There are very few good horror TV series that evoke such a wide range of fear, anxiety, and tenderness as Yellowjackets does. From the script to directing to the editing bay, the team behind the series handles the horrors they've created with an immense amount of care that is worthy of celebration.

Yellowjackets follows a women’s high school soccer team both during and after their plane crashes in a remote wilderness, leaving them stranded and forced to survive on their own in 1996. The show alternates between the past, depicting their harrowing experiences in the wilderness, and the present, where the adult survivors grapple with the traumatic aftermath. It explores themes of survival, trauma, friendship, and the dark secrets they've kept hidden for years, diving into the psychological effects of their ordeal and revealing the lengths they go to protect themselves.

The series blends horror, drama, and dark humor to create a suspenseful narrative. Creating this balance is a tricky and delicate process that editor Jeff Israel has mastered over two seasons. Israel's past editing work includes shows like The Act, Them, Cruel Summer, and Tell Me Lies. His editing helped conclude season one and presented audiences with a gut-wrenching death.

Israel sat down to talk with No Film School and shared insights into the unique blend of horror, humor, and drama that sets Yellowjackets apart from other projects he has worked on. He also discusses the challenges and creative choices involved in editing tense-filled scenes and highlights some standout moments from the season.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: Congratulations on season two of Yellowjackets being completed.

Jeff Israel: Yes, it's completed. The showrunners were one day into writing season three and then the writer’s strike happened. We all had a post-wrap out at my place, and Ashley came over and said, "The writers' room opens Monday." I don't know how much they accomplished in one day.

NFS: Hopefully, they got enough so when the strike's over, they can hopefully just jump back into it.

Israel:Yes. We mixed the finale and then the next week they opened the writers' room. You barely have time to clear your head.

NFS: I'm really curious about what your experience is editing these tense-filled shows from them to the act. But, what makes your experience on Yellowjackets stand out from those other projects?

Israel: Yellowjackets has a lot of levity. We have some of the darkest, messed up scenes, and then we cut to Jeff Sadecki listening to NWA. It’s about finding that balance. “Them” didn't have as much humor. It had a little bit of dark humor, but not as much. What Yellowjackets does so well is balancing all these different genres and switching between them all. Episode six is a good example. I was watching it with my wife, and the tension of Shauna's baby's birth is building, and building, and building. Then we cut to Jeff in the car listening to NWA, and she just burst out laughing. "Oh my God, here's Jeff to save the day".

Compared to Season 1, the challenge in Season 2 is finding that balance as we've navigated into darker and darker territory. There was probably more humor in season one, but Season 2 has gotten bleaker as we progressed to the end. I edited last year's finale too, so it's been sort of a journey to the end. Season two wraps up a lot.

Yellowjackets_s2_2'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS:  I think it does very well. This season has a lot more horror elements to it. We get a culty kind of horror to it. And you said there are a lot of humorous moments in it too, that kind of bring levity to these heavy moments. How do you find the blend between the horror, the humor, and the drama of this season?

Israel: I mean, I love it. One of the best examples is the scene when Kevyn dies. That one is a roller coaster of humor, horror, and drama because Jeff is making this emotional confession, which some people predicted. He's confessing and wants to take the blame to get Shauna and Callie out of trouble. Right in the middle of this intense, emotional confession, Kevyn just collapses and dies, and Jeff's reaction is incredible. Then, to add to that, Walter comes out and casually says, "Hiya, me again." He remarks, "Oh, nice false confession." As a viewer, you're processing, "Oh my God, we just had Kevyn's death and Jeff's confession, and now Walter is involved."

As the viewer, there are so many mixed emotions. That was an interesting scene because we had score playing during his testimony and confession, but in the mix, we took it out because we felt like, "You don't need it." That's one of the beautiful things about it. The scene almost had a score right up until the end. But played dry, it evokes mixed feelings. We didn’t want to lead the audience in one direction or the other.

That scene is the perfect example of balancing comedy, drama, and horror. Kevyn is dead. I know everyone was talking about Natalie's death, but now he's dead too.

NFS: So much happened this season.

Israel: Yeah, there's so much in the finale. And  Kevyn is truly innocent. That's what's amazinghow he's kind of an afterthought. He's like Adam Martin last year.

