Joy Ride wasn’t the film Emmy-winning editor Nena Erb, ACE, was looking for when she asked her agent to see what was out there, but Nena was the editor that Joy Ride was looking for. Fortunately, they found each other, because together they created a film that broke boundaries, not to mention the mold, when it comes to how Asian women are portrayed in comedy features.
Joy Ride stars Ashley Park as upwardly mobile career woman, Audrey Sullivan. When Audrey’s business trip to Asia goes sideways, she enlists the help of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her childhood best friend, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), a college friend, and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin. Their epic, no-holds-barred experience becomes a journey of bonding, friendship, belonging and wild debauchery that reveals the universal truth of what it means to know and love who you are.
[Editor’s note. Joy Ride is an R-rated movie, so the language in this interview will be a little explicit at times. Starting with the following trailer…]
Read on to learn about:
- Finding what you’re looking for in the place you weren’t looking
- Dialing up the “dirty” all the way to the drama
- The post process for first-time directors
- The subtle art of subtitles in comedy
- Sound design for assistants
Listen while you read…
Editing Joy Ride
Matt Feury: Let’s talk about your movie. I saw the film about a week ago, and I think I just stopped blushing over the weekend. I may never look at you the same way again, Nena. I want to just jump right in and ask you about what you thought when you read the script. Is there anything about it that stood out to you as “Can I do this?”
Nena Erb: Well, initially when they reached out to me, I actually said no, because I was looking for a drama. I had just come off of Insecure. So it’s all this comedy, season after season, I’ve got to do something different. So I had a conversation with my agents and they said “Hey, this still might be good for you.” But I told them “No, I don’t think so.”
I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know who wrote it. Nothing. I just said no. And then a few months went by and I’d been reading a lot of different feature scripts, and nothing was quite hitting. And then my agent tells me “Okay, they came back. They’re like, ‘Will you just read the script? Just read the script. That’s all.’” So I read the script and I remember thinking “Oh my God, this is really out there!”
I was laughing the entire way through. But then by the end of the script, I was actually sobbing. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t expect it. I was on the Sony lot at the Coffee Bean and I’m sure people walking by were thinking “What is wrong with her? Why is she crying?” So I thought, if the script can do that to me, hopefully it can do that with a lot of the Asian community.
Do I want that on my resume?
I ran back to my office and called my agent and told her “Yeah, I have to do this. Let’s see if we can get a meeting.”
I don’t know if you know the original title. It used to be called Joy Fuck Clubs. Yeah, this one’s dirty! Which gave me pause more than anything else, because I’m thinking, “Do I want that on my resume?”
MF: How could you not?
Nena Erb: Right! You want to think it’s a porno. But then the script was so good. It really was. The version we made is a little bit different from what I read. But it was good and I enjoyed it. And I felt like this was something I had to be part of because how often do I get to see myself on the screen?
I mean, not literally myself. Someone who looks like me. I mean, I hope I never see myself on screen!
MF: But you might want to wait for a different movie than this one to see yourself on the screen.
Nena Erb: Yeah, exactly!
MF: You said you were looking for a drama, and I think ultimately you did get that because the film takes a very beautiful turn towards the end. What were you looking for? What says “This is the right project for me?”
Nena Erb: It sounds really simple, but I have to like the story. It can’t be a really difficult read. And sometimes you read the script and you think, “All right, that’s a nice story, but I’ve seen it before.” Or I don’t connect with the characters, or this is just not something I care to do.
Which you’d think that I’d say about this one. But, honestly, it was so out there. And I thought it was the first time I’d ever seen Asian women portrayed this way. We’re always the model minority, the overachiever, or the dragon lady at the massage parlor. Right? This is not any of those. This really turns what people think of Asian women on their head. And also there’s a non-binary character in it. It’s really unique.
We’re always the model minority, the overachiever, or the dragon lady at the massage parlor.
And the characters weren’t leaning on stereotypes. They have their own issues of personality, their likes and dislikes. And I just found them all really relatable, even though I’m nothing like any of them. There’s these “Which one are you?” posters around town.
