anything on our end or vice versa?
In general, a montage described in a script could be as short as 1/8 of that page. However, the work and the planning that goes into what needs to be shot and how involved that montage is, could take much more time than expected on set.
'Lessons in Chemistry' behind the scenes Apple
Below is an early example of how Tara and I used metaphoric imagery to portray the communication between the two men:
With Wakely in his study still captivated by the lecture he just witnessed, he felt compelled to sit down and write Calvin Evans a letter. We cut to a close-up of a delivery cart carrying our hero letter alongside a handful of others addressed to the people of Hastings. We then cut to Calvin at his home settled in with a whiskey as he reads Wakely’s letter while it’s simultaneously being recited to us in VO. It was meant to feel fluid like a dance.
Wakely states that “he is overlooking the mysteries of the divine” and “what if ‘HE’ is the spontaneous generation?” Tara and I thought it could be compelling to cut to a God-like high angle that’s slightly behind Calvin as he runs down the street. With another cut, the camera is now in front of him remaining high as we gradually crane down and tilt up to his eye level as he runs past the camera. We liked the action of Calvin running while deep in thought as if he’s listening to Wakely’s divine words. Creating height with our lens mirrored the words of Wakely’s state of higher being.
The script simply read that Wakely’s voice-over began as Calvin sits down in his study to read his letter. We’re then told that Calvin runs to work. There was a lot of room for us to play with ideas for what the best shots would be to elevate the visual language of this dialogue.
I love how filmmaking always creates challenges in the approach. Through prep, shot listing, blocking, and the execution of a scene, I am always thinking about the creative process while figuring out how to achieve this process with the tools and schedule at hand. Putting the puzzle pieces together is one of the many loves I have as a cinematographer. This episode was truly a fantastic challenge and I hope it shows on screen.
I’m so proud of our work on this episode as well as the rest of the show. It takes a village and everyone brought their A-game while making our visions come to life!
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