and SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT
in association with
JON M. CHU
ADAM G. SEVANI
Summit International Publicity Contacts:
“I’m lucky that I get to see some of the best dancers in the world perform on a regular basis. But to be able to deliver these dancers and New York into an audience’s lap in 3D so they can feel the rush and get sucked into this world
was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.”
~ Jon M. Chu, Director, “Step Up 3D”
The hip-hop fairy tale that first captivated audiences in the summer of 2006 continues as “Step Up 3D,” the third installment of the hit film franchise from Touchstone Pictures and Summit Entertainment, ups the ante as the first dance drama ever to be shot and released in digital 3D.
Acclaimed director Jon M. Chu, who made his feature directorial debut on the box-office hit “Step Up 2 The Streets,” returns to direct a multi-talented cast of performers, including “Step Up 2 The Streets’” break-out talent Adam G. Sevani and “Step Up’s” Alyson Stoner, who both reprise their original roles, plus newcomers Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson. Dancers Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Keith Stallworth, Kendra Andrews, Martin Lombard, Facundo Lombard and Oren “Flearock” Michaeli co-star.
New York’s intense street-dancing underground comes alive in eye-popping digital 3D as the raw, passion-fueled culture goes global. A tight-knit group of street dancers, including Luke and Natalie, team up with NYU freshman Moose and find themselves pitted against the world’s best hip-hop dancers in a high-stakes showdown that will change their lives forever.
Filmmakers turned to two familiar faces to help bring the new story to life, including MSA student and talented street dancer Moose, portrayed in “Step Up 2 The Streets” by then-15-year-old newcomer Sevani. The filmmakers also called on the character of Camille, portrayed in “Step Up” by the then-12-year-old Stoner. It was the natural progression for the pair, now best friends from MSA, to jumpstart the story by venturing to New York for college, discovering NYC’s outlandish, fantastical underground dance scene along the way.
“Everyone’s trying to find their identity in this chapter,” says Chu. “What I’ve learned is that ultimately it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, the people that you meet and the things that you learn along the way. Your destination will find itself.”
“The message is consistent in all three films: believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself, you can overcome any obstacle that you are faced with in life and achieve your dreams,” says producer Jennifer Gibgot. “And it’s an incredibly fun way to spend an hour and a half—watching amazing dance and listening to great music.”
Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot (“Step Up” film franchise, “Hairspray”) of Offspring Entertainment produce with Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig of Summit Entertainment (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “The Twilight Saga” film series). David Nicksay (“Step Up 2 The Streets”), Bob Hayward and Meredith Milton serve as executive producers. The screenplay is written by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer, based on characters created by Duane Adler.
The behind-the-scenes production team includes director of photography Ken Seng (“Obsessed”), production designer Devorah Herbert (“Step Up 2 The Streets”), costume designers Kurt & Bart (“Fighting”), innovative hip-hop choreographer Jamal Sims (“Step Up,” “Step Up 2 The Streets”), choreographer Nadine “Hi Hat” Ruffin (“Step Up 2 The Streets,” “How She Move”), choreographer Dave Scott (“Step Up 2 The Streets,” “Stomp the Yard”), choreographers Richmond Talauega and Anthony Talauega (“Save the Last Dance 2: Stepping Up”), Grammy® Award winning music supervisor Buck Damon (“Step Up,” “Step Up 2 The Streets”) and editor Andrew Marcus (“Step Up 2 The Streets”).
FILMMAKERS TAKE DANCE DRAMA TO NEW DIMENSIONS
Third Time’s a Charm—in 3D—for Dance Franchise Filmmakers realized they would need to up the ante on every level to top “Step Up 2 The Streets” and “Step Up.” “‘Step Up 2 The Streets’ had this storybook element to it and I really envisioned the next chapter to be more of a twisted fairy tale,” says director Jon M. Chu. “‘Step Up 3D’ features darker characters who come out of the shadows to play into this underground playground where anything goes.”
“Step Up 3D” will go down in history as the first film of its kind to be shot in digital 3D. “We were looking for exciting ways to take the franchise to the next level and 3D proved the perfect next way to literally step up,” says producer Patrick Wachsberger. “This franchise has always made audiences feel like they were seeing the best dance party ever, but now with 3D, it’s as if they’re in the best dance party ever.”
Chu discovered endless potential with the new medium. “In the old classic musicals, the frame itself twists and slides with the dancer and is a part of the dance. With 3D we are able to take the frame to a whole new level, where the audience doesn’t just watch the dance, but they are part of the experience,” he says. “It feels like a duet between our audience and the dancers.”
