Annie Rader, the associate producer of the hit teen drama Riverdale, discusses her experience on the show, the evolution of her role, and the show's unique appeal, along with production challenges they had to overcome.
Teen drama Riverdale was one of the most popular shows worldwide on Netlfix when it aired its final episode in August. Based on the characters of Archie Comics and adapted for The CW by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the series is produced by Warner Bros. Television and CBS Studios, in association with Berlanti Productions and features an ensemble cast led by KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse.
Annie Rader was associate producer until its finale having worked on 102 of the 137 shows across seven seasons. She talks to us about her role on the show and how it evolved over five years.
Could you tell us how you got involved with Riverdale?
Annie Rader: I started out as a post production assistant 10 years ago and worked up through different shows (CBS’ Mom, ABC’s Dr. Ken, The CW’s Life Sentence) before finding Riverdale in 2018 where I began as post supervisor. I’ve kept working at it ever since!
During that time, I also worked on other shows for showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.
What were your responsibilities on the show and how did they grow?
Riverdale was the first show on which I’d been responsible for post supervision for a full season, and it was initially a learning-on-the-job role. I was hired by co-producer (and later, the show’s producer) Amy Myrold from whom I learned so much.
At the outset I was mostly in charge of picture finishing and VFX but I was also involved in pre production helping to break down the script and making sure production had everything they needed, from playback on set to music. With picture finishing I would oversee everything from online edit to color and VFX, to the final mix where Amy and I would work together on the sound.
As I became more experienced my role evolved, so by the end of the run I was fulfilling many of the roles of a department head, reporting to Amy. As well as post supervision I was doing all the tasks of the associate producer such as budget, mixing, prep, scheduling, dealing with composers and the back and forth creative and technical decisions with the producers, the studio and network.
What is it you most enjoy about working on Riverdale?
Riverdale is a really fun show that does not take itself too seriously. It has musical numbers and I love those because I’m a big musical nerd.
That’s not to say we didn’t cover some sadder material. We had a memorial episode for Luke Perry after he passed. [Perry starred in 46 episodes as Fred Andrews with the memorial episode using archive clips airing in 2019].
But honestly, the reason I love Riverdale is the people I work with every day. Everyone from our editing teams to our vendors is fantastic. From Amy I learned a ton about the process and the business. She is very good at building people up and mentoring them, so much so that you just want to stay. Our showrunner is also really good at what he does and has a pulse on what is interesting and fun.
Who are the show’s main post vendors?
Our principal picture vendor for online and color is Company 3. Our online editor is Matt Purse who has worked on the series since the pilot. Tom Reiser is our colorist. They are both terrific. We do our audio mix at Sony with Vicki Lemar and Ken Kobett and VFX at Encore VFX.
I guess you had a successful structure in place for the first few seasons, then Covid came along to break it. How did you respond?
Our production shot in Vancouver and editorial is in LA, so we already had some need for a remote workflow but, yes, we had systems that were pretty much set in stone. Up to that point, if our director or producer was out of town, they would watch a cut and send notes for our editors to address, and we’d send them a new version. That was the old school workflow.
When Covid happened we all had to go remote. Not just our producers and directors but our editors and everyone on the team. We couldn’t just pop into an edit bay, review something and leave.
Our partners at the online facilities and mix stage all had some form of a remote workflow in place but the technology was very expensive and to be honest not that ideal for us.
So, on that fateful day in 2020 when we had to go home there was a lot of in-house scrambling. We were running three shows out of the same office and each production team researched a different technology. Some had ClearView Flex, some had Evercast, and some had Streambox. For us the biggest questions were: ‘What is the price? How does it work? Is it producer friendly?’
Honestly, those were our biggest concerns. We needed something that was straightforward — basically plug and play. If producers and directors needed to create a login and remember passwords, it was never going to work for us. So, we put together a report on what the various options were and sent it higher up.
What was the outcome of the assessment?
We chose ClearView Flex. This was simply because it was the most producer friendly solution. Plus, it just worked really well.
Initially, we got one box to share among our three edit teams purely because that was all that was available at the time. Our PA would collect the box from one person and drive it over to another person and put it on their front doorstep and wipe it down because, of course, you weren’t allowed any contact and safety was our first concern.
Luckily, we had finished shooting most of Season 4, leaving two and half episodes to shoot. We finished the season without those, editing an earlier episode to become the finale. All we needed to do was get our producers to watch live edits with ClearView. We finished the online and mix stage offline.
After we’d finished Season 4, we took an enforced break until people were allowed back to make the show again.
How did you change up the editorial workflow for Season 5?
The answer was straightforward. It was ‘let’s do ClearView again!’
We went back to work for Season 5 in September 2020. This time we had multiple flexboxes. We set up all of our editors at home with boxes. Company 3 had ClearView boxes. We’ve used ClearView ever since.
From the get-go on S5 we used ClearView more for live mixing, online, and colour correction. My producer and I got set up at home with an Apple TV display that was calibrated by Company 3, so we were able to do our online sessions and colour review through ClearView. This was great and so much better than back and forth. I could say to our artists directly, ‘No, not that part of the image, this part here’ instead of having to send three rounds of notes per fix.
ClearView was also important for sound. So much of our mix process is collaborative. For example, it meant we could request a sound effect that was ‘bassier’ and our sound mixer would be able to search, find and playback there and then rather than going back and forth.
We were able to streamline the whole process so now it no longer felt like crisis mode. It just felt like this is how it is supposed to work over zoom and ClearView.
Once the pandemic was over presumably you all went back to the office?
Because we’d done really great work for two years using ClearView remotely we were able to segue into more of a hybrid workflow.
We had one team who preferred to work in the office and two editing teams who preferred to work at home. We also had a floating Avid system in the office if, for whatever reason, anyone’s internet went down, or their producer wanted to work in person.
Part of that was preference but was also about managing lower numbers in the facility and mix stage. At the beginning of the back to work during and post-pandemic there were limits to the numbers of people permitted in close proximity. After a while this was relaxed, and we transitioned to it being personal preference whether one worked remotely or not.
We did do most of our mixes in person with Roberto joining remotely via ClearView sometimes, as would our editor instead of coming to the mix stage.
I’d say we were 85% to 90% remote even up to our very last episode. We had one team in the office who were regularly using ClearView for sessions with the producer and director shooting in Vancouver or with our showrunner who spends a lot of his time in New York.
Riverdale ended photography on S7 just before the SAG-AFTRA strikes kicked in and the finale aired in September. What is your next move, Annie?
Since I’ve worked essentially for five years non-stop with a couple weeks off between seasons, and the Covid break, I am welcoming a hiatus right now! I’m busy refreshing my engines for when production goes crazy following resolution of the strikes.