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STICK IT

About The Production
If there is a universal theme to the work of screenwriter/director Jessica Bendinger, it is that of strong young women seeking to make their way in their world. For Bendinger, this may indeed be a case of art imitating life.

A former music journalist with Spin magazine and a writer for "MTV News,” Bendinger was also an acclaimed director of numerous music videos prior to her penning the screenplay for the surprise hit "Bring It On,” starring Kirsten Dunst and set in the not-always-cheerful world of cheerleading. Following that, her screenwriting credits included "The Truth About Charlie,” "First Daughter” and the recent "Aquamarine,” in addition to serving as creative consultant for HBO's "Sex and the City,” as well as writing an episode.

No matter what landscape her central female characters inhabit (high school cheerleading, globetrotting espionage, Gotham journalism), they all share a similar dynamic: they are strong and individualistic, trying their best to maneuver through life in a maledominated world.

Bendinger observes, "Most of my characters are these gutsy, slightly rebellious girls, who often come smack up against a ceiling of some kind. Let's face it, if you're a teenage girl and you aren't content to ‘go with the flow,' your options are kind of limited. When you get older, you can make your own way—but that's not what high school is about. It's about fitting in. I guess you can say the characters I write about—no matter how old they happen to be—are working toward becoming who they will ultimately be.”

It was this theme of self-realization and her personal involvement with gymnastics that fueled her fire to write not only "Bring It On” (cheerleading is as much about gymnastics as it is about cheering), but also STICK IT. She continues, "When I would watch those [cheerleading] competitions that had such great tumbling and acrobatics to them, I thought it was such a visually appealing world to create a movie in. So when this idea came, I was like, ‘Wow, why not go to the source, to a world I know,' which is gymnastics. I felt like the timing was right, with the Olympics coming up, and my enthusiasm level was really high. I love the sport, why not? Write what you love. So that's kind of how it was born—from my life, but also telling this story about a really strong girl set in this sometimes bizarre world.”

Bendinger herself had participated in competitive gymnastics from the time she was nine until she turned 12-years-old, earning a third place state ranking in the floor exercise category. She trained in a Connecticut gym owned by two-time Olympian Muriel Grossfield and was coached by Don Peters, who served as an Olympic coach in 1980. "It was the best you could get, as far as gymnastics training,” Bendinger says. "I went to gymnastics camp, competed, did compulsory routines—it was a big part of my life and I took it very seriously.”

It was while she was working on the first draft of "Bring It On” (then entitled "Cheer Fever”) that Bendinger met her future producing partner, Gail Lyon, executive producer of "Peter Pan” and "Stuart Little 2,” co-producer of "Erin Brockovich” and a former executive at Red Wagon Entertainment. "Jessica and I have a long history,” Lyon says. "I thought ‘Bring It On' was hysterically funny and authentic and had a great voice. I had just bought an article from The New Yorker that I thought she'd be great for and I hired her as a writer—and we've been friends ever since. Though we never worked officially on a project together, we always consulted each other and talked about scripts and her projects. She'd had this idea for a long time to do a movie set in the world of gymnastics. She asked me to get involved and be her producer. And I thought, ‘A movie with Jessica's great trademark female characters, set in that world, told in her distinctive voice?

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