I’m not any of those. Maybe a little bit of the chaotic? So it was interesting that culturally there were a lot of jokes that were very specific. And I found them to be very funny because I’m Asian and I grew up with a lot of the stuff. The scene with the grandmother at the house? That reminded me of my childhood visits to my grandmother’s house with the chickens running around.
It just reminded me so much of my upbringing, I think I had to do it.
MF: I can see that. Have you ever worked with or did you have a relationship previous to this with the director, Adele Lim?
Nena Erb: No, I hadn’t. I’d read about her whole Crazy Rich Asians payroll parity thing, and I thought she was kind of a bad ass for standing up for herself.
And once I realized that she’s directing this and she’s co-writing, it makes it that much better, because I’ve always wanted to work with someone who was such a strong presence, who took care of their own career and stood up for themselves that way. So that was really exciting for me.
MF: It sounds like they were pretty interested in you from the get-go. Did you get a sense of what it was from your background? A show like Insecure can certainly play a part in this, but were there specific things about your previous work that made them say “Nena’s got to be the one for this?”
Nena Erb: I’m not sure. I should ask them that.
I think Teresa Hsiao, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Adele Lim are all fans of Insecure. So I think that had something to do with it. And honestly, I think Adele was really trying hard to look for Asian heads of departments, and there’s not a lot of Asian editors who do comedies.
I think that might be why they reached out the first time, because how many of those are out there? There’s not a lot.
MF: Let’s get back to Adele a little bit. You hadn’t worked with her before. What did you guys talk about when you met? And what did you say to her about the script?
Nena Erb: We had a very frank conversation about the script—that it was hilarious and dirty, but in the best way. And we just kind of talked about how we like to work.
She had been a showrunner before, so I asked her what her process was in editorial and she asked me what I like. It was just an interesting conversation. And I think I made a joke about how I was reading the script and cried, and I said “You know, you’ve got to cry over a good pussy tat,” and she died laughing.
So I think maybe that’s what got me the job. I don’t know. I always say the weirdest thing. Sometimes I don’t mean to. It just comes out and then that gives me the job.
MF: I know how you feel except for the part about getting the job. You said you talked about what our editorial process is. What was it? How did she answer that question?
Nena Erb: She was very honest. She was humble about it. And she said, “Look, I haven’t really done a lot of this.” So she kind of let me take the lead a lot. What was great about her was like she would say, “Okay, I want this, this, and this to be done. But you tell me if that’s not possible.” So it was great because it’s a feature.
My first cut was two and a half hours long and the director’s cut was two hours and 20 minutes long. It didn’t get that much shorter because there were a lot of jokes you want to keep. In the beginning, you think it’s all important. And it’s not until you kind of chisel away at it that you really find what’s really important.
There were a lot of notes because it was a long movie and there’s never enough time. And so I would be honest and say “Okay, I can get maybe up to this amount done. So why don’t you tell me what’s more important through the entire document? Let me know what it is.” What are the notes we’ve got to try and which don’t we really care about.
We found a really good way of doing that so we weren’t dead by the end of the day, every single day.
MF: Were there themes, or bigger-picture ideas that Adele wanted to make sure that came through in this film other than “It’s a really funny movie, we’re challenging certain stereotypes”?
Nena Erb: Oh, yeah. I think they all wrote it because they all wish that this was a movie that was around when they were that age. It’s the same with me, because it talked so much about identity and self-discovery and acceptance.
I think this is a thing about not just Asian women, but just women in general. We’re always being judged, right? And we’re very aware that we’re always being judged as good, bad, or whatever. So I think it’s really hard for a lot of women to just be who they are and not apologize for it.
So this movie wanted to make sure that that was fully explored and how you see Audrey’s entire journey to how she finally accepted who she was at the end of it. And I’ve never actually talked about this with them.
I think that being Asian in America, whether I’m with friends or loved ones or whatever, there’s always something that reminds me that “Oh, right, I’m not from here.” Sometimes it’s racism. But most of the time it’s that someone’s talking about a pop culture reference from the fifties that I don’t know.