“We choreographed moments in the dance numbers specifically for 3D,” adds Gibgot. “My favorite comment from a recent screening was one teenager saying ‘I felt like I was being attacked by dance, but in a good way.’”
“Shooting dance in 3D creates a ton of opportunities to experience dance in totally new ways,” adds Chu. “Dancers are leaping into your laps and spinning right towards your face.”
A standout at USC film school, Chu wowed the entertainment industry with his award-winning student films (“Silent Beats,” “When the Kids Are Away”) and upon graduating was subsequently courted by a who’s who of Hollywood producers with promising projects. However, it was Offspring Entertainment’s Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot and Summit Entertainment’s Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig who presented Chu with an irresistible opportunity to helm the second installment to the surprise hit “Step Up.”
Chu, a former dancer, was thrilled to combine his two passions on the big screen for his directorial debut. The fairy tale theme of the series remained but Chu made “Step Up 2 The Streets” his own by injecting the energetic sequel with new characters and raw, inspired choreography that melded seamlessly with the lively storytelling that audiences responded to with “Step Up.” Chu’s was an unrivaled approach that resonated with audiences with tremendous results. “Step Up 2 The Streets” opened number one at the box office, solidifying the series as a juggernaut of dance and music while simultaneously amassing a following of die-hard fans who still clamor for more of the street-savvy dance moves and compelling story.
And this time, they’ll get it in 3D. Says Shankman, “Dance really lends itself to 3D technology. It’s very exciting to marry the two and be the first to use this kind of technology to highlight this art form.”
Taking 3D to the streets of New York City proved both an opportunity and a challenge. “It is like using a different paintbrush, and your method has to change to use that paintbrush,” says Chu.
To ensure that the delicate camera equipment could withstand the vigorous pace of filming, the filmmakers turned to camera impresario Vince Pace, whose company oversaw the design of revolutionary technology used for recent big box-office hits to craft their 3D camera systems. The equipment, normally bulky and highly sensitive, would repeatedly be put to the test as Chu’s elaborate dance concepts evolved. Pace modified the camera systems to a more streamlined version that allowed the fast-moving action to be shot more fluidly for stunning 3D vistas.
The filmmakers looked to director of photography Ken Seng, who previously worked on the thriller “Obsessed,” to integrate the film’s look from both a 2D and 3D perspective. The locale turned out to be as inspirational for Seng as it was to Chu and his cast of dancers. “It’s just amazing to work in these iconic places,” says Seng, “to be able to translate it all in 3D really lets you be there. My goal was to capture the feeling of when I moved here in my 20s. It was total wonderment as I walked around the city for the first time. Jon and I wanted the audience to feel that. We wanted to use 3D not as a novelty, but as a tool to submerge the viewer into New York City through crane shots and a dynamic camera work.”
Filmmakers utilized strategic choreography, lighting and production design to achieve added depth and multiple layers—maximizing the 3D imagery. Seng was looking forward to working with the emerging technology and decided early on to “go big” when it came to his ambitious lighting plans. This approach meshed perfectly with Chu’s philosophy. “‘Step Up 3D’ is essentially an action film,” says the cinematographer. “There’s so much incredible dance happening and you want to be able to move the cameras around quickly and low to the ground to capture all that movement.”
One of the more immediate, if not awe-inspiring, benefits to filming in 3D is the ability to view scenes as they play out in real time, courtesy of a giant television monitor on set. It was a common sight on any given day to see cast and crew circled around the video monitor wearing hip, black plastic 3D glasses. The visible enthusiasm was a good sign, say filmmakers.
“Ultimately,” says Chu, “our movie creates a whole new experience in 3D, so it was worth all the hard work. And I think the audience will see that as well. They’ll fall in love with the characters and they’ll see some of the best dancers in the world.”
NEW YORK CITY DIGS
New Location Inspires New Story For “Step Up 3D” the story moves from the familiar surroundings of Baltimore’s elite Maryland School of the Arts (MSA) to the giddy wonderland of New York City, maintaining the proven formula of timely urban street choreography intertwined with a fresh, original story line.
Says producer Erik Feig, “The ‘Step Up’ films have always been a great roller coaster ride for audiences around the world—going to locations with relatable characters and seeing amazing dance. With this film, we knew we wanted to take everything to the next level and New York is the perfect fit for the adventure.”