When I was cutting the second scene of the finale where they were all getting together and figuring out a plan, Shauna said, "Oh, let's just do what we used to do." They all give her looks like, "Are you insane?" It was a big note to make sure the viewer knows that we're aware she's joking. The greatest gift all of our actors give us is their reactions, and Misty just gives this, "What? I wouldn't even think to do that," look. It's all in Christina's eyes because she's so amazing, and Tawny's going, "What the f*ck are you talking about?" under her breath. Then, Juliette's, "What?" She's the one with the biggest, "Are you kidding me?" It's just a stall." That's a beautiful moment of the comedy and drama all working together.

The adult characters often come up with these ludicrous plans to get out of a situation. As we saw in Season 1 with the tracker, it doesn't work out for them for the best, most of the time. And I've said this earlier, I think a lot of it has to do with their teenage-like logic coming out. They don't think things through so clearly all the time. They're just very impulsive, the adults.

NFS: It's true as adults, too. I mean, we can revert to our teenage shelves a lot of times, especially to those moments where we're like, "We know how to handle this. We've survived in the wilderness. We can handle any situation."

Israel: They're thinking that'll stall for a while so they can get the mental health experts to show up and take care of Lottie.

Yellowjackets-season_2'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS: With a show with a cast this stacked, with so many stellar performances, how do you navigate cutting those scenes? Is it based on the rhythm and their styles, or is it just based on something else?

Israel: The first thing I do in putting a scene together is think, "What's the scene about and what is the showrunner's intent?" We learn that through tone meetings. So I read the script and then learn about their intent. What's supposed to happen, who are we focusing on in that scene? Then we go through the director's cut, and they have their vision, and then we move from there. Often with the big group scenes, I just try to incorporate everyone. Fortunately, all of our directors are amazing at covering everyone, which can be incredibly difficult, especially when they were burning Jackie's body in episode two. The Jackie funeral scene is…everyone's outside watching and you want to cover everyone. And then sometimes, even Mari and Akilah might not have dialogue, but often everyone is so tuned into what's happening.

It's incredible in this show because the reaction shot is one of our most valuable tools in editing. We can remove lines and rearrange things and write off-camera ADR. Our cast, they're all incredible. Everyone is so engaged all the time and so passionate about the show that you don't get anyone just waiting for their line. They're all deeply invested. I think because of the story content you have to be.

NFS: It'd be hard not to be.

Israel: Yeah. I go through and mark all those reactions, I'll need those later when we're 15 minutes over and I have to cut some lines, and I'll check in with Mari and Akilah. One of my favorite reactions of the whole season was episode two when they're talking about the poo bucket and whose poo is it, and young Misty's like, "I think it's boy poo." Then, the guys are thinking, "What are you talking about? That doesn't make any sense." Those lighter comedy moments balance it out. Episode seven had the crazy adult Misty and Caligula stuff. The New York Times wrote, "Oh, thank God, after last week's trauma fest."

Anything with Walter (Elijah Wood) is comedy gold as well. Even when he is doing the most messed up stuff, like shooting Kevyn's body in the car, he just has this look on his face like, "Oh, that's exciting." We're all thinking, "Who else have they corrupted?" 

Yellowjackets_s2_4'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS: I know that the creative teams behind each episode of Yellowjackets are very bold and very creative in their storytelling. How does this encourage you in your process when you're sitting in the editing bay?

Israel: Oh, you mean the directors?

NFS:  Yeah, the directors, even the writers.

Israel:Just everyone. This season I was fortunate to work with three amazing directors. Ben Semanoff, who did episode two, and Liz Garbus, who did episode six, “The Wilderness,” which was practically a bottle episode because it was just in that one room most of the time. Then, Karyn did the finale after she did the pilot. So each of them brought their own style to it. Ben was a cinematographer, so he shot a lot of that wilderness, those beautiful shots of young Travis and young Natalie. They went up to Northern Canada, where it's freezing. And when they were trekking through the snow and those wide shots, he brought that vision to the show because he directed episode five as well. Those shots were meant to make you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere, and they're all going to probably start to die.

Then, Liz Garbus just brought this, she's a longtime documentary filmmaker, and she just brought this humanity to Shauna's birth. She's also a great horror director because she did the crazy scene when they woke up after eating the baby. That scene was incredible. I know she was interested in creating a feeling akin to that of Rosemary's Baby with the panning around everyone's reactions. That ended up being amazing.

