Everyone was talking about the 13th Gate.
They still are.
“It was one of the coolest locations we worked at in Baton Rouge,” Daniel Kleinpeter says. “The way it was set up was great.”
Kleinpeter grew up in Baton Rouge and now lives in New Orleans, where he’s working as a production assistant on the set of an unnamed HBO series currently being filmed there. Last summer, he worked as a PA for the filming of “Pitch Perfect 2.”
The movie opens Friday nationwide, but the hype is bigger in Baton Rouge, which is just as much a character as the cast.
Both “Pitch Perfect” and “Pitch Perfect 2” were filmed in the capital city, and local audiences not only will be trying to identify local people but also locations in the different scenes.
Here’s a tip: one of those scenes was filmed at Midnight Productions’ popular 13th Gate Haunted House.
“It’s the riff-off scene,” Kleinpeter says. “In the scene, a wealthy character, played by the comedian David Cross, has an underground speakeasy called The Dungeon, where he holds a cappella competitions. They made the 13th Gate look like a fancy dungeon.”
The “they” in this case was independent production company Gold Circle Films, whose local construction projects were headed by Jeffrey Scott Thomas, founder and director of the Louisiana Film Center. Thomas not only oversaw construction of the 13th Gate set, but his local company helped Gold Circle by furnishing parts of the stages at the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts, Highland Road Community Park and at Camp Istrouma.
“The riff-off at the 13th Gate with the Green Bay Packers. It’s a huge scene,” he says.
According to Packersnews.com, five Packers players — linebacker Clay Matthews and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari, T. J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Don Barclay — are prominently featured in the riff-off. Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, also is there.
“A lot of comedians were there, too,” Kleinpeter adds. “Along with David Cross, Adam Devine was there, three comedians from ‘The Daily Show,’ Reggie Watts and Joe Lo Truglio. There were so many big names there, and they all played crazy characters.”
Still, that scene wasn’t the film’s biggest as far as crowd numbers are concerned. The Highland Road Community Park scene gets that honor.
“We filmed there a couple of nights, and we probably had between 2,000 and 3,000 people at the park,” executive producer Scott Niemeyer says. “It was like we were staging an outdoor music festival for the people there on those nights.”
Niemeyer also has Louisiana ties, having grown up in the Algiers neighborhood on New Orleans’ west bank.
He’s now the executive producer for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” The film is in early production in Toronto, but Niemeyer said he’s been back to Baton Rouge often to work with state legislators on the film tax credit issue.
“I’m the poster child for indigenous movie productions,” Niemeyer says. “It’s a personal thrill to bring jobs and create opportunities for my home state. The local job creation through ‘Pitch Perfect’ was in the hundreds, I would say 800 jobs.”
Niemeyer, who also was executive producer of “Pitch Perfect,” filmed in 2011, never anticipated the popularity of the first film.
“We had a great script, and it was a lot of fun to film, but I knew we had fair competition in the genre of mixed music and comedy,” he says. “It’s gone on to be a hit.”
The first movie not only featured Baton Rouge’s many theaters but locations throughout the LSU campus, including the Huey P. Long Fieldhouse swimming pool, the Greek Theatre and the Reilly Theatre, which served as the rehearsal hall for the Barden Bellas.
The Reilly returns as the rehearsal hall, where the Bellas prepare for the World A Cappella championship, and Baton Rouge High School’s auditorium is the stage for a performance by the Bellas’ rivals, the Treble Makers.
The Bellas were introduced in the first film, which was loosely adapted from Mickey Rapkin’s nonfiction book, “Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory.” Anna Kendrick headlines the film as Beca, who enrolls at Barden University and joins its all-girl a cappella group, the Bellas, who eventually win the national a cappella competition.
They return as three-time national champions in the second movie but disgrace themselves in a performance for President Obama’s birthday. The Parkview Baptist High School Marching Band is featured in the first scene.
Former WBRZ anchor Tammi Arender wasn’t familiar with either story when she received a call from her agent about a small role in the second movie. She was told a woman anchor was needed, and Arender didn’t hesitate leaving her Nashville job for a few days of filming.
“I came back home to the studio where I used to work,” Arender says. “Yes, we filmed at WBRZ, and I don’t know if I made the cut. I’ve done a couple of films before and didn’t make the cut. But it was a great experience.”
Arender didn’t get to meet the cast, but she did work with actress Elizabeth Banks, who not only has a role in the film but is its director and producer.
“As a newscaster, there were things I knew to do,” Arender says. “I knew that you’re not supposed to read to the camera, so I did what I always do, and Elizabeth became so excited. She said, “Yes, do it like that,’ to the guy who was supposed to be my co-anchor.”
Arender now works in Charleston, West Virginia, but is looking to return to Baton Rouge.
Also working as an extra was Baton Rougeon and LSU Theatre student Carter Dean. Dean is locally known for his roles with Playmakers of Baton Rouge and Theatre Baton Rouge.
“It was only for the day, because I had another project going on at the time,” he says. “I was starting rehearsals with Playmakers’ musical, ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that afternoon.”
Dean was in a scene shot at the LSU Union. Dean and his fellow extras were instructed to walk outside the union’s large windows while the scene played out inside.
He later played a graduate assistant, opening a door for passing cast members.
“The scene is supposed to be taking place in the fall, so we all had to wear warm clothes, though we were filming in the summer,” he says. “They instructed us to wear our own clothing, but they made sure that it wasn’t brand clothing, nothing with an emblem on the front. And for my role as a grad assistant, they dressed me in a different shirt. I’m a nontraditional student, so I had the kind of look they needed for the role.”
Dean, who also was in a scene shot in LSU’s Quadrangle, says the experience was fun. In fact, that’s probably the general consensus among everyone involved with the film.
“It was probably one of the most fun films that we’ve worked with,” Thomas says. “Elizabeth Banks was phenomenal at being director. It seemed like a family, and now we’re waiting for film number three.”
That is, if there is a third film. If so, Niemeyer surely would bring the project back to Baton Rouge.
“There is such strong goodwill in Louisiana, Baton Rouge and LSU,” Niemeyer says. “The film industry is coming to Louisiana not only because of the tax credits but because of its hospitality. Louisiana is recognized because of its friendliness. There’s a broad awareness of Louisiana as a location, and the motion picture industry has fit in nicely with its culture, food, music and landscape.”
He pauses, then adds with a laugh: “Get ready to be pitch-slapped.”