Interview: The Director and Producers Behind 'Pitch Perfect'

– by Melissa Molina

We may acknowledge and praise actors for whatever films of theirs we love, but its the awesome folks behind the scenes who also help put those movies together. We're referring to the directors, cinematographers and everybody else behind the camera whose job it is to creating a movie from conceptualizing the story to the finished cut. Boy do we love them for it.

Now we're just a couple of days away from the nationwide release of "Pitch Perfect," so what better way to get everyone hyped up for it than with this latest interview. Latino Review talked to director Jason Moore and producers Max Handelman and Paul Brooks on the new movie and forming the perfect cast among other things.

What's the challenge from going to film from theater directing?

Jason Moore: In some ways it made it easier for this particular movie because I knew how to do the musical numbers and the lighting. In theater you want to tell a story with music and I just wanted it to be funny first. The music isn't necessary for the story at the same way, but I directed television before so I've directed behind-the-camera stuff. For me the biggest transition was just the size of it. It was taking all of those things I knew how to do but make it the two hour version. The hardest thing for me was learning about a cappella and that's very different than theater singing. Everyone has to do their own part, turn around and dance at the same time. Now have a new found appreciation for those folks.

When you had to put together your cast did everybody just kind of fall into place?

Jason Moore: A couple of people fell in place right away.

Max Handelman: A couple of first choices did. There was some obvious... well not obvious, but there was some that were very clear. When you saw them it was like "That's our person, but when it came to other roles we struggled all the way down to the wire to cast. You have to strike that perfect balance of who the character needed to be and matching that with the right actor. You're asking the actors to do three things, which most actors can't do, which is be good actors, be funny and be able to sing. Most actors can do two of those things.

I had a number of favorite castings in the film but one very good example is Adam DeVine. I'm a huge "Workaholics" fan but it's not the biggest, most widely-known show in the world. For its demographic, for its audience it's big. He plays Bumper who's kind of a wise-ass whose talented but not quite as talented as he thinks he is. He always emits bravado and confidence. I knew Adam would be very funny and knew he could act but I had no idea if he could sing. So I just convinced his agent to send Adam in and let him audition. None of us thought he could sing but he came in singing the theme song to the TV show "Family Matters."

Jason Moore: And he was reading the lyrics off of his iPhone because he didn't know the lyrics.

Max Handelman: I would say ninety percent of the actors who came in and auditioned sang Adele. Literally. And then he came in. Adam came in and he turned out to be a phenomenal singer just because he owned it and was so committed to it. [He] was a very relatable, identifiable for us. So it was a challenge.

Who was the hardest role to cast?

Max Handelman: I'd say its a bit objective. I would say the hardest role to cast might have been the Jesse role. I think we had a lot of auditions. A few of them we really liked, Skylar (Astin) being one of them. Then again it was this balance question of how to find a guy who was a good actor, who could ground his character and make him very relatable. You had to be cute for the girls to like but he couldn't be a Jonas brother because you have to believe that he's a little bit of a geek. He's kind of doing his thing and he's kind of after Beca who's Anna Kendrick. You kind of have to match him in that right way and again, you want him to be relatable but also be a great singer. There was an incredible amount of balance we had to find in these characters. I also think the Aubrey role was tough.

Jason Moore: The characters are a challenge. You kind of have the "Mean Girls" leader type but the whole point is the dissension in the unit. So you have a certain amount of sympathy for her which is where the vomit thing comes from. It's a humiliating thing that's happened to her so she too has been ostracized. She's an outsider in her own way even though she comes in in a certain kind of package. And finding Anna Camp is an amazing actor. I feel like she's almost an unsung hero in that part because the nicest, most gentle southern but she really inhabits that kind of like passionate focus thing. So finding that delicate balance was also a big deal.

Max Handelman: We auditioned so many women for that and the vast majority of them were playing up just a little too b--chy. It's funny in bursts but within the span of that two hour film it just would get old and degrading.

Paul Brooks: I think what you get from her is she's so comforting and caring that you definitely get from her. She cares so much.

Max Handelman: Anna's essence is that she can play this very serious, uptight person but her essence is this kind of vulnerable, some what damaged. She's softer than her exterior suggests. When she says my father once told me "If at first you don't succeed then pack your bags." I think it's one of the truly great lines of the film where the whole thing kind of turns and you're heading into the final half of the third act. You're with it and these girls are all bonded now because their leader has kind of confessed this moment.

And how was picking the songs? Because [screenwriter] Kay (Cannon) wanted like fifteen songs for the riff-off scene but she couldn't get that.

Jason Moore: The script had pretty much the same songs that we placed in terms of everything happening. We really wanted to translate it into what kids now would sing, different genres, different decades and picking the different songs to define the story. The biggest part of the story is which songs are cool. The girls did the non-cool songs and the guys did the cool songs. Cool is a very relative term since we're talking about music because everyone's tastes are a little different. One of the hardest things was for us trying to translate our own sense of music cool and what we wanted to hear.

Max Handelman: He makes an interesting point, which is the challenge in some of the songs was as much musically as it was for story. There was so many moments in the film where we were thought this incredible song could work here but it just didn't work for the narrative, specifically with the issue of the Bellas being lame essentially in the beginning. We had to have them singing a lame song but it couldn't be so lame that the audience would be like "I can't listen to this," especially since they perform it three times. That was a very difficult song to really settle on. We had to find that balance of finding a fun song that we all listen to. I listened to that song, it's totally played out but I kind of liked it. I definitely liked it at the time but it's lame now.

Paul Brooks: Kind of a miracle because you have to juggle everything; plot plus singing plus when we were filling out that particular song. The other thing which was really fascinating was just that the arc of the songs is they've got to sound sort of s--t in the beginning but still have them kind of sound pretty good.

Jason Moore: We all our own songs that we wanted to use but then how do they sound a cappella? So the arrangements made some of the decisions for us. You can make some of the sounds out of a little cooler or a little more square but the actual arrangements were difficult.

 

"Pitch Perfect" is out in select theaters and will be released nationwide this Friday.

Interviews, Film Jason Moore, Max Handelman, Paul Brooks, Pitch Perfect