Q&A: Northwestern alumnus, 'Pitch Perfect' director Jason Moore
October 4, 2012
There's singing, there's dancing, there are beat boxing college students. No, we're not at another Northwestern a cappella show: We're talking about the new film "Pitch Perfect."
Communication alumnus ('93) Jason Moore is the star behind the scenes of the movie, which he describes as "a comedy with music, not a musical with comedy." Although "Pitch Perfect" is his feature film directorial debut, Moore has directed everything from "Avenue Q" on Broadway to episodes of "Dawson's Creek." Moore took time out of his busy schedule to speak with The Current about transitioning from theater to film directing and his own college experience as a Wildcat.
The Current: What were some of the differences between directing theater performances versus a feature film?
Jason Moore: One of the good things about this as my first feature film is that there were a lot of musical performances, so that was an area I felt very comfortable in … I think probably the hardest transition that I had to make was that in Broadway singing there are backup singers, but there’s also an orchestra. But with a cappella singing, there is no orchestra. All the actors have to do it themselves and the singers have to create all the sounds, so it was much more intricate to do that than I realized. To get the singers to learn all the individual parts and then dance all together was very, very complicated so we ended up spending a lot of extra time on that, but I think it worked out pretty well for the movie.
The Current: There were a lot of actors in "Pitch Perfect" that aren’t known for having a musical background. Was there anyone you knew you wanted for your film from the start, and how did you select the other actors?
JM: I knew that I wanted Anna Kendrick to play the lead role ... Then quickly after that, the character of Fat Amy was important on the page, and I’d heard that Rebel Wilson could sing. I’d seen her in "Bridesmaids" ... so I got her in right away and she sang Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” while beat boxing and banging on her chest and I knew that she’d be perfect for that part.
The Current: What influenced your decision to become a director?
JM: I’ve always wanted to do both film and theatre; I’ve kind of been divided about what to pursue most. So I was a film major, and then I wanted to do theatre shows so I became a theatre major, but I didn’t really like doing the crew requirements for that, so then I became a performance studies major, and then I was in the Music Theatre program which had just started that year that I was there, and I was also in the Creative Writing for the Media program. I actually ended up completing none of those programs. I ended up graduating with this degree called the Interdepartmental Studies degree, which is basically a fancy way of saying “You didn’t actually finish any one program, but we’re still going to get you out of here.” So at the time, the dean (of the School of Speech) said to me, “You’re a director. That’s what you’re picking naturally because you want to know a little bit about everything, which is what a director does.”
The Current: Do you have any projects planned for the future?
JM: You know, for the first time in ten years, I actually don’t know what I’m doing next, which is both terrifying and also really liberating. Ever since "Avenue Q" came out about ten years ago, I’ve been very fortunate to always have projects lined up. I always wanted to make a movie, and I’ve had to take a long time off from the theater world to get this made. I’ve been working on ("Pitch Perfect") for almost two years now. I really would like to make another movie and I’m having a bunch of meetings in Los Angeles to find out what it is. I’m excited and nervous about the future, which is kind of the life in theater.
The Current: Do you have any advice for current Wildcats interested in working in the entertainment industry?
JM: I guess the piece of advice is get to know everybody in your program, come to understand your talents and your strengths, and keep in touch with those people because it’s an important component of getting a job out in the real world. I also think just do whatever it is in the arts that you love. Figure out what you’re good at and what you want to do and just be passionate about it. If you’re in a school like Northwestern, you’ve gotta have some sort of talent, so just keep at it.
"Pitch Perfect" opens in theaters nationwide Oct. 5. Go to dailynorthwestern.com/current to check out our "Pitch Perfect" movie review.