The cast had a rigorous four-week rehearsal schedule in Baton Rouge, and the
music directors and the choreographer, Aakomon Jones, needed to decide how to
build the musical numbers around their performers. Each actor had different
levels of singing and dancing experience, and it was important for them all to
come together in their respective music groups. The filmmakers enrolled the
actors in an a cappella "boot camp," where the actors sang and danced for
approximately 10 hours a day. Despite some blisters on their feet and a few
tears, everyone bonded and found a harmonious musical sound.
The rehearsal process included spending a few hours in the music room, where The
Treblemakers and The Bellas learned one song and practiced their individual
singing parts, and then moved on to choreography. After lunch, it was back to
the music room to learn a new song. The recording studio and the production
offices were housed in the same location, which made it convenient for the
actors to go in for vocal coaching to record their individual parts. At the end
of a rehearsal week, the entire production crew was brought in so that the cast
would feel comfortable performing live in front of an audience.
In addition to singing and dancing, Hana Mae Lee also had to learn how to
beat-box, a surprising skill for her character, Lilly, whose speaking voice is
as a mouse throughout most of the film. Says Lee: "The studio set me up with a
professional beat-boxer, DJ Spencer. He's amazing. I thought it would be really
fierce if Lilly could scratch. I brought the idea to DJ Spencer, and he taught
me some cool ways to do it. When it came down to the finale song, I got to
scratch and it sounds awesome. It was great to be able to make Lilly as dynamic
as she is, and the beat-boxing just made her that much more aca-awesome."
Says Kendrick about performing the riff-off between the college's singing groups
at the pool: "It was a little stressful for everyone since the pressure was on
to get it right. The day we shot the battle turned out to be fun because we all
knew that this was something we could handle. It was incredible seeing
everyone's performance. It was like somebody suddenly did a backflip out of
nowhere and you weren't aware they could do that."
Astin compared rehearsals to theater camp: "The guys would sit in on the girls'
rehearsals and they would sit in on ours, and when they would do well, we'd be
excited. We were proud of each other."
DeVine admits: "I didn't know about a cappella at all. But now I'm a damn whiz
kid on the subject! I've never recorded music professionally, and there was a
camera in the booth so that Ed and Deke could make sure we expressed emotion
through our voices. At one point after exiting the recording booth, everyone was
laughing hysterically because I had lifted my shirt up and was grinding the
microphone thinking that no one could see me."
"The film is fun and invigorating and creates a backdrop to a world that most
people don't know a lot about," says Moore. "Though, audiences may be a little
familiar with it as a function of what's been on television for the last few
years, with the massive reemergence of talent shows both in America and all over
To help with vocal production on the film, the filmmakers brought in Grammy
nominee HARVEY MASON, JR., and his team of producers (called The Underdogs).
Mason, whose credits include arranging and producing music for 2006's Dreamgirls,
consulted during production and fine-tuned the sound in postproduction. Says
Moore: "Harvey came in with his incredible list of credits and all of the
Grammys he's been nominated for and the incredible artists that he's worked
with. He brought an outsider's perspective on how to make a cappella music sound
cool, especially since we're doing covers of popular artists. Harvey was able to
make the actors relax and sing in a way that let the character come through but
also makes the music sound awesome."
Songwriter Ester Dean, who makes her acting debut in the film, was elated to be
able to perform one of the hit songs that she'd previously co-written. Says
Dean: "We actually sang a song I wrote in the movie, Rihanna's 'S&M.' It was so
dope to have my song in Pitch Perfect, and to be able to work with a great
Recording and producing vocal-only versions of songs proved to be different than
producing the full
versions. According to Mason, "You don't have the musicians to rely on, so you
have to figure out how to re-create the sound. The songs that we did for this
film were covers of songs that most people know, and people are accustomed to
hearing them with a full arrangement. As a producer, I had to figure out how I
was going to cover the baseline and the strings and how to emulate those
instruments with a voice.
"Jason really knows music," continues Mason. "It's not often that you run into a
director who not only can direct and get his vision on screen, but he hears
everything and knows what he wants it to sound like. He's also familiar with
musical terms, so when we spoke, we'd speak in musical terms. He was involved in
many of the decisions as far as how actors performed songs, and he was directing
in the recording studio."
Moore even had nationally award-winning all-male group the University of
Virginia (UVA) Hullabahoos perform in the a cappella championship scene, as well
as Tulane's Green Envy and Florida State's All-Night Yahtzee. Rapkin included
the Hullabahoos in his book, and it was by happy coincidence that Moore knew one
of the founders of the group. He shares: "I thought it would be important to
have an authentic, well-known group in the movie. I called my friend Halstead
and asked how to get these guys to come down to the set. The UVA Hullabahoos
raised money, got in a camper and drove all the way out to Baton Rouge. They
recorded their version of Europe's 'Final Countdown' and perform their
incredible arrangement in the movie."
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