Winter Is Here on Yellowjackets Season 2 — and British Columbia Ran Out of Fake Snow to Make It Happen
Things are getting gloomier on Season 2 of “Yellowjackets” — and not just because Jackie is dead. The arrival of winter for the teens stranded in the wilderness signals a significant shift in the story and in what Season 2 production designer Margot Ready and her team were tasked with. Perhaps fittingly for a show about how humans negotiate with (or not) their animal instincts, one of the most complicated challenges the production team had to solve was one of the most natural elements imaginable: snow.
“I actually remember, ironically, reading an article about Season 2 before I was on the show [that] they’re gonna shoot it this summer in Vancouver, and there’s going to be a lot of snow. And I was like, ‘Oh geez, how are they gonna do that? Kudos to you guys,’ you know? Not knowing that I was going to be the person doing it,” Ready said.
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Summer in Vancouver was not the only limiting factor. The cabin in the ’90s timeline was used sparingly in Season 1 but quickly became the central location for Season 2. Originally an actual tiny cabin on location, the production switched over to a set with removable walls for better control over the environment. However, the set needed to have enough of a snowy forest around it to suggest the larger wilderness and line up with Season 1’s location work. “You’re always effectively on the holodeck. There’s a kind of photo backdrop around the stage,” said Ready. “It’s challenging enough to build a forest that people have seen already, [and then] to just make the trees look real on stage. So we’re trying to match our forest, and then there’s the layer of the snow.”
Ready and her production team met the challenge by bringing as much nature onto the stage as possible. “I’ve learned over the years that if you mix real materials with fake material, somehow your brain buys it. We’re always looking for artificiality and patterns, and no matter how real we try to be, when someone makes a foam tree, or you get artificial greens, there’s some sort of artificiality you can notice in it. So we brought in 30 percent real trees [and engineered] them to hang from the ceiling. If you could get a real tree with real bark in every frame, then your brain accepts the foam trees [around it], and it doesn’t go to the Uncanny Valley because you’re seeing some realism there.”
Layering was also crucial to how Ready and her team snowed in the teen survivors. There are many kinds of fake snow, and creating a naturalistic-looking winter landscape was all about the right combination. “It took a lot of testing of various products: Krendal paper snow, which is very common but tends to look powdery. There’s real fish ice, but that melts. There’s dolomite, a ground stone product, but it lacks sparkle and looks more like sand. Finally, there’s a more expensive gel product that can look like melting snow,” Ready said. “We had to layer it and play with it and really study nature to get the look right.”
Even so, Ready said, “We used up so much Krendal snow that the entire province of British Columbia ran out. We had to order more from Alberta.”
Real trees and as much organic material as possible helped sell the fakes. But one of the best artificial elements on set? The icicles. “Our sculptors made these amazing long icicles for the cabin porch roof by melting plastic and putting a gel inside, then we layered a frosty powder on top. Everything became an intuitive two- to three-layer process, and I’m very thankful the producers and network committed to doing it well,” Ready said.
Ready said that the goal was, at minimum, to avoid looking like a holiday movie. So the production team’s layering approach also involved adding debris to the snow, so the eye would snag on a dead bush, windblown twigs, or a moss-covered (foam) rock interrupting the line of white. But it also involved removing real snow on at least one occasion.
“The most painful day for us on the show was when a freak snowstorm hit Vancouver,” Ready said. “We were shooting two units on Monday, and over the weekend [before the shoot], we had to remove real snow from our present timeline location while adding fake snow to the past timeline location.”
That exception aside, Ready enjoyed bringing the wilderness into the present-day storyline, particularly in Lottie’s “wellness center” that Natalie (Juliette Lewis) finds herself visiting in the Season 2 premiere. “There’s always this feeling [Lottie] is genuinely attuning to something in the wilderness, and it’s like, ‘Is this something that’s genuinely malignant or is this just lonely and unstable and wild? What is she really attuning to, and where does that put her on the scale of good versus evil?’ Which I think is what the show plays with,” Ready said. “So Lottie and her compound have still continued, whether consciously or unconsciously, the aesthetic of the wilderness.”
For most of Lottie’s compound, Ready adapted an old summer camp location and again played with layering different aesthetics — summer camp, minimalist wellness chic, and touches of the Antler Queen — to make the space feel just this side of unsettling. One of Ready’s favorite touches was the wellness signage proclaiming cheerfully empty slogans. “We scattered those kind of ironic signs like ‘Breathe,’ ‘Meditate,’ ‘Just Be’ throughout. So there’s a scene where Natalie is running and discovering that she’s trapped and where she is, and you get these tags here and there. That was the kind of fun we wanted to play with.”
It also made intuitive sense for Lottie’s base to be an outdoor space, as well as a chance to create more dynamic interactions. “I really felt that we needed more of an open outdoor space for walk and talks and centrality,” Ready said. “So we actually built the big stage we see Lottie on with that amphitheater around it, pretending it was like an old campfire area, and then some vegetable gardening and chicken coops, just to give you some walk and talks and make an outdoor space.”
Ready’s production work also quietly points to the power Lottie wields. The way Lottie moves through the camp keeps her firmly centralized, the focus of everyone’s attention. “It’s kind of like Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ All animals are created equal, but some are slightly more equal than others,” Ready said. “She’s in this seemingly non-hierarchical cult, but she’s still the leader.”
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