And Karyn, I don't know if you noticed but the last shot of season two is the same as the last shot in the pilot. It's the same thing that tilts up to the sky. So it tilts up from the burning cabin to the sky and the trail of smoke, and in the pilot, it ends the same way where it tilts up from the plane crash to the sky. So she wanted to mirror that. And we also did that with the journals. When Shauna is writing in her journal, there's one that mirrors the pilot. And only she would've thought to do that. But I thought-

NFS: It's referencing itself already.

Israel: Yes, it's referencing itself. [Laughing] I don't know if everyone noticed that because you were probably too shocked by everything you just saw, too traumatized in the last 10 minutes of the finale to process it all.

Daisy Mayer has directed several episodes now. What’s amazing is they've gotten some incredible collaborators who bring their unique vision to the show, but it all works as a season. 

Yellowjackets_s2_3_0'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS: You bring your unique vision to it as well, which stands out in these episodes that you've done, and I'm very curious about how your philosophy on editing season two has evolved since your work on the first season.

Israel: The amazing thing about being with these characters through season one and into two is that I know where they're going. It gives us a lot of ideas. In episode two with the Lottie-Travis hanging, we did some intercuts with flashbacks that weren't scripted. When adult Lottie sees Laura Lee, we did some quick intercuts of her baptism because she was thinking about Laura Lee when she sees her. When Laura Lee's mouth turns into a gaping chasm there are some quick flashes to Laura Lee baptizing Lottie. I cut that episode so I thought to use that, but if I hadn't worked on season one, it might not have occurred to me to try that, and so that's the benefit.

I think for all of us who did season one, we all know the language so well now, and we know what Jonathan, Ashley, and Bart are looking for. It's the only show I've worked on where when the scripts come out, we can't wait to read them, and we all have to race to see who can read it first to find out what happens. Usually, my assistant, Genevieve Butler, has already read it before I've even had a chance to open the link.

I edited on The Act, which was one and done, finished. You move on to the next job and you don't really fanboy over the show. All of us who work on Yellowjackets can't wait to find out what happens next. 

NFS: Are there any other unscripted moments that you kind of thought about cutting together when you were in the editing process?

Israel: When Adult Misty is in the drum circle, we needed a button on that scene to get out, and Christina improvised, something like, "Well, if you're done crying, I can tell you more about it.” That was a great moment because the scene didn’t have a great out. I think Christina has even mentioned that line during some panels. 

NFS: Because everyone, as you said, is a massive fan of the show, and they're excited and they know so much about it already and the language, those moments can exist and they can shine. Being the editor, you can allow those moments to shine through the cut, and I think that's fantastic.

Israel: Yeah. We rebalance the scenes sometimes. We move things around because the show lends itself to us. Often you can't feel it until you see it because it's hard to know what’s the right order on paper. Then you see opportunities to do things a little differently, like the interrogation scene in episode six. Those were two separate scenes between Callie and Shauna being interrogated by the police, and I intercut them together. Then I could go from Shauna’s face to Callie's face. It strengthened Callie's journey to who knows where, but probably not good, as she's becoming more like her mother. As Lottie said after being shot by Callie, “She’s so powerful”. The intercut interrogation tracked that journey to the end. I didn’t know this is where Callie was headed when I cut the season finale.

Because we're all in the same headspace, you become more intuitive. With Jonathan, Ashley, and Bart, we often have general conversations while we're editing, we talk about the characters. We're all in the same headspace with our influences. They love Twin Peaks.

All of us in post-production are still chatting in the off-season Slack about things we read. I like to keep a playlist of songs that I'll pitch to Nora Felder, our music supervisor, next season.

Yellowjackets_s2_5'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS: What songs are on that playlist right now?

Israel:Oh, well, I think I've used it up mostly, but I think that St. Vincent cover of Metallica’s "Sad but True." I think I heard that on a Peloton ride last year, and I thought, oh, that could work and I'll just throw it in there. But “Killing Moon" has been on my mind for a while, and I mentioned it to Nora, and she was like, "Oh, of course, we have to use that," because it's just a bit so perfect with where they were going.

NFS: Do you normally create a playlist for the projects that you work on to get you into the headspace of the tone and everything?

Israel: The thing I'm on now, I have a few ideas, but you're still toning it out. But for Yellowjackets, it all seems so clear now. You'll hear something and think, "Oh, let me put that away, file that away."