“The city has so much history, so much culture, and people come from all over the world to New York City to live out their dreams,” adds Chu. “We thought it was the perfect setting for our character Moose to meet some of the best dancers around the world and be forced to make decisions in his own life about what he really loves. We had a variety of worlds where we could visit—Chinatown, Red Hook, the Financial District, Times Square, Brooklyn. New York gave us a great palette to shoot in 3D and we really wanted to take our audience on a journey.”
With writers Amy Andelson and Emily Meyers ("Step Up 2 The Streets"), Chu went to work on developing the material that retained the heart of its predecessor, yet instilled a deeper element of fantasy, both whimsical and edgy, that would permeate every facet of the film.
To make the most of the musical numbers Chu envisioned for his off-kilter take on this dance drama, the writers made sure that dance would drive the narrative. “When Jon approached us with his vision for the third movie,” says Andelson, “he said it was really important to him to do something different, to maintain the romance that the franchise is famous for, but to take dance out of the studio and out into the world.
What's so fun is we really get to see dance that's never been featured in a film before and there's even more dance numbers than in the previous movie.”
Chu had unabashed enthusiasm for showcasing the best of the best when it came to modern, innovative dance sequences—from a tap-dancing extravaganza to a sensual tango to an adrenaline-fueled street battle, the director did not hold back. Both Shankman and Gibgot, who themselves have extensive dance backgrounds, were more than willing to toss a wide variety of music and dance into the mix. “As long as it’s good dance it doesn’t matter what style it is, you will always get a great response,” says Gibgot. “It all works organically in the story so we enjoyed mixing it up.”
In fact, the premise for “Step Up 3D” was largely inspired by Chu’s absorption into the diverse, but sometimes segmented community of gifted dancers he met on the Baltimore set of “Step Up 2 The Streets.” Self-taught b-boy and b-girl street dancers, poppers, lockers and tickers often did not kick back with formally trained tap, modern or ballet dancers. Chu watched as everyone’s distinct dance style cross-pollinated into a new family of dancers with mixed disciplines. He likens this new circle of friends, in spirit, to Andy Warhol’s famed Factory where artists of every stripe would come together for a common love of creating art, dance and music.
“Shooting in NY definitely contributes to the wish fulfillment aspect to the film,” Gibgot says. “It is a city where anything can happen and is obviously a giant melting pot of so many different cultures living together on this small island.”
ON THE SET
After weeks of daily dance rehearsals, principal photography on "Step Up 3D" began in May 2009. Over the course of the ten-week shoot, production would hopscotch across the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Iconic locations like Coney Island, Washington Square Park, Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge were interspersed with the lesser-known, more industrial sections of Brooklyn that illustrated an urban blight essential to telling the story.
It was in Greenpoint, a decaying Brooklyn neighborhood that is on the cusp of a renaissance, where the filmmakers transformed 10,000 square feet of a vacant commercial space into the three interior sets for the House of Pirates’ loft, also utilizing the adjacent rooftops that boasted extraordinary views of Manhattan across the river.
If the response by cast and crew was any indication, production designer Devorah Herbert and her team hit the mark when it came to creating a funky, eclectic space that was fully functional. Chu would often ask the dancers to free style for some of the dance montages and the sets allowed them free reign to do so.
The New York locale proved an inspiration not just to filmmakers, but to the cast, too. “New York City is crazy,” says Adam G. Sevani, who portrays Moose. “There’s no other place like it in the world. It really has a pulse—everybody’s moving and doing something. There’s a rhythm and a flow where everybody’s kind of dancing together. It’s actually pretty cool that we’re able to film here.”
One of the more memorable moments of filming on "Step Up 3D" was the four-day shoot for the World Jam battle, a herculean effort that entailed weeks of preparation in terms of construction, lighting, dancing, and the sheer number of people working to accomplish the film’s mind-blowing finale.
Key to their approach of high visual impact was injecting everything with vibrant electricity. From the production design to the lighting installation to costume design, every element of the scene was exploding with light and built to propel Rich & Tone’s ingenious choreography to the next level. An elevated coliseum-like stage was surrounded by towering vertical columns of LED video panels that televised a constant display of motion graphics from flames to a giant equalizer to pulsing colors.
Director of photography Ken Seng calls the lighting and technology display “epic,” citing the scope and use of new wind vision panels utilizing more than 1,000 dimmer channels, which awed the crowd before the dancers even hit the stage. His free-moving camera set-up allowed for his camera operators to fully capture the dance action playing out on stage.
