Season One of Yellowjackets finished on an emotional gut punch, one delivered with a healthy dose of darkness and intrigue. As the second season started up it did not take long to realize that we haven’t seen anything yet. The team behind the series was certainly up to the challenge of topping the shocks and heartbreaking of the first season. While that feat alone is admirable it is also just a small piece of the massive jigsaw puzzle that is Yellowjackets.
All the big show moments thrown at us mean very little if they are not connected to characters and stories that we are invested in. “They mostly talking about the characters, and what motivates them, and who are they and that’s what that’s to me they build the story around the characters,” said editor Jeff Israel about Jonathan Lisco, Ashley Lyle, and Bart Nickerson (the show writers and executive producers). Strong characters are the core of great storytelling, but with such an ambitious series, which tells the stories of multiple characters from two different points in their lives separated by decades this is no easy task.
This is where Israel comes in to work his magic, taking all the elements and layers of these characters’ stories and combining them in an engaging fashion that allows viewers to follow each plot line. That is the main goal, but Israel’s responsibilities extend well beyond that. With hundreds of hours of footage and endless intertwined character threads and mysteries, he is also tasked with also tapping into the emotional beats of each episode, scene, and moment – all while slowly revealing clues to the numerous mysteries the show provides the series’ ravenous fans.
Jeff spoke with Awards Radar about his work on this season’s biggest episodes in a spoiler-filled conversation (be sure you are caught up before reading or listening further). The editor discussed the process of selecting the right music for a scene, some of the biggest challenges of the job – including the corruption of some of the season’s most agonizing scenes, and much more as we dug into these pivotal series moments. The emotional birth of Shauna’s baby, the horrifying Jackie feast, the intercutting of numerous storylines/timelines in the riveting finale were all put on Israel’s shoulders. He served not only as editor, but also storyteller and creative problem solver while delivering three of the most powerful episodes of television this year.
Listen to my full, extensive and insightful interview with Yellowjackets editor Jeff Israel below. Fans will love the inside look at what makes the series so captivating.
Here are a few excerpts from the above conversations.
On Shauna’s baby storyline:
“I credit the sensitivity of that episode to the director, Liz Garbus and the entire cast, because they handled it all so well. Sophie Nélisse, during all the birthing scenes, they were giving her foot rubs, because she’s not a mother. Everyone was working together as scene partners to feel as comfortable as possible. I credit that to why all of us handled so well. Liz Garbus’ touch with that – she did a phenomenal job with very difficult material. She also did a great job with the horror of it, with the nightmare. She was inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, like the pan around everyone in the room – and that’s the gut punch to it.Then you get another gut punch, after that’s the reality. The reality to me is much harsher than her nightmare. Because once again, the performances in that last scene – when my assistant was prepping that scene she was crying. She said, ‘This is like really intense, because they’re all crying.’ And it’s so powerful”
On finding the right music for the episode two feast:
“I originally used some classical music and at least that put it together for me and I just started cutting. I went through different versions where we didn’t do as much intercutting. It just evolved. The producers gave me notes to intercut it more. So I moved through that process and this evolution. They asked me to try a different music. Nora Felder (music supervisor) had suggested a Radiohead song, which is great. She’s amazing. She had suggested Radiohead when I used it in the finale,” said Israel.
“You can’t go wrong with Radiohead. We used “Everything In Its Right Place,” and we could never be that it was impossible and I think a lot of it has to do with their music is so film effect. Don’t score that. That’s why Jonny Greenwood is such an amazing composer. And it got me in that Radiohead mode. I’m like, ‘Well, maybe some other Radiohead.’ My assistant editor Genevieve Butler and were on Spotify scrolling. And we thought, ‘Oh, “Climbing Up the Walls” could work.”
“I put it in and that kind of informed me because I wanted to I wanted the feast to escalate and intercut and go fast and go faster and get more manic.That song builds it builds and builds and builds and then the very end Thom Yorke just screams and this is perfect because then it transitions into the way Coach Ben is not taking part in this. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing! This is like the perfect cue.’ My assistant and I shared it and we had chills. We were like this is perfect.”
(Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.)
Listen to more fascinating stories about the making of Yellowjackets in our 47-minute audio conversation with Jeff Israel (above). Watch all of Yellowjackets streaming on Showtime and Paramount+.