And even though my friends and I were too young to be alive in the fifties, they’re aware of it, right? Because their parents would tell them that kind of stuff. So where my parents didn’t know anything about idioms and those kinds of references, they’re what often remind me that my upbringing was not from here.
So seeing that she finally found where she belonged meant a lot to me because I often feel like I don’t really belong here. When I go back to Taiwan, I don’t belong there either. So it’s like I have one foot in each world. It’s a weird thing, and it’s learning to be comfortable with that.
MF: Did Adele give you references from other films? Some that you might not even think of in terms of just looking at it from a 30,000 foot
Nena Erb: Oh, gosh, I have to think about this one. Nothing comes to mind. I know in the interview we talked a lot about Girls Trip, but they wanted it to go a little deeper in a different way.
I think that was really the only thing they talked about a lot. They wanted it to make sure that we got the point across that this group of women and a non-binary character can be just as funny as anybody else who’s been the star of a studio comedy.
MF: Well, they were right. You talked about that discussion you had with Adele about what the editorial process would be. Again, she’s a first-time director. Anything else that you might have changed in your process to help accommodate somebody that’s directing a feature for the first time?
Nena Erb: Definitely. I did a lot more editing than I normally would when they were shooting. I wanted to make sure I was always up to camera, make sure I cut everything. And because this was a comedy with a lot of different jokes, I ended up cutting like a lot of different versions.
I often would work on weekends just to make sure that we tried that joke and that joke and not that joke, and I would send them all to her and we’d talk about it. Normally, I think I would just cut the scene as it is, send it over, get their thoughts and then go from there.
But this one, there are so many different variables and I just knew that like I think she has to see it to see what hits her, you know? What she thinks is the funniest. So yeah, so I did a lot more cutting, I think for every scene. I think I must have cut like 30 minutes of content.
MF: What was the overall timeline that you were on the film? How long was the post process?
Nena Erb: We started this September of 2021, so we’ve been on this for a long time. There was a long hiatus after the second preview because, for reshoots, we had to make sure that all our actors were available.
And that took a long time because Stephanie Hsu’s star got on this meteoric rise and the same with Ashley Park, so it was harder to get them all coordinated. So we started September 2021. We wrapped the first time in the first week of April 2022, and then came back around like November of 2022 and finished March 3rd of this year.
MF: Were you working on location up in British Columbia?
Nena Erb: I was in L.A. here in my room, cutting dailies until they came back to town. I mean, they were shooting up there for seven weeks, I think. But we did go to Vancouver for the mix, reviews, and color.
The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden was won of the shooting locations in Vancouver.
MF: And how did you collaborate with Adele? Did you leave each other alone during production or were you actually sending her stuff to make sure she got what she needed during production?
Nena Erb: I’d be sending her scenes and I would always check and make sure she had what she needed, or if she had any questions. And there were a lot of set references because they had to shoot inserts another time. And so we were sending that to her a lot and constantly having a conversation about things like “Do we really need this insert? Is it just a nice-to-have, or is it a must?”
There a lot of those conversations. But during pre-production I didn’t have as much time with her as I normally would with a director. I think she was just being pulled in so many different directions that normally we would have a tone meeting and go over every scene. But I think in this case, she just didn’t have time. So she was like, “Here’s my pitch deck. Read it.”
Here’s my pitch deck. Read it.
MF: I like that approach. You have four performers, all very talented. You want to find that right balance, and make sure that everybody’s getting their time. Is that something that you had to pay attention to? And did you have a
Nena Erb: I have a method for it, but it’s more like I just I watch the scenes a lot and I kind of ask myself “Is it too heavy towards this person or that person. Am I favoring one over the other, or all of them minus one.” You know?
I think the thing that I was really conscious of was making sure that Deadeye’s character didn’t come off as “other.”
