IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Pitch Perfect'

Thursday, 27 September 2012 11:35 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Pitch Perfect'

In bygone eras, a cappella singing may have been the province of the hopelessly square, those unfortunate and lovely souls whose sweater vests and high pants betrayed an utter lack of cool.  Even a cursory glance at contemporary pop-culture provides a look at an apparently insatiable American hunger to hear familiar pop songs redone in infectious styles, and a cappella is about to benefit from that hunger in a major way.

On Friday, September 28th, Pitch Perfect hits select theaters before expanding nationwide on October 5th.  The new musical comedy aims to prove that a capella need no longer be associated exclusively with nerdlingers singing fuzzy old standards.  Instead, the film, written by 30 Rock's Kay Cannon and directed by Jason Moore, features mashups aplenty and songs including "No Diggity," "Party in the U.S.A.," and "Let's Talk About Sex."

Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air) stars as Beca, a college freshman who would much rather be in Los Angeles pursuing her dream of becoming a DJ.  When seniors Chloe and Aubrey, played by Brittany Snow (The Vicious Kind) and Anna Camp (True Blood) recruit Beca for the all-female a cappella team The Bellas, she finds herself composing innovative mashups, expressing herself in entirely new way, and possibly falling for a member of The Bellas' rival all-male a cappella group The Treblemakers.

IAR was on hand for the Los Angeles press day promoting Pitch Perfect, where Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, and Rebel Wilson discussed their musical backgrounds, the often arduous process of singing on camera, improvising, working with Jason Moore, and the current music climate.

Though she leads the cast and has been praised for her vocal abilities, the Oscar nominated Kendrick had the smallest amount of musical experience, recalling with a laugh, "I forgot the lyrics to the 'Good Ship Lollipop' when I was five at a dance recital and I decided to sit on stage and cry and then I went off stage. And that was scarring and that’s the end of that story."

Snow, meanwhile, had a bit more singing in her past, but was still more less a stranger to the dark arts of a cappella. "I guess I was like eight or nine, I was in Pirates of Penzance," she said.  "And I had to wear this like really long big wig and I had to like come across the stage, tip-toeing and the wig fell off and so, and the boy that I really liked was laughing at me and yea, I cried too. And then, I had to sing and so I couldn’t really sing. But like, I think later on in musical theater, I’m not really sure of anything crazy happened. Just kid stuff. Just kid stuff."

"I was actually part of an a cappella group," Wilson revealed. "It was called Twelve Voice because there were twelve girls in it. I was like, 'Yeah, how original.' And I went to a Christian school and so we’d sing church songs at people’s weddings and funerals and stuff. And they were kind of really pretty, but we’d have to wear like these peasant gloves and these disgusting velvet long skirts, we were just fifteen year-old girls and we’d have to stand like this, kind of like what we do in the movie in the Ace of Base song, and we’d just be belting out these songs in the churches. At least it was good for singing! You got good practice, and I was an alto in that group which is and in the movie, I’m playing alto as well, which is good."

Despite directing many episodes of popular television series and the irreverent, Sesame Street-inspired musical Avenue Q, Jason Moore makes his feature directorial debut with Pitch Perfect.  According to Snow, however, his experience made him was well-suited for the material, as she said,  "It was a huge task to have, you know, all the Bellas, all the Treblemakers, all of the other a cappella groups that were there, extras and like wrangle every body and make sure that everybody was, you know, in sync and was focused. And there were times that I was looking around and I was like, 'I can’t believe that he’s doing this.' Because it was a huge production, it was basically a Broadway play that was happening every day, for, you know, two months. So, I was really amazed how well he handled things and was completely calm throughout. I don’t think he ever even had a freak out."

"Jason is amazing," Kendrick agreed. "He’s really smart. He’s really on it, you know. I think he sees everything from every angle and, you know, he’s, he’s a smart enough person and has such amazing taste that, you know, it feels like that’s the guy that makes you feel safe when you’re in a pool singing "No Diggity," wondering, like, 'Is this going to come across well, or am I just going to come across like this tiny white girl singing "No Diggity" and is it going to be a disaster?' So, he was a great guy to have as like the captain of the ship."