Despite an early 4 a.m. arrival time, more than 1,000 people showed up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard eager to act as background and witness amazing dancing and filming of “Step Up 3D.”
“Dance is universal and our dance movie series is universally loved,” says producer Erik Feig. “Dance is such a fantasy; our dancers may make it look easy, but it's not! It's an amazing wish fulfillment to see people who are truly the best in the business pulling off new and exciting moves. Add to that a strong romance and relatable underdog characters and you have a winning formula around the world.”
POPULATING THE HOUSE OF PIRATES
Filmmakers Cast Net Wide to Fill High-Action Roles “Step Up 3D” expands the repertoire of dance by embracing a more global point of view and recruiting young fiery dancers who embodied it heart and soul. Integrating this into New York’s hypnotic underground dance scene provided a wealth of options for the filmmakers and would prove to be the crux of this new vision of the urban fairy tale.
With a multilayered story, electrifying dance sequences and intense drama, filmmakers were challenged with finding a well-rounded mix of actors, dancers and performers who could do both.
“Casting for this franchise is always complicated,” says Shankman. “We needed people who can act and dance alongside the best b-boys and b-girls. It’s wonderful to showcase the kinds of dancers that you don’t get to see as often. These kids are incredible athletes.”
Filmmakers kicked off the ensemble cast by welcoming back “Step Up 2 The Streets” veteran Adam G. Sevani and “Step Up’s” Alyson Stoner. The combined dance and acting ability of the two teens ensured that the MSA-tinged arc would remain a strong, compelling part of the "Step Up" story. The stars, who have known each other for years, reconnected to play best friends. “I’ve known Alyson Stoner forever,” says Sevani. “One of my first jobs ever was with her and now we’re playing best friends. It’s so strange. This is how we are.”
“We were instantly comfortable with each other,” adds Stoner. “Adam continually amazes me with how he expresses his character and personality in his dancing and acting. It was nice to be able to work so effortlessly together.”
Filmmakers next tackled the House of Pirates, a motley group of performers who live, dance and play together. This NYC group, who meets Moose and guides him through the shiny new world, features a diverse cast of characters—each with a gripping story.
Actor Rick Malambri portrays Luke, a hip video auteur who chronicles the city’s underground scene while simultaneously maintaining the House of Pirates. For Malambri, the role presented the opportunity to combine his newfound passion for acting with his longstanding one for dance. “How fortunate am I that my first major film role is in ‘Step Up 3D’ and I get to play this great character? As a performer, it allows me to show I’ve got a few talents up my sleeve,” says the actor.
Malambri’s chemistry with actress Sharni Vinson, a lithe Australian tapped for the role of the enigmatic Natalie, was palpable. Vinson, a former ballet dancer who went on to star in the popular Australian television series “Home and Away” (a launching pad for actors Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher, Heath Ledger and Simon Baker, among others), added a plucky refinement to the quirky cast of misfits. “It was weird,” says the actress of the audition. “I read with several actors, but when I walked out of the audition I knew that if I was going to get it, I was going to get it with Rick.”
Many of the dancers featured in “Step Up 3D” are celebrities in their own right. Chu especially was aware of many of the top dancers around the world via the online postings through his side project, the LXD—Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. The filmmakers cast a wide net—in and beyond the dance centers of Los Angeles, New York and Miami—to tap into young, up-and-coming talent who were needed to fill the more than 250 slots for the film’s astounding six dance sequences.
“Our Los Angeles audition was so huge that we had to add multiple days,” says Chu. “There were thousands of people who turned out in each city to show what they could do. Then we hit the Internet and opened up auditions to anyone who wanted to submit their own dance audition video online. As a result we have dancers from all over the world in the film. It’s one of the most amazing collections of talent in one place at one time that’s ever been assembled for a movie.”
Augmenting the live and online audition process was Shankman’s role on the hit Fox television series “So You Think You Can Dance.” Shankman, a former dancer and choreographer, has had a front-row seat for performances of the show’s influx of talented dancers, some of whom were tapped for “Step Up 3D.” Most notably is Stephen “tWitch” Boss, the remarkable runner-up in season four of the popular series, who has a co-starring role as Jason, the b-boy graffiti artist in the Pirate crew. Boss was one of thousands of hopefuls who flooded the dance auditions; the talented freestyler also wanted to try his hand at acting. “I was walking out of the dance audition,” he says, “and I asked Jon and Adam if I might be able to come in and read for a part. A couple of weeks later I came back in and read, which was a little nerve-racking but exciting. Soon after that I got the call.”
