Flip Flops in the Windy City: Pitch Perfect

What happens when you get a frantic call from a friend of a friend, asking you to work on Disney-produced acapella arrangements for a Universal film?  You say yes, and then work for 14 hours.  This is what I did on the upcoming film Pitch Perfect.

"Pitch Perfect" poster

The Movie

Pitch Perfect is essentially Bring it On, but for inter-collegiate acapella competitions.  It has all the energy and musicality of Glee, but without the pretentiousness and annoying high schoolers, and with a lot more comedy.  It centers around a college’s all female acapella group, the Barden Bellas.  As is true so often with college acapella groups, they are overshadowed by the more popular and energetic all-male acapella group, the Treblemakers.  After a disastrous previous year, the only two remaining women desperately attempt to rebuild the group, resorting to recruiting the apparent dregs of the campus.  This includes Becca, a rebellious wannabe mash-up recording artist, dreaming of going to LA to pursue her dreams.  A love interest joins the Treblemakers, competition ensues, and now we’ve got a movie.  It is witty, clever, and very creative.

The production music

Production music is a subset of source music (music that happens within the world of the film).  More specifically, production music is music that is performed during the film, like musical numbers.  Being about acapella groups, Pitch Perfect features a TON of production music.  In order to lip synch accurately, the majority of production music has to be locked and recorded (at least with scratch tracks) before principal production of the film can happen.  This means that more time can be taken on the arrangements, since they have to happen before they shoot the movie.  This is opposed to the score, which by its nature mostly has to start AFTER the movie is edited.  Because of this, the team that writes the score often has very limited time to do their work.

What I did

After the arrangements were recorded, the editors locked the music with picture.  It was supposed to be locked picture.  It was not.  They cut up picture, and moved little sections around.  This jumbled up the arrangements, which now no longer made sense musically.  So they had to re-record them, except the sheet music for the arrangements no longer matched the audio files.  That’s where I came in.  My job was to listen to the arrangements, while checking them against the sheet music.  If I detected any variance between the two, I corrected the sheet music accordingly.  I was also encouraged to enhance the arrangement in any way.  This was a tedious process, as it is rare in general for music to not match the sheet music.

How I got the gig

Two things happened:

1) A friend of a friend found out that this was happening and recommended me.

2) Even after I had been recommended, I also emailed the friend of my friend, just to put forth a little extra effort.  After a few emails, I demonstrated that I was the right man for the job, and the gig was mine.

The lesson: NETWORK!  But don’t just sit back and expect things to come to you.  Even after my friend told me she had recommended me for the job, I still actively pursued it.  And now I can put on my resume that I worked on the biggest musical film of the year, and I have a contact at Disney score prep.

***Cue Disney happy ending music***