Adobe Premiere Pro Optimizes Creativity and Collaboration For 'Creepshow' Editors
Drew Sawyer, founder and managing partner of Moonshine Post-Production in Atlanta, GA, has been hooked on horror since he was 15 years old, eyes opened wide after watching one macabre make-up fx moment in Dawn of the Dead, where Tom Savini was dismembered on screen by shopping mall zombies.
His heart palpitating, Sawyer considered the actual threat of zombies, while meditating on the metaphors of the movie,and was inspired to spice up his high school’s student news and make movies (sometimes gory) with his friends.
A few years later, Sawyer became firmly entrenched in the professional talent pool of Atlanta’s growing movie industry, while continuing to bolster the grassroots filmmaker community with allies and close collaborators. This led to his work on the original V/H/S, which debutedat Sundance, propelling his storytelling pursuits across genres and mediums, features and series, until fatefully catching the eye of Greg Nicotero, thanks to producers who were impressed with his indie-spirit and bootstrapping attitude. The famed director of The Walking Dead tapped Moonshine for post-production work on the first three seasons of Creepshow, AMC Shudder’s popular horror anthology series based on the 1982 Stephen King and George Romero film. Nicotero, one of the masters of horror that inspired Sawyer to become a filmmaker in the first place, also brought along some filmmaker friends and long-time collaborators, including the very same Tom Savini, bringing full circle Sawyer’s dream of working with the heroes who inspired his career.
In late 2022, Sawyer was the keynote speaker at Adobe Video World in Atlanta where he outlined the Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects workflow that Moonshine used for Creepshow S1-3. I caught up with him and his co-editor Patrick Perry for more insights on how they brought the show’s comic book archetype to life.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you met.
Sawyer: I initially worked mostly on indie films with my friends as part of an Atlanta-based collective called Studio Outpost. We made a lot of fun and bad movies that, in time, improved enough to sell at festivals. I took my time in college, but eventually earned a film studies degree from Georgia State University (GSU) with some extra film studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. I met Patrick through my indie film network. When I founded Moonshine in 2012 with my partner John Petersen, Patrick quickly became employee number one.
Perry: I was obsessed with movies as a teenager and studied film at GSU. It was tough to find work right after graduation, so I moved home for a couple years. A friend eventually convinced me to come back to Atlanta to look for projects. I met Drew, who was looking for help with Stuff You Should Know. I started as an intern, worked my way into a first assistant editor role, and have been helping him grow Moonshine ever since.
Drew Sawyer, Founder & Managing Partner, Moonshine Post-ProductionWhy did you choose to cut Creepshowin Adobe Premiere Pro?
Sawyer: Creepshow is framed within a comic book style and features virtually every visual storytelling element under the sun, from stop motion to small and giant puppets, traditional animation, extreme stunts, more extreme make-up fx, comic book illustrations, motion graphics, special fx, as well as a healthy visual effects (VFX) pipeline, so there were a lot of moving pieces to say the least. Adobe Premiere Pro gave us a platform that really streamlined the workflow. We knew we were going to need a special cutting room with a dirty dozen of editors, assistants, motion graphics, and VFX teammates who would need to access these sequences around the clock and simultaneously. With Productions in Premiere Pro, we were able to organize multi-project workflows and collaborate using off the shelf shared storage. It was a game changer.
Perry: At this point it doesn’t matter what project I’m working on—I’m always in Productions. It keeps projects stable and allows for extreme collaboration across the team. I love it.
Premiere has been my go-to NLE for years, and using Productions in this environment improved our workflow and efficiency that much more. That’s where Premiere Pro really stands out—it was designed for speed. We had the flexibility to deal with whatever was thrown our way on any given day. And we did it in a way that was transparent to the network and viewers. I mean, there were times when production would grab temporary iPhone video of a monster when it was halfway constructed. We’d do a quick comp, throw it in the edit, and turn it around that same day just so everyone could be comfortable with what it was eventually going to be.
Patrick Perry, Editor, Moonshine Post-Production
It sounds like Premiere Pro helped keep a complex project moving quickly. What did you do with your newfound time?
Sawyer: The speed creates a ripple effect. The efficiencies and freedoms gained with our tech, allowed more time to collaborate and be more creative with Greg when shaping and building the world. We weren’t stuck in the old slow pipeline approach to post-production - especially considering the breadth and depth of all the mixed media involved - and editors could comfortably riff with Greg. We went from fixing, to form and function. I remember seeing Greg so excited that we could do so much in-the-box and create more freely in real time. The show’s storytelling was more than traditional scene work, and this freedom was crucial for establishing the crazy comic-book format in the first season, and doubling down on it in future seasons.
