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PITCH PERFECT

Music Rehearsals
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 meek 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 Europe."

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 cast!"

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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