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After a season of watching Clarke family patriarch Mitch (Peter Gallagher) decline due to progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” viewers saw him pass away in the finale. The titular Zoey (Jane Levy) developed the ability to hear people’s inner feelings as musical numbers at the start of the series, and after her father dies, that power shows her entire remaining nuclear family and close group of friends and colleagues singing “American Pie” post-funeral, in the final act of the episode. The scene starts out in the daytime as the Clarkes return to their house, where dozens of loved ones are waiting to pay their respects. In one continuous shot, the camera travels throughout the rooms, as different characters pick up different lyrics and crew members seamlessly move set dressing and props out of frame. Time passes, moving into night, and it ultimately ends on Zoey as she sings her heartbreak about “the day the music died.”

Jennifer Ross
Music supervisor
“It was around Dec. 20 that we locked on, ‘OK green light go’ [on ‘American Pie’]. Luckily I was able to secure the rights on it in the final hours of Dec. 23 so it was literally the best Christmas gift. In our final hours I got to email everybody saying, ‘Good news, when we come back we can hit the ground running.’ The finale shot in the middle of January. We pre-recorded the cast, but as we delved deeper into it, Austin [Winsberg, showrunner] realized it would be more impactful to have Jane go live at the end. There’s something pretty incredible when the breath goes out of the room and you hear her, a cappella, do those last few lines. Then we had to do the final mix early in the pandemic. Usually there are a handful of people on the mix stage, but it was pared down to just the actual mixers and Austin.”

Mandy Moore
Choreographer
“Austin and the writers had done a breakdown of who they wanted to sing what, so that was a roadmap for me. Then I started placing people in areas that I felt were far enough away from each other that it would give us reason to travel, but not so far away that they couldn’t see each other coming in. I hire a skeleton crew, about 15 dancers, that I can work with in my own rehearsal time to put up the bones of the number to play with where movement can take us or when we might want the camera to observe something versus be motivated by someone walking. I was working with a temp track that Harvey [Mason Jr., music producer] had laid down with his demo singers. I knew the general vibe and tempo, but there were a couple of times where we had to shift the ping-pong between characters, so it was this really cool interdepartmental collaboration.”

Austin Winsberg
Showrunner
“It was like a play, and we rehearsed down to, ‘This fork gets picked up by this person, and this chair gets moved over here by this person.’ We spent a lot of time figuring out who should sing what lyric, even if what they sing doesn’t entirely match up to what they’re feeling, as it usually does on the show. It was very important to have the totality of, ‘We’re all in this together.’ It was really a 100-person dance between our Steadicam operator, Mandy, all of the extras we had, all of the production designers moving the catering equipment so that everything was full and then empty, and then our main cast.”

Shasta Spahn
Director of photography
“We had six hours to pre-light and everything was through a board. The entire stage was run through a board and it was wireless. We had two lighting changes, and in the first one I had to go from day blue on the outside to negative on the outside. Four grips were running as fast as they could to pull the day blue out and then four more were putting the negative in, and we had about four seconds [to do it]. I only had one wipeable wall space to do the whole transition to evening. And then the second one we did a little later when she was sitting on the steps. Handheld was just not fluid enough for us, so we used a Steadicam. We were shooting on a lens that’s wider and with a shallow depth of field — a 28mm — because sometimes you have to see head-to-toe or you’re two feet away from someone and you can’t be that tight on them.”

Jon Turteltaub
Director
“It’s hours of rehearsal so everyone knows what to do. The cameraman needs to be as choreographed as everything else; the props people, the set dressing people need to be at rehearsal so every single part of it is ready to go. I really love it because it really gives the correct emotional flow to the scene of all the things you see as you move through a home after a funeral. In one shot, the actors have a lot of mini scenes that happen, and the emotions are different. We’re focused mostly on Jane, so you bring her to people she’s into romantically and people she’s thankful for and people who make her feel safe [and] you’re seeing all of the different feelings that come after a funeral. When the shot is all done, there’s a sense of peace and relaxation because that huge circus has emptied out, which is identical to the feelings the characters are going through that this chapter in their lives is done.”