I wanted to make sure that Deadeye was likable because we’re all awkward in some way. And so it was important to me to make Deadeye awkward but likable and funny. Like a friend that you want to hug and say “Everything’s going to be fine. It’s okay to do your thing, and don’t be afraid.”
That’s kind of how I approached that character. I don’t know if you notice in the movie, there’s a couple of times where everybody leaves Deadeye, and they’re alone and wondering “where do I go?” You know? So at the end of it, they’re all together and no one leaves anybody.
MF: I think you said it was a two and a half hour assembly and then the director’s cut was only just 2:20. So not a lot of hacking away there. The final runtime is 90 minutes—I can see why you’re working weekends. What were those spots that you found that you really had to spend that time refining to get it just right?
Is that a hat on top of a hat?
Nena Erb: I think it was a combination of two different things. The emotion was really important to get that right because we spent so much time making sure it was funny. And those are the times I was asking “Okay, what joke is the funniest? If we have this one then what are the two other ones preceding? Is that a hat on top of a hat?”
So it was a lot of that experimenting. And we had friends or family screenings and I saw the previews to make sure that people were laughing at the right time, at the right things, and that they were not laughing because they were cringing, but like laughing because it was genuinely funny.
But once we got the funny dialed in, the emotional parts weren’t as emotional. It was very interesting. So it was like “Huh, okay, so let’s go back and add some more setup that would engage the viewer or the audience with the character,” make them bond a little more so that you’re with them and then feel for them at the end when the emotion comes through.
MF: So are you saying that as you really sort of dialed in the comedic beats, the emotional stuff didn’t pay off the same way?
Nena Erb: It didn’t for me. I want to say it didn’t for Adele either, but I’m not going to speak for her. But I felt like it played this way when we played it. I don’t think anybody really cried at the end. I think they’re supposed to. But it was a funny movie. But then towards the end we finally found that right balance where you get the funny, but then you also get the heart so that you end up liking our characters and you’re on this whole journey with them, which then makes the emotional beats much more stronger.
MF: I think the thing that jumps out at you and the reason why it’s in the trailer is the K-Pop video in the airplane hangar. Visually and perhaps editorially, it’s one of the more over-the-top sections of the film. So tell me about putting together the K-Pop video scene.
Nena Erb: The K-Pop video that was a lot of fun. Adele approached this a little differently. Normally, having done a lot of musical numbers, they usually start with a full storyboard of the entire thing. This did not have that. This only had a storyboard for the surprise reveal at the end, but so a lot of it was just like me looking at the takes and making sure I like what’s happening and finding the right places to cut so that the choreography is standing out. But then also making sure it’s still funny.
I think that didn’t really come together until the very end because all of it was shot on green screen. So you have to imagine a lot of it and a lot of the jokes were kind of put in the background later and they were images that would remind you of like they’re crazy journey like the little basketballs or the lucky cat, or the theragun in the background.
So those are hopefully things that people will see and like. Oh yeah, we also ended up putting these shots of Deadeye and Kat dribbling this basketball and they were horrible, but it was hilarious. The lyrics are funny and crunchy and in all the best ways an in-joke, and our choreographer was amazing. Hopefully, it’s a good combination.
MF: I’d like to touch on the party slaps scene. I think it’s funny because she goes to this bar to meet with a businessman to close a deal and ends up getting in a slap fight with him. And Lolo and Kat already hate each other, so now they’re going to go at it in the bar…
Nena Erb: At one point we had a lot of the improv in there and that didn’t feel right. And then we had none of the improv and that didn’t feel right. So we try it with two slaps. And that wasn’t funny either. And then finally I was just like, “Why don’t they just beat the crap out of each other?”
And then I think “Oh man, how do I make that happen?” Because they don’t beat around each other. That’s like really finding these little pieces out of nowhere and similar takes from different angles.
MF: Is that the kind of thing where you would play with timing a little bit and do some speed ramps just to mess things up a little bit and make it just seem a little more aggressive?
