Inspired by all four of the iconic Disney Haunted Mansion attractions located across the globe at Disney Parks, Muppets Haunted Mansion follows Gonzo, the world-famous daredevil artiste, who takes on the greatest challenge of his life by spending one very daring night in the grimmest grinning place on Earth, the Haunted Mansion.
This marks the Muppets’ first-ever Halloween special and features three original songs, a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, and spooky fun.
We sat down with the film’s editor Alexandra Amick to learn more about how Premiere Pro helped her bring the world of the Muppets to life, including sound and video effects tools, as well as her favorite scenes and Muppet characters in the film.
How and where did you first learn to edit?
I first learned to edit in my high school broadcasting class. It was a tiny class of art kids led by a really passionate teacher, Mrs. DesHotel. She taught us how to use the editing software in between writing grant proposals to fund an art class in a school district that didn’t put a whole lot of stock in arts education. We were writing, directing, filming, and editing all our projects, but I should have known by how much I enjoyed hogging the computer that I was going to be an editor in the end.
How do you begin a project/set up your workspace?
A project always starts with reading and rereading the script. My workspace starts with a cat bed. Working from home has taught me that my cats demand to be a part of the editorial process and making sure there’s enough space among the monitors and hard drives for a cat bed will head off a lot of unhappy yowling.
'Muppets Haunted Mansion' Credit: Disney+
Tell us about a favorite scene or moment from this project and why it stands out to you.
The scene in the stretch room is really one of my favorites. I have fond/terrified memories of being a kid on the Haunted Mansion ride staring up at that disappearing ceiling, so I was really excited to dive into it. And it was one of those scenes that just came together. Bill Barretta (Pepe), Dave Goelz (Gonzo), and Will Arnett were all hilarious improvising and playing off one another, and the other characters in the scene played it so well. It did have its challenges because we were shooting on an AR/LED wall, and integrating fully CG elements that I hadn’t even seen yet, but it all just fell into place. And I think fans of both the Muppets and the Haunted Mansion will really enjoy it.
What were some specific post-production challenges you faced that were unique to your project? How did you go about solving them?
Our imaginations were pushed to the limit. 90 percent of our characters were ghosts which meant they were each shot individually on green screen, and they were to be added to completely CG environments. That allowed us an enormous amount of creative freedom, but it also meant you really had to use your imagination on how a shot would look, how the “camera” would move through space, how a ghost would appear and disappear, and knowing which take and angle to use was difficult and overwhelming. The only way out was through mocking it up, trying something, and learning new VFX skills to mock it up until we knew what worked.
What Adobe tools did you use on this project and why did you originally choose them? Why were they the best choice for this project?
I used Premiere Pro and never had to leave it. With the effects tools , Lumetri Color Panel , and the Essential Sound Panel , I didn’t need to use any other programs to do what we needed to do. It kept an intense project on a compressed timeline lightweight and easy to manage between our post team.
What do you like about Premiere Pro, and/or any of the other tools you used?
I like how intuitive Premiere Pro is, especially with visual effects tools. Because the (somewhat overwhelming) majority of Muppets Haunted Mansion was shot on green screen, just to sell the story in a rough cut, we had to do a lot of temp VFX work. It pushed me to my VFX abilities limit, but with intuitive tools, I was able to pick up more skills in a short amount of time and never had to leave the editing program to do it.
'Muppets Haunted Mansion' Credit: Disney+
What’s your hidden gem/favorite workflow tip in Adobe Creative Cloud?
I love the Export Selection to Premiere Project feature in Premiere Pro. The post for Muppets Haunted Mansion was all done from home in our separate home offices. Passing cuts and projects back and forth could have gotten cumbersome and disorganized quickly. But with this feature, we could send simplified projects with just the media used in the selected sequence. It was so much cleaner, easier, and faster than sharing full editorial projects or worrying about prepping sequences for sharing via EDLs or XMLs.
Who is your creative inspiration and why?
I would say my husband and my friends are my inspiration. I’ve found a truly inspiring group of people who are dedicated to growing and learning and exploring their art. Their struggles and successes inspire me to continue to reach for my goals and to become a better creative.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it? What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers or content creators?
Burnout. I could say making the jump from AE to editor, or being a woman in a male-dominated field, or countless other extremely challenging things I’ve faced in my career but they all compound and roll into one big ball of burnout. I’ve learned the importance of prioritizing personal time with family and friends, setting a hard boundary with employers, and finding hobbies outside of the film industry to allow me an outlet of stress. My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to do the same, and in between the burnout create what you love, not what you think is popular or will sell, but the things you want and need to create.
Credit: Alexandra Amick
Share a photo of where you work. What’s your favorite thing about your workspace and why?
My workspace is in my home. Working from home has come with a lot of challenges, logistically and creatively, but I’ve found that the benefits outweigh any of the challenges. I work at my standing desk in my office that I painted the color I like, and decorated with the things that bring me joy.
Muppets Haunted Mansion is streaming on Disney+.