A native Australian, Wilson initially intended to use an American accent in the film, but Moore encouraged her to stick with her genuine inflection.  Wilson explained, "What happened is that because we had the four weeks of rehearsals and usually if I'm doing an accent in a movie I'll keep the accent and the character the whole time. But because we were doing like nine am to six pm rehearsals every day, I just couldn't keep it up. It was too exhausting so I started talking like this how I am now and Jason Moore heard me and he's like – because I didn't even know whether he knew I was Australian at first and then he heard me talking like this – and he's like, 'You've got to use that voice in the movie! You've got to!' And I'm like, 'No I want to be an actor and do acting, I don't want to use my real voice.' And he's like, 'Trust me, it'll be great.'"

Special attention is being paid to Wilson's performance as Fat Amy, a moniker the character gives herself so that "twig bitches" won't use it behind it her back.  The actress's style is heavily improvisational, resulting in many a casual one-liner making the final cut, as she said, "My style is to see what’s she’s got on the page and take that as a starting point and then just go 'la la la la la' for as long as Jason will let me and also because I’m partnered with Adam DeVine and he’s a really great improviser as well."

Her tendency towards improvisation caused some issues.  One shot in which she drops into a wild, oddly The Little Mermaid-inspired dance was funny enough to end up in the film, but its inclusion in the film caused some issues.  "That cost them a lot of money because they didn’t know, obviously, I was going go on the ground and start dancing," she explained. "So in the original shot they had the tape because when you’re filming and you have the tape marks, they’re usually like fluorescent tape, they were all over the concrete, so they didn’t know and so I went down and did dancing and Jason wanted to use it in the movie, but with all these tapes so they had to digital effect the tape out of the shot to be able to use it. I think it cost them like thousands and thousands of dollars just to use that joke."

With a game cast, a script from a proven comedy force, and the ability to improvise when appropriate, some scenes could be difficult to complete without laughing, as Kendrick recalled, "I think the scene where we’re all kind of confessing stuff was hard, you know. It was towards the end of the shoot, it was like maybe one of the second to last days for the girls and it was late and like we’re all just sitting around staring at each other and it’s just like, you get too relaxed. It’s like you get too comfortable, like in a scene like the riff-off, there’s kind of so much at stake and so many moving parts that parts of your brain is working overtime. And I think just sitting in a circle with these girls that I had gotten to know over three months, was it’s just like, 'I can’t take you guys seriously.'"

The most technically challenging sequence, however, was the climactic scene.  "The finale number was both the most challenging and the most fun," Kendrick said.  "I think, that was a moment, where it really felt like it was just the ten of us supporting each other and, you know, the crew was there, but they weren’t really close to us and the audience was full of people. And Jason and Elizabeth and Max and everybody are in the back of the theater and it felt like we really had to rely on each other and support each other and feed off of each others' energy in a way that I think is exclusive to theatrical performance. So, I thought that was a really beautiful thing to look around at all these girls and, you know, know that they’re my co-workers and my friends and that we’re kind of in it for each other, you know, we’re not really thinking about the cameras, it’s like, we’re just trying to be there to support each other."

"My favorite scene was probably the finale," Wilson agreed. "Which was super tough because I think that routine, it's about three and half minutes, four minutes and we always thought, 'Oh, when you film movie musicals you don't do the full number throughout. Jason will cut it up into different shots.' But he made us do that number full out I think about forty times and after each [version] because we were giving it every single take because there was a real crowd there so didn't want to bore them. So we were really giving it every single day and singing along. But it was just so much fun and we were all working so well together, all the girls, and the crowd was loving it."

The time for Pitch Perfect is right, as any number of upcoming theatrical musicals and the popular of television shows such as Glee prove the current appetite for musicality on film is indeed a hearty one.  Just why have musically-inclined movies and series been enjoying a resurgence in popularity?  "I think that what’s happening now, is there’s been like a surge of people really interested in and passionate about musicals," Snow said. "I think it started, you know, ten years ago and then now it’s getting more and more prevalent and I think that people want to go to the movies and watch shows on TV or in theaters that make them feel good. And music really does that. Not only can you watch something and connect to dialogue, but when you listen to a song, it gives a whole other element of connection and you get that feeling like you want to, you know, stand up and dance and sing and I think that people need that and want that to watch that."

She continued, "And I think that with these musicals that are out and the shows that are out, I think that people are just getting further and further into what’s really out there musically. A cappella’s been around for a really long time, but I think now, people are like, 'Oh wow, that’s out there and that is actually, you know, people who are very talented and it actually makes you feel really good when you listen to it. And I think it’s just time and people are discovering this and people are enjoying it, so I’m grateful, because we get to sing and dance."

Pitch Perfect hits select theaters on Friday, September 28th before expanding into wide release on October 5th.

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