Joining Boss is season four winner Joshua Allen who goes head to head with Sevani in a mind-blowing battle, as well as Katee Shean (season four third-place finalist), Cedric Gardner (season three), Ivan Koumaev (season two) and Gerard Heintz (season one).
Says Shankman, “It’s gratifying to see these talented dancers transition from that competition setting and then actually go to work. It’s a nice payoff for them, and thrilling to see that the show is working.”
Several of the dancers hail from the LXD, a dance opera being told in three volumes. Chu created the dance group after he directed “Step Up 2 The Streets”; the group features many different kinds of dancers—from hip-hop, jazz and contemporary to tap, among others. They’ve performed on the “Glee” live tour, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the 2010 TED Conference and the 2010 Academy Awards®; 40 dancers appear in “Step Up 3D.”
“The idea for the movie came a lot from the LXD,” says Chu. “We were doing a show in my hometown, and the dancers were all staying at my house. Because they were always around, naturally, they were always moving or dancing. We had b-boys in my pool, poppers in my living room, contortionists in my kitchen. That’s how we came up with the idea for the House of Pirates. When it came time to cast, I had lots of ideas of who I wanted to recruit from the LXD and put in ‘Step Up 3D.’ I was looking for the best dancers to be in the movie, and the LXD already had some of the best dancers in the world—it just made sense.”
Real-life fairy tale stories abound for most of the supporting cast of dancers.
B-boy Keith “Remedy” Stallworth found himself cast in the supporting role of Jacob, an African refugee who finds his place and solace among the Pirates. Stallworth’s co-star tWitch isn’t surprised by the b-boy spring-boarding to a meaty acting role. “My boy Remedy keeps me on my A game—not only with dance, but with the acting thing in general. The way he approaches everything is all business.”
The titian-haired Kendra Andrews, a formally trained dancer, took planes, trains and automobiles for her final audition to land the role of Anala, the beatific mother hen to the Pirates.
And perhaps the most compelling tale that personifies the adage of being in the right place at the right time is that of identical twin tap dancers Martin and Facundo Lombard. The brothers, accomplished performance artists, stumbled upon New York’s long line of dancers waiting to audition for the film. The self-taught Argentinean dancers crashed the audition and wowed the filmmakers and the choreography team with their rousing footwork, larger-than-life personalities and inimitable personal style. “They just started dancing and we were amazed,” recalls supervising choreographer Jamal Sims. “It was totally something new and they had all this personality.”
Chu cast them on the spot and began to incorporate them into the script, crafting their on-camera alter egos, the Santiago twins, who would become a part of the House of Pirates.
Also joining the cast is a who’s who of bona fide dancers from b-boys Daniel “Cloud” Campos, Oren “Flearock” Michaeli, Ivan “Flipz” Perez, and Jonathan “Legacy” Perez, a member of The LXD and a recent contestant on season six of “So You Think You Can Dance” to tickers Aja “Asia” George, Straphanio “Shonnie” Solomon and Terrence Dickson to Joe Slaughter, Ashlee Nino and robot master Chadd “Madd Chadd” Smith, a mainstay of dance blogs and YouTube® as well as a member of The LXD.
Filmmakers brought back some of the more memorable characters featured in "Step Up 2 The Streets" for scenes in which Moose calls in his crew from MSA to inject a fresh dose of energy to his newfound friends, knowing that his old friends couldn’t resist the offer to battle the best dancers the world had to offer. Danielle Polanco’s sassy Missy and Mari Koda’s kinetic Japanese exchange student Jenny Kido are joined by Harry Shum Jr. (Cable, the gadget guru). Christopher Scott, who portrays the long-haired tap dancer returns sans the long locks; Luis Rosado returns as Monster, the acrobatic b-boy; LaJon Dantzler plays Smiles, the off-beat personality with the winning smile; and Janelle Cambridge plays Fly, the introvert who transforms into a gregarious girl when the music plays.
Rounding out the cast are four young dancers, including 8-year-old Anjelo “Lil Demon” Baligad (cast online when he posted an audition video and voted for Chu’s crew), 9-year-old Jalen “J Styles” Testerman, 11-year-old Simrin “BGirl Simi” Player and 15-year-old Jose “Boy Boi” Tena. The gifted breakers proved they could hold their own against dancers twice their age, hitting the dance floor stunning fellow cast, crew and background extras with their highly stylized acrobatic moves.
tWitch best sums up the collective feeling about the abundance of talent the film has to offer:“The cast in ‘Step Up 3D’ is just bananas.”