Nena Erb: I did remove some frames here or there. I didn’t do any speed ramps because the hits themselves were pretty fast. But I think if I would remove frames here and there, it would make it seem even faster and then it would feel a little bit different. Even if I use the same exact take at the beginning, it would feel faster and different if I used it at the end. And sound design is a huge help.
MF: Some editors love to do a lot of sound design and get ahead of that aspect of the edit. And others feel that’s a job for the sound team and I’m just going to do what I need to do to get the point across and then let them handle the rest. What’s your approach?
Nena Erb: When I present cuts, I want it to be as finished as possible and also I think the assistants really like sound design—or at least I had assistants that really love it. They find it creative. And I say “Go for it. You be creative and do your thing.” It’s great because like they get really into.
My assistant, Torrie Goedtel, she had a fantastic time sound-designing that scene. Because it wasn’t just the slaps, it was the crowd that wasn’t there. She built it all up, And I had another assistant, Melissa Kan, who did all the Mandarin heckling that’s in there. I think the Mandarin speaking crowd would probably pick up on it, but I think a lot of other people would just not.
So everybody had their own little special thing.
MF: The improv part of it. Is that something that Adele really encouraged? Was there a lot of improv throughout the film that you had to work with?
Nena Erb: Yes, there was a ton, but Point Grey are masters at shooting this stuff, so they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that improv wouldn’t really work in a wide shot, so they would save their jokes, or else they’d call them until they got into coverage.
And so there were a lot of those resets where they’d do different jokes. It was phenomenal because it was all in one place. And they just had a very organized way of doing it. The only challenge for me was then to make sure that it all worked, because sometimes you’re walking into this thing and then you have the joke, right?
But then the joke is already delivered as they’re standing there, not walking into it, delivering it. So there were a lot of little tricks you do to make sure that looks seamless.
MF: In terms of timing, some of the jokes play through subtitles—at least for me they do, because I wouldn’t understand what they were saying without the subtitles. The movie’s not subtitled, it’s just in key scenes and it sort of comes and goes.
I didn’t detect a real rule to how and when you did it. Suffice to say, the timing of those subtitles, that’s something you had to be careful of, it doesn’t seem as simple as “I’m cutting this to be funny.” There’s another layer of it that you have to be cognizant of.
Nena Erb: I’m glad you noticed that. We did spend a lot of time thinking “Would this be funnier if we put it on one word after another or a chunk after they say it, and then another chunk after the line’s delivered?” We experimented with all of it.
There’s still an area where they’re at on the TV set and it’s Lolo and cat going at it. There are some places that we wish we could have found the right timing for the subtitles, but I think it was just going so fast, we just had to put it out there.
MF: What about something like script sync? Is that a tool that you’d be able to use in something like that, considering that there’s these different languages and all these different alts and improv that you’re working with?
Nena Erb: Oh, absolutely. I don’t think I could have cut this without scripting. I really don’t. I love it anyways, but for this movie—and I think for any comedy—it’s crucial. Because how else would you find all the different takes of the performances right over a certain joke? They’re not all just individually clipped out. They’re all just buried within this clip that’s 20 minutes long.
So yeah, it was imperative. And for the stuff that was done in Mandarin.
I speak the language, so I understood a lot of it and I was able to do those marks myself because Torrie didn’t speak Mandarin. By the end of it, she did learn some words that she was very proud of. So if you ever meet her, you can ask her.
MF: I’ll be sure to ask her which ones.
Nena Erb: You’ll be surprised. It’s not the ones that you think of!
MF: Having that familiarity, you would think that is absolutely a positive. But is it possible that you can be overfamiliar and that something that makes perfect sense to you might not make sense to somebody who doesn’t speak Mandarin?
Nena Erb: I think I know what you’re talking about. We did come across this issue. Not with me, but with a translator. A lot of it I was translating myself for the subtitles and I understood what they were trying to get at, opposed to translating it literally. I understood the gist of what they’re saying and why it’s funny. That’s why I would do the translation on the subtitles.
But once we ran it through someone who really, really understood the language, they tried to translate some stuff literally, and it just wasn’t funny at all. So. So I get what you’re saying. Fortunately for me, my level of Mandarin stopped at like age eight or nine. So I didn’t have all the nuance.
