Pretty Hard Cases: How To Create, Shoot, And Edit A Show During A Pandemic

We spoke with DGC Ontario Director and series co-creator Sherry White, as well as Pretty Hard Cases’ Picture Editors: Lisa Grootenboer & D. Gillian Truster, about making TV in Toronto during COVID-19, their favourite scenes, and the relationship between a Director and Editor.

DGC Ontario Production Pretty Hard Cases premieres tonight on CBC/CBC Gem. The buddy cop drama, co-created by DGC Ontario Director Sherry White and Writer Tassie Cameron, stars Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black).


Photo of Director Sherry White
Photo courtesy of Sherry White

What do you love about making TV in Toronto? Can you tell us what it’s been like during COVID-19?

Director Sherry White: I love shooting in Toronto because there are so many incredible people and fantastically talented crew. It always blows my mind how committed everyone is to making the work the best it can be.  In addition to that, Toronto is a wonderland of amazing locations.  Every episode, we’d go out on the hunt to find a place in the real world that realizes our imagination and time and time again, we manage to find something even better than I could have ever imagined.  There are so many different worlds within this city. 

Picture Editor Lisa Grootenboer: A new project is always exciting but Pretty Hard Cases went to camera at the most welcome moment. It’s refreshing to be cutting comedic performances after such a dark year. Meredith MacNeill and Adrienne Moore bring magnetic energy and a wealth of material to the craft. They’re a joy to cut and it’s so much fun to watch their work. Tassie Cameron and Sherry White have created something special with Pretty Hard Cases. I can only imagine the enormous task it was for (Producer) Amy Cameron and the production team to get the crew organized and begin principle photography at a time when Covid is everywhere. 

Editing during this pandemic has presented its challenges, but Post is least affected compared to Production because Editors always work alone in separate offices anyways.  It felt good to separate work from life again after months of cutting at home. It’s a healthy process to be among colleagues when collaborating on a new series. We make it work with Zoom, masks, hand sanitizer and getting outside for a bit of fresh air but, I really miss the conversations we had as team, in the same room breathing the same air. We still have those conversations, but they are now behind masks and standing six feet apart.  It’s quieter in the halls and sad not be able to gather around a table and discuss our work. It’s all a bit surreal compared to life just one year ago.

Picture Editor D. Gillian Truster: I love the film community in Toronto. The content of a project is critical, but it’s the people you work with that make it memorable. I’ve been fortunate to work with so many amazingly talented and kind people in this industry. On Pretty Hard Cases, the Editing department works out of Technicolor. Everyone wears masks in the common areas, and we only remove them when inside our own editing suites. We work remotely with the Directors via Zoom, and only one of our Showrunners, Tassie Cameron, comes into our Editing suite. She’s part of our ‘Post-Production bubble’, and that is working very well for us. 


Describe your favourite scene from the show.

(Possible Season 1 spoilers ahead)

Director Sherry White: I don’t have just one single favourite scene really, but there was a moment early on when I was directing episode two where Kelly (Adrienne C. Moore) goes undercover as a fast food worker, dressed in a brightly coloured uniform.  She looked amazing, but hilarious, and was taking her stealth approach to a potential criminal very seriously. That’s when I first got a real feel for the tone of the show knew it was working.  

Photo of Picture Editor Lisa Grootenboer
Photo courtesy of Lisa Grootenboer

Picture Editor Lisa Grootenboer: There are many fun sequences in this series and one of my faves is the opening teaser for the pilot. It was shot on day one and two in a skateboard park in downtown Toronto. Meredith and Adrienne’s characters were already solid so we found the rhythm quite quickly and the vibe developed beautifully. It was so well conceptualized from the beginning but the actors are occasionally given freedom to ad-lib and we ended up with a few nuggets in the cut that were not anticipated in the script. It’s a sequence with a healthy pace that offers both comedic relief yet, touches on serious issues. Mixing these two elements is a delicate balance  but our leads are so versatile and it works very well.

Picture Editor D. Gillian Truster: I’m not sure I can pick one scene as my favourite; there are so many good ones! Some have me absolutely howling. There’s a scene with a dog that springs to mind, you’ll know it when you see it.

My favourite scenes tend to be the ones where both our leads, Meredith MacNeill and Adrienne C. Moore, are in the scene together. Their acting chemistry is off the charts, and they both have enormous range. People will expect the series to be funny, but I think they will be surprised by how emotionally stirring some of the scenes are. 


Can you elaborate on the Director/Editor relationship?

Director Sherry White: I love to see how the Editors interpret the work. I don’t like calling it “the Editor’s assembly” because it makes it sound like they’ve just strung together the scenes.  There’s incredible interpretation and storytelling that goes on in that cut.  I love discovering the temp score they choose, what trims they make, how they tell the joke.  So much of the tone of the end product comes from the editor’s interpretation of the work.  I feel in awe of their work.  

Picture Editor Lisa Grootenboer: David Wellington (DGC Ontario) directed the pilot and I’ve completed two episodes with him to-date.  He is a strong Director with a clear vision. We’ve worked together prior to Pretty Hard Cases, which was most helpful during this Covid period as he could not come into the editing suite so our history helped with the ever-challenging Zoom edit! I always prefer working face-to-face with Showrunners and Directors, as the creative connection is much more efficient when we share the same space. But, we are adapting and it’s working and I’m grateful to be part of a team that take all these protocols very seriously.

Picture Editor D. Gillian Truster: Ideally, the relationship between the Director and Editor is one of close collaboration, where there is a free exchange of ideas. This show has been fantastic about fostering a collaborative environment. The first episode I edited on Pretty Hard Cases was directed and written by Sherry. This helped make the work easier, because she has a very clear vision of what the show should be. Often, editing the early episodes of a new show can be difficult, because you’re trying to find the style of the show but that wasn’t the case here!

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