Tonight, I saw my dream.
When I graduated college, I hoped one day people everywhere would have an opportunity to experience the power and joy of contemporary a cappella. Filming Pitch Perfect 2 today, the audience filled with people who flew themselves from across America just to catch a glimpse, I realized that day has come.
Watching the Treblemakers, I felt like I was again on stage with the Bubs, 25 years later. I looked back, and saw a few hundred people crammed into a chapel. And then I looked up and saw cameras and the eyes of the world.
The small celebrity of campus a cappella groups has become the international celebrity of the mass media, and the squeals of happiness and the spontaneous applause from the audience made it clear that even though this is happening on a large scale, the powerful, honest connection between singer and audience remains.
During breaks in the filming, as cameras were being moved to set up another angle for the performance on stage, many of the new Treblemakers were surrounded by people. And by people I mean extras. And by extras I mean women. Some things never change.
Logan, one of the production assistants in the office, was the mascot for his high school, so it was only natural for him to don the Barden Knight suit and run around for 12 hours while we shot the Trebles scene. My favorite moment was his silly dancing through the crowd as they performed, which I hope makes it to screen.
Chatting with Anna K, she mentioned how it's
frustrating sometimes when everyone's talking and
it's time to focus. It's difficult to get a group of
your peers (for example, the Bellas) to all be quiet
at the same time without seeming like a jerk. When
she was in school they had a method: one person
would say "and then a hush fell over the room" and
everyone who heard that would say, loudly, "HUSH"
which would collectively quiet everyone down.
Which reminded me that my wife Katy's collegiate a cappella group Out of the Blue (at Duke University), had such a problem with chatty members that they created a new officer position called "Sargent at Arms." This person's sole job was to keep people quiet - during meetings, during rehearsal, etc . They would always vote the nicest person into this position, which meant no one would get mad at this member for telling them to shut up, since they voted her in, and she was clearly only doing it because she'd been asked to.
So, I offer both suggestions to a cappella groups out there, should they be needed. And lezbehonest: they're needed.
Rebel came very prepared to her recording session
today, and didn't need to look at the sheet music,
but was looking at something, so when I asked what
it was, she showed me her own notation system to
keep her on track.
Multicolored, with a combination of lyrics, lines, arrows and boxes in a variety of sizes, it's like nothing I've ever seen, but that's not a problem. Whatever works!
Just before jumping into the studio to record the
finale with the remaining Bellas, we're weaving in
additional layers and songs. What we had was fine,
but for a movie-going, non-a cappella-experienced
audience, we need to go all in, which means
additional quotes from Who Runs The World, Lady
Marmalade, Where Dem Girls At, We Got The World...
all woven into We Belong.
We want it to feel like the movie's almost over, big finish, then unexpected pull back and we're into Flashlight, giving us a big exciting musical mashup finish followed by a big sweeping emotional Emily's original song finish.
Update: continued tinkering, bringing back Run The World's fantastic ending to create an even bigger sense of finality before Flashlight is revealed.
A shoot "day" can be any 12+ hour window, and is not infrequently quite odd, such as 5pm to 5am. With many union workers in a variety of tasks, a movie set needs to abide by union rules, which means we get "breakfast" at the beginning of the "day" and Lunch after about 6 hours, which results in sentences like "Breakfast was at 4pm which means lunch will be 11 to midnight" which I continue to find disorienting.
I've always believed that a cappella is
universally appealing, if only you can get it in
front of people. Twenty years ago contemporary a
cappella was unknown, and ten years ago it was a
punch line, but slowly, steadily over the years
we've been able to steer and control the meme to the
point that it's now embraced and appreciated.
There's no doubt that it's in some ways dorky, but a
self-awareness and lack of concern about image makes
it cooler that it would ever be if we were precious
about our style, or bristled at barbed jokes.
That's why Pitch Perfect is such a great vehicle: lots of laughs draws people in, and then a cappella is very compelling so people who knew nothing about it leave with an appreciation and respect for a cappella. Very glad we're making another one and that so many people around the world eagerly await the characters, the new situations, and the music.
Singing first soprano can be daunting, but that
doesn't keep Alexis from volunteering for it at
every turn. She loves singing up high and stretching
her upper range, so song after song we have her on
the highest part. She's not a trained a cappella
singer but manages to be impressively quick in the
studio - a combination of preparation and talent.
Contemporary a cappella rarely relies on the highest notes in the female range because they tend to sound choral, not pop (since popular music almost exclusively keeps female singers in their chest/belt range), but there are times when we want a high floating pitch, which means Alexis is frequently bouncing up and down over her break... and never complains.
Today we started filming the Bellas comeback performance, a medley of "Problems" and "Promises" that we simply call "Problems Promises." We similarly abbreviate the names of other medleys, such as "World Timber Wrecking" (the Bellas opening performance) "Tsunami Uprising" (DSM's first performance) "My Songs All I Do" (DSM finale)... but we don't have a similar name for the Bellas Finale because there are too many songs (it'd be something like "Run The World Dem Girls We Belong Flashlight")