MF: You mentioned Torrie a few times. I think on Insecure you were with Lynarion [Hubbard] She was your assistant and then your co editor for the episode that you won an Emmy for? You also mentioned Torrie doing sound design and really enjoying that aspect of it.
What is it you look for in an assistant and what are the kind of things you entrust to your assistant? In your case, you said sound design, but what are the things you look to Torrie to help you with?
Nena Erb: Oh, it’s a lot. It’s, it’s a ton. I mean, Lynarion was phenomenal and she’s cutting now, and I’m so proud of her. So she left some big shoes to fill. And I just look for someone who enjoys sound design—because it’s very time consuming and I don’t want to do it—and who also wants to cut.
What’s important to me is being able to show them my cut and talk about it with them. I definitely get better feedback when the assistant wants to do it because they’re looking at things similar to the way that I would look at it. Just from a different point of view.
So someone that wants to cut, someone who is good at sound design ideally good at VFX—who we found in Melissa and Gioia Caruso. Those two were incredible VFX geniuses.
Most importantly, I need someone that has my back.
But most importantly, I need someone that has my back, someone that’s going to take care of running the cutting room. So I just focus on editing and they anticipate all the potholes so that they tell me not to drive through them.
Here’s a good example. I’m on another project right now with Gioia, who was my second on the movie, and she came with me to this current job. She’s amazing.
We have this review room that we review all our cuts in, with the producers and the directors. And she just knew “Oh, if we’re going to go there, I need to go and test it, make sure it’s all playing correctly, make sure it sounds correct.” And I have a crazy mouse like a really, really weird mouse that’s vertical and it’s on a woodblock—all the stuff she remembers that she has to bring over.
I don’t remember. I’m someone that’s just going to go into that room, I don’t bring my mouse. Great. So now I have to use this other mouse and then my arm is going to hurt later. So she anticipates and she’s someone that really has my back. And I think Torrie’s the same way and same with Lynarion.
MF: I want to talk a little bit more about the screenings. Comedy is widely regarded as the hardest thing to work on. There’s what’s funny to you. And also what’s funny to you also stops being funny to you as you’re working on the film over this extended period of time.
Something that made you just howl with laughter a month ago, you’re now looking at going, “Why did it work? This isn’t funny.” I’d just love to know what kind of feedback you got from those audience test screenings.
We had purposely stayed away from the more palatable jokes because we wanted to really push the envelope.
Nena Erb: It was fascinating. I think the first one was really eye opening. We had purposely stayed away from the more palatable jokes because we wanted to really push the envelope. And I think a lot of it just didn’t translate—and they’re even jokes in English.
It just didn’t land. So that was an interesting discovery. There was a lot of taking things in and out. It was just interesting to see what the audience responded to and what they didn’t respond to. And we realized that we had to dial it back a little bit. It’s not about the raunch. It was just about the complexity of the jokes.
MF: When you’re watching those screenings and something gets a big laugh, do you go back? “Okay, we need to let this breathe a little more. The audience really responded to that. I’m going to stretch this out a little bit.”
When I saw the movie, they never stopped laughing. I missed maybe a third of the jokes.
Nena Erb: That’s good, because we purposely didn’t want to pause for laughter because what if it’s not funny to whoever is watching it at home? Then it’s like this awkward pause. So we just wanted it to be like rapid fire jokes. And if you missed it the first time, maybe you’ll go back and see it again.
MF: Well, I was gonna say, that’s the upside. I need to see it again to see the thirty per cent that I missed. I don’t know if I’m ready to see it again yet. Again, I’m still coming to grips with a lot of the things I heard and saw. So have you seen this with a paying audience yet?
Nena Erb: Kind of, because South by Southwest people paid to see it.
MF: What was the reaction at South by Southwest?
Nena Erb: It was shocking. We had done smaller test audiences like 200, 300, and this was 1200. When it’s this big of a group, there’s going to be people that are not going to like it at all, right?
