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
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
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