Ginny & Georgia: How To Create, Shoot, And Edit A Show During A Pandemic

DGC Ontario Production Ginny & Georgia, the mother-daughter coming-of-age drama created by Sarah Lampert premieres today on Netflix. We recently spoke with some of the DGC creatives behind the series.

Directors Sudz Sutherland and Renuka Jeyapalan, Production Designer Benno Tutter and Editors Jonathan Eagan (Picture) and John Smith (Sound) tell us about the relationship between the Director, Editor and Designer, their favourite scenes from the series and making TV in Toronto.

Can you fill us in about the working relationship between the Director, Editor and Designer and how that worked on Ginny & Georgia?

Director Sudz Sutherland: The relationships between a Director, Editor and Designer are critical. Before you shoot, you have to start talking early and be on the same page.  It’s essential to speak often as scenes are coming together because there are only so many shoot days, and it’s imperative l to get everything you need before you start shooting. The Director, Editor and Designer should be there to inspire and encourage each other, which is just as vital as the DOP/Director relationship.

Director Renuka Jeyapalan: I always engage the Editor early in my prep to talk through any tricky scenes or discuss my shot design ideas. When I’m in prep I speak to the Editor as much as the Cinematographer. On Ginny & Georgia, Jonathan Eagan edited both of my episodes, and he was fantastic. We both felt very protective of our episodes as there were several tricky sequences and set-piece scenes that we wanted to get right. It would be an understatement to say that we were slightly obsessive about them.  One of the episodes had a four-page texting thread sequence, and we were concerned about sustaining the drama when you only have one character and one cell phone screen to cut to. We discussed that scene at length before, during, and after we shot it. We drew up storyboards, analyzed other film references, and then in the editing room, continuously fine-tuned the pacing. One of my favourite collaborations on Ginny & Georgia was talking craft and storytelling with Jonathan.

Picture Editor Jonathan Eagan: I’ve always felt the Director and Editor’s relationship is one of mutual trust and understanding. I’ve joked before that it’s pretty much like dating, but I think that’s honestly kind of an apt comparison. Do you like each other? Do you get each other? Can you spend months in a room together and not drive one another crazy? Kidding aside, as an Editor, it’s your responsibility to understand, support and help the Director achieve their vision. You also owe it to them to be as objective as possible to tell the best story. On the other hand, when a Director trusts their Editor and invites them into the creative process, that affords them the space they need to do their very best work, and the results usually speak for themselves.

Creator Sarah Lampert and Show-runner Debra Fisher with Renuka on set. Photo courtesy of Director Renuka Jeyapalan.
Photo courtesy of Director Renuka Jeyapalan: Creator Sarah Lampert and Show-runner Debra Fisher with Renuka on set.

Sound Editor John Smith: I can speak more to the Showrunner/Sound Supervisor relationship. Our biggest challenge was that we had never met in person and needed to make sure, on a technical level, we similarly heard the show.  The show was mixed in Dolby Atmos, and mix playback reviews were in stereo.  It was Sarah’s first TV series as Showrunner, and we needed to make sure our communication was clear, and we were always on the same page.  She wanted a particular sound realism, and we needed to manage everyone’s listening environments remotely, so we were confident that we were all hearing similarly. It was a challenging experience. We were learning new terminology for new ways of working and needed to be patient while communicating over Zoom, Telephone, Cinecync, Techstream, Mobile ADR, etc.… Technicolor did an exceptional job at streaming mixes all over the world while providing real-time mix fixes.Sound Dogs had secure and bulletproof FTP and Media Shuttle technologies that allowed the sound crews to work flawlessly.  We were very challenged but also extremely fortunate to continue to work during the initial lockdown.

Production Designer Benno Tutter: The Director/Designer relationship is one of collaboration, listening, and building on each other’s ideas. Directors always bring their vision to that first meeting with me, and I bring my ideas. Through discussion, walking the sets and visiting the locations, we dovetail into a shared vision, and I lead my team to realize that vision. On Ginny & Georgia we had really creative Directors with fresh ideas, and it was always exciting to work with them.

A scene from Ginny & Georgia

Can you tell us about  your favourite scene from Ginny & Georgia?

(Possible Spoilers Warning!)

Director Sudz Sutherland: My favourite scene was one where we had to replicate a fall fair in Coburg and we did an homage to The Shining for Ginny & Georgia.  I loved shooting outside to get the fall colours. I love that this is my job!