So I was like, “All right, whatever goes, goes.” I actually had the guy in the booth on my text and I thought we needed to turn it up a little bit because they were really responding well and people weren’t hearing the jokes.
And it got to a point where he’s texting me to say “We can’t turn it up any more. We’re at the ceiling for this building. I can’t go any higher.” So they’re going to have to come back and see it again.
But we knew it was dirty and we knew it was pushing the envelope a little bit. And we knew that there were going to be things that people are going to wish they could unsee. But what we didn’t expect was how emotional everybody was and how much it meant to certain audience members who were adopted themselves. And other people who weren’t adopted but are part of the Asian community that finally felt seen.
So the Q&A afterwards blew my mind with how emotional people got just because they finally saw themselves reflected on the big screen. So that part was shocking because I did not expect that.
MF: Yeah. Before we wrap things up, I want to go back to some of your earlier work. We talked about Insecure a little bit. I love to ask editors who started off in unscripted—how that experience helped them working in scripted television or feature films. You did reality television, Real Housewives if I got that right. How does that help you in working on a film like Joy Ride?
Nena Erb: It helps me tremendously. A lot of reality or non-scripted is just that—non-scripted. You have to take a lot of things that don’t quite make sense and make a story out of it. So that helps in terms making sure the story structure still works after you’ve cut an hour out of it.
And also just also learning how to deal with thousands of hours of footage. We didn’t have that on Joy Ride, but just having made a career of dealing with so much footage and knowing a way to wade through it quickly and being able to remember where something is or what was funny about it. Having a method for finding what I thought was funny, that helped tremendously with pretty much everything that was scripted.
Real Housewives actually helped me get a job with Kevin Hart, who was doing Real Husbands of Hollywood, which is not reality at all. It was fully scripted, but it was making fun of the whole franchise. So they were very excited that I worked on that.
MF: Well, how about comparing the experience of working in television versus film? I mean, I think this is certainly your first big feature. Something I hear from editors is that in film you have more time and more money. Television, it’s tighter budgets and a much tighter window to work within. What was your experience on Joy Ride compared to working in television?
Nena Erb: It’s definitely true what you just said about the time and budget. But I’ve been fortunate, like on HBO on Insecure. I didn’t feel as rushed as I did when it was doing something like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where that show had an air date. Toward the end, we were up against air. You had to hustle.
Sometimes they would pay you to go to the last mix, sometimes they wouldn’t. With a feature film, you definitely have a lot more time. Your director’s cut is ten weeks versus four days, right? So you have a lot more time for experimentation. And I like that a lot because sometimes it’s like you discover things later on once you’ve had a little time away.
I think in TV, you don’t always get that luxury. And I think for features, Joy Ride really spoiled me because our composer was on pretty early, our music editor was on pretty early. So, even though I did all the music editing and everything else for my editor’s cut, once the director’s cut started, I was able to just focus on the editing. So that was really nice.
MF: We started things off with you saying, “I didn’t want to do Joy Ride. I was looking for a drama.” And then within Joy Ride you found that drama. So I guess my last question for you is what’s next? What is it you want to accomplish next in your career?
Nena Erb: I would love to just keep doing unique projects that resonate with me. There’s a new project coming out, not coming out, but I think it’s in development right now, a pre-production called Crying in H Mart.
It’s another Asian story, but it’s totally different. Completely different. But that story resonates with me on a whole different level, too. Aside from it just being Asian.
I kind of experienced the same things that the author did with losing her mother in their twenties through cancer and the whole bond with food and why that’s important. The book does such an elegant job of explaining the impact of losing your mother when you’re still trying to figure out who you are, and the darkness of grief.
But it’s not a total downer either. It was definitely a hard read. But you know so much about the food just really kind of elevated it for me.
MF: Having seen this film, I may never look at you the same way again. But I encourage everyone to see it. I think you did a fantastic job. I hope whatever it is you want to do next, you get to do with a possibly a little less full frontal nudity. But either way, I hope you get to do it!