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The Design Of Sugar & Spice

The high-speed, uninhibited humor of Sugar & Spice is backed up by visuals that forge a comic-book-style slice of the flashy surfaces of American pop culture and teen life. Director Francine McDougall worked closely with director of photography Robert Brinkmann, a native German, to achieve the stylized look. "We wanted to put a real twist on the genre," explains Brinkmann. "Since we're both foreigners in America, we really went after a view of what in our minds America is all about. We tried to make the film look like a lovely picture postcard of the USA — with beautiful colors, bright lighting, very pleasing graphic compositions. And then it becomes even funnier that in this perfect world, the girls do things you don't associate with this kind of paradise!"

To heighten their work, Brinkmann and McDougall chose to shoot the film in wide screen. "We broke all the standard rules for shooting a teen movie," admits Brinkman. "But all of our choices were made in order to play with the conventions of the genre and take them somewhere new.

The film was shot in various locations around the consummate Middle American cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Production designer Jeff Knipp also pushed the limits with his perfectly proportional sets. "These girls are cheerleaders so everything in their world has to be perfect," he explains. "I envisioned the film set in a sub-division where everything is very planned, gridded and regimented — almost cookie cutter. As I started to look at it that way, everything fell into place. The sets, the high school and the school uniforms were all created with a very graphic and geometric look, which is consistent throughout the movie." Knipp particularly broke the barriers designing Diane's pink bedroom. "It's so over-the-top," he laughs. "Everything we did had a forced reality to it and it was super fun to create."

Knipp also worked with costume designer Wendy Chuck in choosing a color palette for each of the characters. Diane is pretty in pink, Hannah is spiritual in purple, Kansas is a world-weary black-and-blue, Lucy is dressed in neat-freak white, Cleo wears lots of sexy red and Lisa is green with envy. Three other colors also became key: "We loved the idea of using red, white and blue to convey the American theme, so we used that throughout, especially in the cheerleading outfits and football uniforms," explains Chuck.

Amidst this vision of picture-perfect Americana, one less idealistic design challenge stands out in Sugar & Spice: the A-Squad's bank-robbing outfits, which the filmmakers knew from the start had to be the A-Squad's ultimate signature.

"We knew from the start we'd have to push the edges and then one night Jeff Knipp said 'what about an American flag.' Francine loved the idea but we wondered 'is that even legal?," explains costume designer Wendy Chuck.

It turned out to be perfectly legal but the next challenge was cutting the flags into fitted cloaks that flowed in just the right way, with the stars and stripes exactly in the right places. To get the look just right, the girls wore their flags over catsuits. Then it was all topped off with the Betty masks. "I actually got the idea from a magazine on collectable dolls," says Chuck. "There was a female Japanese Ninja warrior doll that became the inspiration behind the design. It's always great for a designer to build an original costume but this was extra-fun because it was a funny, sexy, slightly off-kilter twist on 'gin power'."

Summarizes Jeff Knipp: "We really pushed the design in the same way we pushed the girls' characters and the story — to the very edges of comedy."


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