The freedom to create on a dime with all of these visuals in Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects allowed us to quickly make these codified pieces of stylized Creepshow storytelling, like a kit of parts. They eventually evolved into a language in the cutting room, giving Greg more flexibility to build out his rich and unique universe. Greg was the delightful mad scientist, and we had found the ultimate laboratory in post.
Perry: We could only do this because we had the time. And we had the time because of Premiere Pro. It was nice to bring creative concepts to the table, and to life. It really changed the way we made the show. And it also improved everyone’s quality of life. We went home earlier!
I’d love to know more about your workflow, especially as it relates to Adobe After Effects. How did integration with Premiere Pro impact the project?
Perry: Native use of Adobe Creative Cloud apps like After Effects was a no brainer. We knew we needed After Effects because we had a lot of 2D motion graphics and VFX. And we knew we needed the flexibility to turn around new versions quickly, whether it was a temp to show the network a proof of concept or running out the final versions of certain shots.
Sawyer: Once we had season one under our belts, the scripts became even more complex. We had more VFX and more creatures in seasons two and three, which were shot in quick succession. The show just kept growing but we were able to scale because we could duplicate the workflows in Premiere Pro. It was a lifesaver on a show with so many moving pieces.
Perry: A good example of those moving pieces is creature design and the various ways one is brought to life. You start out looking at concept art, the crew builds it and shoots it, and then you cut it. This is all challenging enough, but something we strove for during the edit was to always build our soundscapes out as much as we could. We were always asking ourselves: what do these things sound like? Are they vocalizing? Does the ground shake when they walk? Luckily the sound tools in Premiere are very robust, and the Essential Sound Panel continues to get even better. We had so much freedom to just try things out and arrive at ideas to present. And a lot of those ideas would make it into the dub stage!
Working on ‘Creepshow’ in Adobe After Effects
To what extent has Adobe Premiere Pro helped Atlanta-based Moonshine stand out from post-production houses in traditional filmmaking cities?
Perry: As we built the business, we took almost every job that came in—whether it was a commercial, a docuseries, scripted television, or a feature film. Premiere Pro has given me the flexibility to work on all of these. It’s just as viable for a 30-second spot as it is for a big studio environment. I feel lucky, because I don’t think my career has been pigeonholed to a particular type of job or genre. The Atlanta market keeps me on my toes.
Sawyer: Exactly. It’s a smaller market, but with a lot of variety of stories for the editorial, color, and sound talent. It creates a different mentality and cultivates a unique type of storyteller in the Atlanta market that you don’t necessarily see elsewhere, because we can’t be easily pigeonholed across a wide diversity of storytelling needs. We can grow careers locally with high caliber shows and a first-class operation, and the artists are growing leaps and bounds across all of the genres. It really keeps the artists on their toes but it pays dividends. We’re watching this core strength in the artists, played out in the quality and variety of network and studio jobs we’re being asked to work on.
You’ve certainly been keeping busy, and it sounds like Adobe Premiere Pro is your tool of choice. Are there any features you’re looking forward to trying next?
Sawyer: We’re really thankful for all the opportunities that have come our way. Patrick recently cut two holiday movies—A Waltons Thanksgiving and Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas. We also just worked on a Netflix comedy called Saturday Morning All Star Hits! All of these were done in Premiere Pro. I’m looking forward to using Frame.io and Camera to Cloud to take collaboration to the next level and reduce the time between production and post and its stakeholders.
Perry: I’ve noticed the text panel is becoming more robust. I have an upcoming project that’s interview-based and am looking forward to trying out the transcription feature. Having that built directly into Premiere Pro sounds amazing. I’m also excited about a future release that will allow me to create rough cuts from a transcript. Both features will amp up our efficiency.
Working on ‘Creepshow’ in Adobe After Effects
In hindsight, what advice would you give your younger selves when you were starting out?
Sawyer: Stay humble. Don’t get stuck in your ways. Try new and different ways of doing things. Make more bad movies with your friends so you know what's good and what you like.
Perry: Get—and stay—organized. When you start editing no one tells you how important this is, and you eventually learn the hard way if you don’t understand how your media is set up.
It’s also critical to have a consistent, proven workflow. You’re not going to approach a 30-second commercial the same way you approach an episode of Creepshow. But you do need a roadmap that everyone can follow.
And finally, learn how to collaborate early on. I certainly have my opinions as an editor but when someone says, "can we do this?" the answer is never "no." The answer is always, "let's try it."
To learn more about out all the creepy fun things Moonshine does, check out www.moonshinepost.com or follow them on Instagram at @moonshinepost.
By Michelle Gallina, principal product marketing manager, Adobe Creative Cloud: Premiere Pro & After Effects.