HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 26: Singer Katy Perry arrives at the premiere of Paramount… (Jason Merrit / Getty Images )
The music industry churns out numerous top-selling artists every year, many of them with interesting back stories. So why did Paramount decide to make a movie about Katy Perry (the fruits of which can be seen as "Katy Perry: Part of Me" hits theaters today)?
For starters, it nearly didn't.
Paramount chief Adam Goodman acknowledges that he and other studio executives thought long and hard about whether to move forward with a film after they were offered 300 hours of tour and backstage footage shot by an independent company Perry had hired.
"We were sitting on the fence and trying to decide whether to do this or not," Goodman, whose studio previously had a surprise hit with a nonfiction film about another musical superstar, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” told 24 Frames of a period this past winter. "And we did a lot of research, as is always the case, to see if a life holds enough interest to attract an audience."
Goodman said the studio ultimately decided that Perry was a "woman who is utterly fresh and utterly audacious in everything she does.” He and his staff would hire people to comb through the footage and cull a film that could come out during the summer, a time when the studio also happened to be thin on releases.
Goodman wasn’t the only Hollywood veteran who deliberated over his involvement. When Paramount decided to make a movie, executives at the studio called Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the reality-television impresarios known as Magical Elves, to see whether they would be willing to craft a movie out of the raw material. But the pair weren't sure it was for them.
“We really thought hard about it because we hadn’t shot the footage … and it was also an insane time frame to edit a movie.” (The call from Paramount came at the end of February; the first studio screening would take place a scant eight weeks later).
The Elves also said they were concerned that the footage often came from only one camera; on their own shows and on the Bieber movie, which they worked on, there are frequently multiple cameras shooting at once.
Cutforth and Lipsitz were ultimately convinced there was a film in Perry’s life story, intrigued by the singer's upbringing as the daughter of a traveling preacher and her struggles with several labels before she found her footing. The Elves also were taken by the trajectory of the singer's recent life--namely, how her career was blowing up as her marriage to actor Russell Brand was imploding. (The finished film intersperses live 3-D concert footage and interviews with both Perry and her entourage/employees about the star’s life and career. The Brand aspects are there, but hardly a focus.)
Adding another layer to the film’s production complexity was the editing-room presence of Perry, who is known for overseeing even small details of herperformances. It’s not exactly common for a documentary subject to have a strong say over how they’re presented. (Exactly how much control she had over the final product is a matter of debate. "I didn't give up any creative control. I was in the edit bay every single time,” the singer has told 24 Frames. Cutforth remembers it differently. “She spent some time in the edit bay here and there… We got through a couple of cuts before she saw it. Then she saw it and had some thoughts about it.”)
The reviews so far have been mixed -- a Gawker review, for instance, argued that the movie was a carefully controlled exercise in imagemaking as much as a full-fledged portrait of its subject. “There's more revealed about Madonna in a single snort or eye roll in 1991's 'Truth or Dare' than there is Katy Perry in the entirety of 'Part of Me,' " it says.
Still, those involved say the film is a worthy depiction of an inspirational subject. "When you look back at the road and how she got here, it's like ‘Rocky’ or any great sports movie,” Goodman said. “There are so many ups and downs and obstacles to overcome, but she never stopped believing in herself."
Movie review: 'Katy Perry: Part of Me'
Magical Elves: With Katy Perry movie, a reality-TV empire grows
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT