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The Production Goes To Camp

With the cast in place, the filmmakers of Sugar & Spice wanted to ensure absolute authenticity of perkiness and absolute perfection of pom-pom maneuvers — so they sent the entire group of actresses to cheerleading camp for two weeks. Marley Shelton, Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, Melissa George, Sara Marsh, Alexandra Holden and Marla Sokoloff studied under the tutelage of University of Minnesota dance coach Beth Knutson. While there, they learned a slew of state-of-the-art cheers and gymnastic stunts.

Of the group, only Marley Shelton had any actual hands-on cheering experience, having been a cheerleader in high school, but they all proved to be fast learners — especially since they possessed the most important cheerleading prerequisite: uncrushable spirit. "When the girls first came in, I thought oh, no, this is going to be an impossible amount of work,"' recalls Knutson, "but after two weeks they proved me wrong. I think they could go on to be A-squad cheerleaders at any school in the country now!"

Knutson recalls that certain fears had to be overcome, though, before the real cheer- learning could take place. "The first time we threw Mena Suvari up in the air for a stunt she screamed and ran off," recalls the coach, "but after a week she was back flying through her stunts like Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut! It seemed like once one of the girls learned a stunt, all the others figured they could do it too. Their progress, and their attitude, was remarkable."

Recalls Marley Shelton of cheerleading camp: "We spent a lot of time saying 'you want us to do what'?' But ultimately we learned we had to approach it like the A-Squad: with a positive attitude and team spirit." On a more serious notes she adds: "The whole thing helped to develop real trust between us. When someone has to catch you when you fall, you learn to really rely on their instincts."

Knutson worked with the cast extensively on their biggest cheering number: the elaborate production for the winter pep rally, which Francine McDougall designed to be somewhat larger-than-cheerleading-life.

"I wanted to do something whimsical and enchanting, so I referenced some of the great Busby Berkeley musicals," explains McDougall. "There's lots of spectacular overhead shots with thirty girls going into a formation that looks like a flower opening, and there are even cheesy wipes of squad members floating through the frame holding tinseled stars. It really helps to set the tone for the rest of the movie."

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