We’ve watched Anna Kendrick swoon over sparkly vampires, lay off unsuspecting employees and psychoanalyze cancer patients. But in the upcoming comedy “Pitch Perfect,” the actress returns to her musical-theater roots as reluctant a cappella singer Beca, flaunting the powerful pipes that helped score her a Tony nomination in 1998.
The film follows the college freshman as she joins the struggling all-female group the Bellas, who must out-belt their campus competition, the all-male group the Treble Makers, for a cappella domination.
As part of MTV News’ Fall Movie Preview Week, we’ve not only snagged an exclusive clip from the melodic film, we also chatted up executive music producers Julianne Jordan and Julia Michels to get the scoop on the sizzling soundtrack.
MTV: With a movie like “Pitch Perfect” that’s so music heavy, how early in the production process were you two brought in?
Julia Michels: This movie was really unique because we have what we call the “on cameras,” which is people singing on camera, so all of those songs had to be chosen, cleared and pre-recorded before we went to the first day of shooting. … We were the first people brought in on the music team, and then we assembled the rest of the music team.
MTV: Were songs already written into the script, or did you start with a clean slate?
Julianne Jordan: We actually started from scratch. There were songs written into the script, but they were more placeholders, so we started from scratch. We would just sit in sessions with the director [Jason Moore] … and we would just go through song after song after song.
MTV: Can you even quantify how many songs you considered?
Michels: Well, it’s an interesting question because the first step is thinking, “Oh, this song would be good sung a cappella,” because remember, this is different than anything we’ve done because most of the movies we’ve done, there’s music behind it. There’s nothing to hide behind, so you think some song may sound good a cappella, but that’s when we had to bring our arrangers on and start mocking things up, and then that sort of swayed our decision whether, “Oh, that sounds great,” or “Oh, that doesn’t work a cappella,” so it was sort of a process.
MTV: Did you study a cappella groups, since this was new territory for you both?
Michels: Jason gave us a CD of a whole bunch of a cappella recordings that he liked, and between the three of us, we literally were passing around a cappella recordings forever. We were learning about different groups at different colleges. It was a big education into the world of a cappella.
Jordan: We were actually surprised when we first started this process, like how some of these groups had done some really, really interesting, out-of-the-box cool things, and that’s what got us excited about this movie. It wouldn’t just be what you think of a traditional a cappella group, like 15 or 20 years ago.
MTV: If there’s a centerpiece song in “Pitch Perfect,” it would have to be David Guetta’s “Titanium” featuring Sia. The song’s a hit now, but I have to imagine it was more under the radar when you picked it for the film.
Michels: We get lucky sometimes when the song is a hit when our movie is released, so it’s kind of serendipitous.
Jordan: It was one of those tracks that we knew when we first heard it that it would work a cappella, and because of Sia’s vocals and that we would be able to use it as one of Beca’s mash-ups just because it is that kind of dance track. So it really would be able to serve both purposes. And it’s very melodic, and Jason loved the track, and we loved it.
MTV: Can you explain the formula for a perfect mash-up? How do you know two songs will blend well?
Jordan: We have three original mash-ups in the movie, and for each one it was a process to figure out. We knew that for one of them, we wanted to use [La Roux’s] “Bulletproof,” but what was that other song going to be? We knew we wanted to use “Titanium,” and then for the main sequence we were open to anything for that. It really took a long time of experimenting and figuring out what would work out.
MTV: Was there a song you really wanted to make work but couldn’t?
Jordan: There’s actually a song that we use a little bit of in one of the other competing group’s performances for a pretty short time in the movie, and it’s “Blame It on the Boogie.” We really wanted that to be a centerpiece song, but it just never worked out that way.
MTV: You two have a really great rapport. Have you ever worked together before?
Jordan: No, we’ve been friends forever, but we’ve never worked together before. We both knew we were up for this movie, and the night before, we were both supposed to do separate meetings, and Julia called me and said, “Did you read the script?”
Michels: [I said], “There’s no way I’m doing this by myself!”
Jordan: So I said, “Thank god you called me, and yes, we have to do this together if we’re doing it at all.”
Michels: So Jason went in the next day thinking he was having separate meetings, and we walked in together and said, “We’re your team and we’re doing this together.”
MTV: Do you think you’ll do another project together in the future?
Jordan and Michels: Hell yes!
“Pitch Perfect,” also starring Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow, hits theaters October 5.
From “Perks” to “Breaking Dawn,” “The Hobbit” to “Skyfall,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2012 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.