Nora does that. She texted me recently, we were done with the series, and she's like, "Oh my God, we have to use this song because I think that'll work well next season." We don't even know what's going to happen. I mean, we have a general idea based on, I think everyone has a general idea of what will happen in the wilderness, but with the adults, I have no idea. But the adults are fun because you can use all kinds of things for that. I know Nora's always cataloging things because she's obsessed with the show as well, and she does Stranger Things. So that's just her, the way she works.

NFS: You mentioned that Twin Peaks is a big visual reference for the show. Are there any other references that you use?

Israel: I love that kind of horror that's a little unexpected, like in Midsommar when they were throwing the people off the cliff, and it's daylight and it's just one of the most messed up things you've ever seen. I loved Get Out and Barbarian. We’re in a golden age of horror. Prey, I liked it a lot, but I think everything kind of goes back to Twin Peaks for me because Twin Peaks had that tone of humor and darkness that works well.

I think in the finale of season one, it's such a small moment, but after the reunion was over, a guy is sweeping the floor, and Ashley's like, "Oh, can you make that a little bit longer?" Because there's some eight-minute scene in Twin Peaks of a guy sweeping the floor. There's just something hypnotic about it. It was just a minor thing, but she thought, "The scene just needs to be a little bit longer." So we're always finding that right balance. 

NFS: You know when to sit with a moment and just let it linger.

Israel: Yeah, and sometimes we will intercut scenes and break them, what happened in the wilderness with the two shootings, or almost two shootings. I broke that up. I think we reordered things with the coronation because there was something really powerful about putting the coronation of Natalie and Natalie's death closer together, which worked well. Last year, I moved Jackie's death to later in the episode. So we just find that right balance emotionally, and just track the characters. I think that the most important thing to us is tracking the characters through the episode.

NFS: I love it. Yeah, it's a very character-centric show, and I love the references that you use. Yeah, definitely Yellowjackets is reminiscent of daylight horror and Sunshine Noir.

Israel: I love noir. When the ladies get together for the first time in Natalie's hotel room in season one, Taissa's got this dress on and has a cigarette, and she just looks straight out of a noir film and it's really great, and then Shauna comes and looks like she's just dropped Callie off at the mall in the minivan.

NFS: I love it when all the women come together because it's like all these genres clashing, but then they come together so beautifully and effortlessly that they almost create their own kind of genre or energy in the scene.

Israel: One of the biggest moments is in episode six is when Van first sees Lottie. The expression on Van’s face says so much. There's still a lot we don't know about what happened in the wilderness, and Van’s look of shock speaks volumes. There’s the same feeling in episode nine when Van goes along with the card game they're playing.

NFS: Did you know what happened?

Israel: I don't know anything. I'm confident they have a great plan for the remaining three seasons.

NFS: Oh yeah, it'll be good. And, as you said, you already have a type of clairvoyance about what's going on with the season or how to navigate the tones.

Israel: I'm sure some things will get even crazier. I love the way they mixed in animation in episode seven, and it didn't feel like it was out of place. Misty's Caligula craziness just felt like it worked. That's a Twin Peaks reference because that image felt like Misty was in the Black Lodge or something. I think someone even put her image next to Agent Cooper's or something.

Who-else-thought-this-was-a-reference-s02-minor-spoiler-v0-d13lb6y45opa1The 'Twin Peaks' homage in 'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime

NFS: What was the most difficult scene for you to cut in season two and why?

Israel: When they convinced Shauna she has to let go of Jackie. That was rough because Sophie Nelisse is so good in it, and she's just so upset to finally have to let Jackie go. Everything in the baby episode, but I knew what I was getting into there. I know when my assistant was prepping the ending, she was just crying through the dailies.

That's the thing with this cast. They're all genuinely so good because they're all just bawling at the end when Shauna realizes she lost the baby. That was probably one of the most intense scenes that I did in the whole series.

NFS: Do you have any advice for any aspiring editors out there who are wanting to break into the TV realm?

Israel: Figure out what genre you want to get into, what do you love? Because if you show passion for it, people are going to want to bring you onto their movie or show. Especially on a show like Yellowjackets, they just want the shared passion. Try to connect with editors of those shows If you want to work in TV. Watch all the best TV. We are in a wealth of incredible TV that's edited in so many different ways and shot in so many different styles, like Succession, Yellowjackets, Beef, etc. And then there are so many great movies out too, like Everything Everywhere All at Once. Those are the kinds of films and TV I would be watching if I wanted to break in now. Try to meet those kinds of like-minded people who make those shows.