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The Look, Feel & Music

At the same time that the cast was being assembled, Kusama worked very closely with director of photography Patrick Cady in creating the look for the film, storyboarding and choreographing shots in preparation for the shoot. Says Kusama, "Patrick has a zany enthusiasm to do everything he can to communicate the story. We worked for months and months before shooting to come up with every shot in the film. I wanted the film to look like it was from another time, a little bit older, but I wanted it to have a lot of richness in its color as well. It was a long and fruitful collaboration."

The film is economical in its images, each shot conveying a very specific aspect of the characters and the story through the combined elements of cinematography and production design. The colors are sharp and clear, the sets rough but uncluttered. Kusama worked closely with production designer Stephen Beatrice to balance the saturated palette of the film with the gritty texture of the production design. In the gym, vibrant colors and lighting contrast with the peeling walls, the cardboard signs with words of wisdom scrawled in marker. "Those boxing edicts are real," notes Kusama.

Says Kusama, "It was very important to me to make the film approachable and real to an audience but in its own craggy way beautiful to look at. We talked a lot about the concept of newness versus the decay of a leftover, forgotten world. In many ways, boxing is that world -- it's an ancient sport." She chuckles, "The best gyms are dumps -- there's no shower, there's just a bucket of water and a sink. There's no urge for progress, and I really appreciate that about the sport and the environment that houses it."

Similarly, the scoring of the film by Theodore Shapiro enhances the world created in "Girlfight," by contrasting old, classical sounds with very contemporary music, most notably during the fight sequences. The fight sequences are accompanied by flamenco-like classical guitar when the fighters retreat to their corners alternating with dreamy, ethereal synthesized music when they are actually fighting, complementing the boxers' internal states.

Says Kusama, "Teddy's really gifted. He has a fresh take on things. He can watch a movie, feel it and hear fresh sounds for it. He understood that I wanted the movie to have some classical background but then be brought into the modern world. Teddy is the kind of person who could listen to all the classical music I loved and all the jazz I loved then bring in classical guitar and update it with drums or spooky synthesizer sounds and marry the old world and then the modern world."

Kusama summarizes, "I was very, very lucky to have so many people around me who wanted to work in a very collaborative way."

"Girlfight" was shot on location in the spring of 1999, over the course of 26 days. The film was shot in Jersey City, Brooklyn, Yonkers and the lower east side of Manhattan, although the primary location was Jersey City, where the boxing gym and the main gym were built and the apartment scenes were shot.


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