Picture ’Perfect’ :: Out Director Jason Moore’s Film Debut
One of the highly anticipated movies of the Fall season is not a sequel to some big blockbuster and isn't about vampires or superheroes but, instead, is about a group of college kids who sing a cappella. While that may initially sound like a film version of "Glee," the new film "Pitch Perfect" delivers on much more than just having a bunch of kids singing.
With a script by Kay Cannon and starring Anna Kendrick (Oscar nom for "Up in the Air"), Anna Camp ("The Good Wife"), Brittany Snow ("Hairspray"), Rebel Wilson ("Bridesmaids"), Skylar Astin ("Spring Awakening"), John Michael Higgins ("Happily Divorced") and Elizabeth Banks, out director Jason Moore has delivered a movie that is sure to make a splash at the box office.
EDGE's Jim Halterman sat down with Moore (who helmed Broadway's "Avenue Q" and "Shrek The Musical" as well as episodes of TV's "Brothers & Sisters") for a chat about his film directing debut, working with scene stealer Wilson and how he was able to navigate just how much gay a movie like "Pitch Perfect" needed.
Making people laugh
EDGE: Looking at some of the other press and on Wikipedia, it keeps saying first-time director, because it’s your first film. But you’ve done so much in theater, you’ve done a lot of TV. Did you feel like a first-time movie director on this project?
Jason Moore: Actually, I thought a lot during that... if this was actually my first time behind the camera or if it were my first time doing all the theater stuff inside the movie, I would’ve felt a lot more overwhelmed. Certainly you always feel overwhelmed.
There are so many details, and so many things to take care of, and there are a lot of cast members in this movie so it was a lot to wrangle. But I felt well prepared. I mean, nothing can truly prepare you for your first marathon, but I kind of knew the basics, which I’m really glad about.
EDGE: This is one of those films that’s getting a lot of really early buzz. When you start hearing that and it’s positive does that make you more excited, or does it make you a little nervous because it hasn’t actually opened yet?
Jason Moore: It makes me feel really happy and flattered that some people enjoy the movie. You do it for an audience, especially a comedy. You want people to laugh, and you want people to have a good time. I hope the movie has joy, so if people respond that way it feels great. How that translates into all of the other things about ticket sales...I’ve not really been through all that before. So right now I’m just really excited, and happy that people are having a good time.
EDGE: I feel like in some ways it’s going to create resurgence for the sound track, because it was the first movie in a long time that even halfway through I looked at my friend and I said, ’I have to get this soundtrack.’ Remember when we used to buy movie soundtracks?
Jason Moore: In the 1980s and 1990s. ’Flashdance.’ I think about a lot of those movies that we kind of all loved. But soundtracks, they went away about 10 years ago. I mean, ’Glee’ has done a beautiful job of taking that idea and making it more user-friendly, of doing one at a time. But we have a soundtrack. It actually comes out in about a week, and it sounds really good, and it’s got some little surprises.
EDGE: And you brought up ’Glee.’ Even though that’s a big TV phenomenon, do you think because ’Glee’ is such a hit that it helped this movie get made?
Jason Moore: We, as you can imagine, had a lot of discussions about ’Glee.’ We actually developed this before ’Glee’ was on television. So it was kind of that thing of, ’oh right, people love this.’ ’Glee’s’ a great show, ’High School Musical’ and a whole other host of things has reintroduced a whole generation of kids who are comfortable with musicals.
So for me, all those things make me happy. I feel like it’s different than ’Glee,’ but I also think there’s room for all of it because the reason ’American Idol’, ’The Voice’, ’X Factor,’ all those things can coexist is people love music. That’s really, I think, the bigger thing. There’s room for everybody.
A great cast
EDGE: When you were casting the film what was more important, the acting side or the singing side? I don’t know if some of them had help with their singing...
Jason Moore: No, they’re all doing their own singing. That was important to me both for the story...that’s what I know and I wouldn’t know how to really do a good job otherwise. But also because I knew that we were going to get funny actors to play comedic characters and you need characters.
You have to have their voices translate into the song. If you have a really funny scene and then it kind of flattens out for the song and it’s not funny any more, there would be an imbalance. The comedy really is as important as the music. So the truth of it is, I really wanted comic good actors who could sing, and that’s why I ended up with, I think, such a great cast.
EDGE: I wasn’t surprised that Anna could sing or even Brittany Snow...
Jason Moore: She was in [the movie] ’Hairspray.’
EDGE: But even Rebel Wilson. She’s got a really nice voice.
Jason Moore: She’s got a great voice. I guess in Australia she did musicals. I think we probably know less about Rebel because she’s only been here for a short amount of time. But I found out she could sing really early on, in ’Bridesmaids,’ so I got her in, and she sang Lady Gaga. I was, ’let’s go. Let’s do it.’
EDGE: And if anybody’s a scene-stealer in the movie, it’s her. She seems so fearless. She seems like she’d be up for anything, even slapping her belly. Was that in the script or...?
Jason Moore: Rebel said right at the beginning with the ’Fat Amy’ thing, ’I call myself that before you do. Deal with it.’ The more you take the emotionality out of a word, the more you start to examine what does it mean, and what does it have to do with our preconceived notions?
So that is actually the word I’d use all the time, because she should be fearless and she should be right out front and she’s a rock star. Rebel’s all those things, but also she’s really funny. I think one of the bigger reasons people are attracted to that character is her ownership of her being. She can be whatever she wants to be, and that’s part of the great message that I think that character sends.
EDGE: Even the scene where you see her around the pool with all the hot, hunky guys around her. You totally buy that.
Jason Moore: That is the point. That is the message. She has a line in the movie where she says, and this was Rebel’s line, now that I think about it. She says, ’I think you’re all pretty thin, but I think you all have fat hearts.’ And I thought, that’s pretty much what it’s about. So to answer your question, a lot of it was on the page, but she took that and ran with it. She constantly was referencing that.
EDGE: As a gay man, how do you navigate how much gay is in the movie? You have the lesbian character but was that a point of discussion?
Jason Moore: One of the things that we were aware of was that this is a movie for 20-year-old girls and 40-year-old gay men, so I was making something that I want to see. But I also wanted dudes to like it, and I was shocked in [the world of] a cappella how many dudes who have beer guts and sing Lady Gaga, so I really wanted it to be representative of that. We always had a lesbian character because we had 10 girls...got to have one...that’s the percentage. But I felt like I had sort of that outsider gay sensibility.
EDGE: How do you figure out just the right amount of vomit to have in the...?
Jason Moore: That was the other thing we talked about for a jillion years. We did at least nine vomit tests. And we actually did more, and then I took it down a little bit in visual effects because it was always...how much is too gross? How much is funny? And everybody’s threshold for that is very different. For some people it’s no tolerance...but I wanted it to be funny, and the reason it’s orange is that I always imagine that she’s always drinking smoothies from Jamba Juice, so that’s the reason it looks like that.
EDGE: Obviously this movie’s going to open a lot of doors for you if it hasn’t already. Do you already have some things lined up, coming up down the pike?
Jason Moore: I have been meeting on several projects. I’m looking for that right next thing, but I don’t have it yet. I’d like to do another film right away.
"Pitch Perfect" opens in select cities this Friday and nationwide on October 5th. For more on the film visit its website at http://www.pitchperfectmovie.com/.
Watch the trailer to Pitch Perfect: