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About The Production (Continued)
Re-creating Europe: Atlanta Plays Host

As the Bellas take the opportunity to go on a world USO tour, they travel all over the Mediterranean to support the troops. Starting in Spain, they head to Greece, then Portugal, Germany, Kosovo, Crete and Italy. During this incredible adventure, they meet and compete against other bands and deal with record executives along the way.

The challenge in making the movie look as if it was set in Europe was that the production was, in reality, in Atlanta. Laughs Sie: "There's not a lot in common between Georgia in the winter and the sunny Mediterranean. Toby Corbett, our production designer, did a fantastic job. It took a lot of creative effort."

"These were supposed to be locations from the south of France, Spain, Sicily, Italy," echoes Corbett, who returns to the Pitch Perfect family. "They all were set on military bases, so we were able to utilize some great locations that were here-Fort McPherson was an old military base we used and Clay National Guard."

While filming night shoots at Clay, the Bellas and filmmakers were able to hop in a few planes between takes. "The Department of Defense was a big supporter of the script, and provided us a lot of airplanes for background on the tarmacs," adds Corbett.

"We have to give it up to our production designers," lauds Handelman. "The team did an incredible job making so many things happen here in Atlanta, and it's a testament to the film community that so much was available to us. These guys have worked extremely hard, and we're absolutely delighted by the results."

Creating France and Spain, as well as Italy within an Atlanta landscape was no easy feat. "Everything we do is to try to create heightened realities, and Trish was very involved with ensuring vibrant colors exist throughout the film. I'm a colorist myself; there's a symphony of color that goes through a film and she's sensitive to that. She brought that attitude toward the design, and she also gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted," says Corbett.

One of the practical locations used included the Fox Theater, which was staged as a casino in Cadiz, Spain where Fat Amy reconnects with Fergus. "The Fox Theater is a gorgeous old movie palace in Atlanta that is reflective of late '20s design-with a lot of exotic Morris elements, which also has its influences in Spain," notes the designer. "With a lot of signage, we got rid of the layers and brought in the casino elements."

Another set built on a practical location was a space that is iconic to Nice. "For the flower market in Nice where the girls are kidnapped from, we found a great space in a neighborhood called Glenwood, which has this little town square. I was able to bring in tents and awnings and about 10,000 flowers," Corbett shares. "We gave it the color and the texture of the market in Nice."

Through the use of stage space at Atlanta Metro Studios, impressive craftsmanship went into building sets that were not on location. "The entire yacht that we built, for instance, is all hand-carved out of foam, and finished with a lacquer," says Sie. "Same with the entire Citadel set. All those old stones and columns were finished with various layers of antiquing and texture and patina all over."

Production also utilized local resources to dress their sets with environmentally friendly practices in mind. "It's incredible what our art department did; they went to people who needed trees removed from their yards," reveals Sie. "They hauled out entire trees that were just going to be throw out. They brought them to be part of our set to make it look like the Citadel was outside, even though it was on a sound stage. Our team went to great lengths to make it feel like we were in Europe."

"One of the challenges we had to figure out was placing the setting in Europe, but we built all the sets in Atlanta," says Brooks. "We found this place called the Citadel in the south of France, Villefranche-near the Italian border-and we rebuilt it here on a soundstage in Atlanta. We also built the yacht here.

"The yacht was the biggest challenge on the film," the producer adds. "We used an actual yacht as the basis for Fergus' boat, the Ability, which is designed by a well-known naval architect named Tommaso Spadolini. It was a super-yacht, about 180 feet in length, and it had a wonderful sinister feel to it that captured his character."

"It's all curvy linear, so it wasn't easy to build," admits Corbett. "It had a lot of smooth, glossy high-shine finishes. To re-create that in foam was challenging. But I had some amazing craftspeople again, and we built a 150,000 gallon tank built. There was a portion, the swim deck, which was over the water-so that we could have a sequence of Fat Amy and Beca rowing up."

Bedazzled Camouflage: Costume Design

It's not easy to dress an ensemble cast, but Banks applauds Salvador Perez, the costume designer on all three Pitch Perfect films for his unstoppable creativity: "He just understands this movie, and more importantly understands the girls. Sal knows how to make every single body type, and person in this movie, look and feel amazing."

"Sal is an incredibly talented and skillful and brilliant designer," echoes Sie. "He understands clothes and fabric and costume and character so well. Every little detail is considered and perfectly executed. He understands women and these characters so deeply that it all just felt natural and effortless, even though I know it took a lot."

Perez admits that he set the look in the first movie. "It's been fun to be able to grow with these characters and see how they have developed from girls into young ladies," he notes. "Beca's still the rocker chick, but the first time you see her on camera she's a producer. So I put her in a suit, but it's the rock-'n'-roll version of a suit."

For her part, Kendrick explains the delightfully love/hate relationship she has with one of her favorite designers. "Sal is so annoying because he's always right, and every time we put on these costumes, I think, 'Oh, this looks good!' Sal says, 'Wait until you see it bedazzled!' I ask him, 'Why do you have to bedazzle everything?' and then you see it in the light and think, 'Damn it. Sal's right again!' So I love/hate that guy, because he's never wrong."

He also loved his mandate of "more color!" "Trish comes from music videos and commercials. So she's very visual and likes telling a story through the clothes. She understood that clothes are a storytelling process, and she loves color. I'm always told less rhinestones, less color and she was like 'More rhinestones, more color.' So we got along fabulously," laughs Perez.

For Perez, it's been fun to see the grownup version of the Bellas. "Trish loves color so when we dressed Chloe as the vet it was the most colorful vet costume you've ever seen. Likewise, with Flo in the Juiceteria. Trish said, 'We need pineapple,' and I said, 'Okay. I'm going to get you a hat with some pineapple.'"

Now that they've headed out on tour, the Bellas are serving up some military realness. "They are paying homage to the military, so there's camouflage, a great throwback pin-up style-red, white and blue look," says Banks. "We wanted the girls to feel older, and so they're dressing in a more current and less teenage-y type way."

In discussing his inspiration for the military costumes, Perez explains, "I watched a USO special, and I noticed that all of the performers had some version of camouflage on. Then it's scripted that they have a sparkly camouflage costume. So I took that as inspiration and my love of Swarovski crystal, and I added thousands of crystals to the costumes. As a kid, I watched a Bob Mackie special with Debbie Reynolds. They literally took a military uniform and bedazzled it. This is the modern version."

When it came to dressing all the military extras, the costumer found a massive new challenge. "Sal had to get everything exactly right," explains Sie. "For example, they have different boots for every branch of the military, and they have to be exact. Sal had to learn where the nametags are stitched on, what you wear at different times of year and what you wear under it-when there's a hat and when there's not."

Perez's team found the quantity of detail for military gear was daunting. Representatives from the Department of Defense were on set, and they were sticklers for every detail. On Perez: "If that patch is a quarter-inch off, that hat wouldn't be worn in this scene. The rank is wrong. So we had to make sure that we had all bases covered so no matter what they asked for. We had a full second trailer that was nothing but uniforms ready to go on the USO tour."

When dressing the sexy rock band Evermoist, Perez took it up a notch. "The Bellas have always been attractive and sexy, but it was never overt," he states. "Evermoist was overly sexy. So there was lots of transparent clothing, lots of skin to win and they needed to ultimate rocker chick to contrast to the Bellas."

His collaborators appreciated the painstaking work. "Every detail is so important to Sal, and he takes pride in what he does. In being so passionate about it, he allows all the characters to shine and feel sexy in their own way. He knows how to make everyone feel sexy uniquely to their character, and also to who they are," compliments Rose.

When dressing Whiskey Shivers, Perez saw that they were essentially playing a heightened version of themselves. He recalls: "Their manager sent me all these pictures of them, and I wanted to not make them too costume-y. The nicest comment that I got from the guys was 'We look like ourselves, but in better clothes!'"

When dressing the two deejays, Perez ran across similar issues he had with Whiskey Shivers. "Again, they're playing themselves," he says. "Trinidad James [Young Sparrow] is not afraid of color. He wears Louboutins and Dior; his outfits are custom-made in London. DJ Looney [DJ Dragon Nuts] was more low-key in personality and in character. We did a military-inspired version, but more down to earth."

For the character of Fergus, "the whole point was that he was Mafioso, so there was a small layer of slime on him," laughs Perez. "That's why there is shine in his suits, and his shirts are just slightly unkempt. You want to see someone who is prone to having this image of being a wealthy affluent man...but he's falling apart. The ties weren't done properly and the shoes were scuffed, because it's all a faƧade."

Saying Goodbye: The Final Number

It is rare that films are shot in scene order, but it so happened that the last scene filmed in Atlanta was indeed the finale. In the last few weeks of filming, filmmakers, cast, and crew alike felt the weight of the end of an era. "Shooting the finale was the most rewarding part of the whole movie," says Sie. "It took a long time for this number to come together because we knew how important it was. It had to accomplish so many things. It had to be a goodbye song, and start a new chapter as a move-forward song. It had to be a song about friendship and about stepping into your own future."

Filming the final scenes was quite cathartic for the entire cast and crew. Sums Kendrick: "I have wept openly in front of most of my coworkers about seven times now."

"We've known each other for over five years now, and this finale sequence was very emotional; we're trying to soak up all of what it's like to be a Bella," notes Wilson. "These movies have been so instrumental in our lives and careers, so as we wrap up production we've been crying and hugging a lot."

To say goodbye, the production agreed that the graduation song would be George Michael's iconic "Freedom! 90." Brooks explains the logic: "It was complicated, trying to figure out the finale. It had to be a message to the audience, as well as a declaration of where Beca's character has to go. We also had to blend the two with a unifying finish to these Bellas."

"Technically the final song took a lot of effort," says Boyer. "The final scene, Beca sings George Michael's 'Freedom!' and we hear a bit of the song earlier when she's playing on her rig and coming up to do some looping in the penthouse suite. Later, she sings those loops again, and it turns into 'Freedom!' As she's singing, it starts with just her voice and it loops and then turns into this big, beautiful extravaganza."

During scouting, the team decided on the location that it wanted to double for the finale, which is this Citadel. "It's an old, round fortress on a cliff with a good deal of Roman influence," Sie notes. "They have live shows there, and we thought that would be the perfect place. So we re-created it here. We literally carved the whole thing out of foam to make this stage. We wanted lighting to feel rock-and-roll but also classic and old world. We're in this beautiful, architectural, dreamy, timeless European setting, so we had a special rock-and-roll lighting designer come in and help us."

Once the Bellas were out on the stage, they felt all of that behind them. Reflects Sie: "There are so many people who care about this movie, these characters, and the journey they've all been on. It was so powerful to create this magical scene in which to bring everything to its huge climax. The amount of emotion was raw and true. Even in the rehearsals, the girls could barely go through the scene without crying. They left it all on the floor that night; everyone in the room could feel it."

Handelman reflects on why this series speaks to so many: "Pitch Perfect works in many ways, but it works best when it's the perfect intersection of absurdity meets awesomeness. What is always funny in this world is how self-serious all these people are. But audiences realize they're incredibly talented, and that they believe in themselves. These characters come together to create a sound that is impressive, and very satisfying, even if how they get there is often ridiculous, and absurd."

Sie appreciates that these characters have found a way to walk the line between absurd, larger-than-life eccentric kookiness and a fundamental grounded realness. "It's easy to be wacky and over-the-top, and to stick to things that feel familiar. What's hard to do is to balance those two. Pitch Perfect has that ring of truth that you can apply it to your own life. These women go through what we all do-whether it's being a misfit, being in a group of friends figuring out your way after college."

"Audiences will love the action because I worked hard to get it awesome," deadpans Wilson. "So I hope they love it and I hope it's surprising because it is a slightly different tone in this movie because we didn't want to just do the same thing. We wanted to go the next level for the fans. I hope they like finding more out about Fat Amy. I also just love the songs in this movie. We're constantly singing them...even when we're not supposed to."

This chapter wrapped, we conclude with a reflection from the producer who helped start it all. "With this series, we feel like we tapped into something-this flood of female empowerment, not just in Hollywood and in our industry, and in movies, but in the world," says Banks. If that power comes with entertainment for the audience, so much more the better. She ends: "Plus, singing and dancing and making people laugh is never a bad combination."


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