Director Renuka Jeyapalan: This is a tough one because there were so many that I enjoyed. But a highlight would be from episode 104 (Lydia Bennets Hundo a Feminist). It’s a casino night scene at a neighbourhood Country Club hosted by Georgia. She walks around the room, weaving through the various casino tables and interacting with other cast members and some of the 80 background performers. There was quite a few story beats to hit, and I felt the scene was robust enough to be a ‘oner’. And if there’s an opportunity for me to shoot a ‘oner’ , I’m going to take it! All departments really stepped up to make it happen. Before our first take (which, of course, was also the rehearsal), you could feel a real energy and tension in the room. And I remember as soon as I yelled “cut,” the entire room applauded. I think we were all so ecstatic that it worked and that we pulled it off. I was really proud of the team that day.

Picture Editor Jonathan Eagan: It’s tough to pick just one. I’d have to choose one that, while very simple editorially, packs a real emotional punch. Midway through my first episode (Episode 3, Next Level Rich People Shit), one of our LGBTQ2IA+ characters pours their heart out to their crush, hoping they feel the same way. Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that things don’t go quite as planned. It’s a scene where anyone who’s ever been a teenager in love, especially a queer teenager, can relate. There are many complicated feelings conveyed very honestly and beautifully by the performers in that scene, and it’s one I’m very proud to have edited.

A scene from Ginny & Georgia

Sound Editor John Smith: My favourite scene in the show was….well, I don’t want to give anything away.  I think the show will be a big hit.  It’s really compelling!  As Ginny, Antonia Gentry gives a brilliant performance that I believe will resonate with a broad audience.

Production Designer Benno Tutter: I have so many favourite scenes from Ginny & Georgia, but one that comes to mind is the “Fall Fest” scene when Mayor Paul gives a speech, and his nemesis announces she’s running against him. I like it because it’s full of tension and humour, and it makes use of a beautiful exterior location in Cobourg. Of course, I’m very proud of the work the art department and the set decorating department did for that scene.

What do you love about making TV in Toronto? How has shooting a production changed since COVID-19?

Director Sudz Sutherland: I love shooting with the talented local crews and actors. It’s been tough, no lie, during this pandemic. There is no way to mask that fact. We will be working under these conditions for a long time, but we are lucky to be able to work safely. 

Director Renuka Jeyapalan: It has been an adjustment. The remote prep meetings and social distancing drastically reduce the social aspects on set, which I’ve missed. But the process remains the same, and I’d say in some cases has made shooting more efficient. The three shows that I’ve directed during COVID have all stuck to 10-hour workdays, which not only keeps everyone happy and healthy but forces me to hone my shot design further. I’ve found that the added time crunch (since page counts and the number of scenes/day hasn’t reduced) can often lead to more elegant solutions in terms of covering a scene. But I’m not going to lie; when I get back to my car at the end of the day, it feels great to tear all that PPE off. Foggy face shields are the worst!

Picture Editor Jonathan Eagan: What I love most about making TV in Toronto are the relationships. There are so many amazingly talented people working in every facet of production and post production in this city. Every time I begin a new adventure on a new series or film, I feel I gain a whole new family and find new inspiration. Sometimes if you’re lucky, as I was on Ginny & Georgia, you get to work with amazing Editors like Erin Deck and Susan Shipton. Their talent and experience inevitably make you a better Editor. I live for those kinds of opportunities. 

Covid-19 has been a real challenge. I had to end work on my last episode of Ginny & Georgia early due to COVID-19 and haven’t worked since then.  I have so much to be thankful for, but I can’t deny it’s been a stressful and disruptive time.

Sound Editor John Smith: I began working on Ginny & Georgia when the lockdowns started last year.  We were fortunate to keep working from remote studios, but figuring out how it was all going to work with producers and Directors from all over the world was a challenge.  

We were able to find an in-home “ADR solution” where microphones and recording gear were sent to all the actors’ residences.  The actors were exceptional at learning the equipment and finding an area in their dwellings where they could follow all the technical instructions and record.

Production Designer Benno Tutter: We have amazing crews here. I have art department personnel I’ve been working with for years, and one of the nice things about working in Toronto is the continuity and flow that it provides. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some new people recently, due to needing a more extensive department, and they were also fantastic. All the people I get to work with within Toronto are great — on set, in the office, throughout the production. And having been in the business for so long, you develop a shorthand with these other very experienced people, and it helps things run smoothly and makes it more enjoyable. It’s always great to start a job and see people you’ve known for a long time. It’s also important to note that Toronto has suppliers who have been working with our industry for decades. They understand our needs and will jump through hoops when necessary to get us what we need on time.

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