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The writer of 'Pitch Perfect' directs her first movie — a sex-centric teen comedy that plays with double standards




(L-R) Kay Cannon, Leslie Mann, Gideon Adlon, Ike Barinholtz, Geraldine Viswanathan, and John Cena at the L.A. premiere of
(L-R) Kay Cannon, Leslie Mann, Gideon Adlon, Ike Barinholtz, Geraldine Viswanathan, and John Cena at the L.A. premiere of "Blockers."
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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Picture this: a comedy about teenagers on a quest to lose their virginities on prom night. It’s probably easy to imagine because it’s been done before — and over and over again. But the new movie “Blockers,” directed by Kay Cannon, puts a fresh spin on things by playing with gender stereotypes. 

The movie is about three teenage girls determined to have sex for the first time on prom night. But “Blockers” is also about how they form their own identities apart from their parents and classmates, and how their parents struggle to deal with the sex of it all.

"Blockers" is Cannon's directorial debut.  She’s made her career as a writer and producer on TV shows such as “New Girl,” “Girlboss” and “30 Rock.” She also wrote the “Pitch Perfect” movies. Before working behind the camera, Cannon studied theater and improv. 

The Frame host John Horn spoke with Cannon about her career in comedy and about what she hopes audiences take away from "Blockers."

Interview highlights: 

On how she brought a female perspective to a film written and produced by men: 

To the guys' credit — and they're all so awesome — they took it as far as they knew from their male perspective. So I come in and needed to come at it from my perspective. It was important to me for the young women playing the daughters to be real. When they talk to each other, it's real. Their story lines are real and interesting. They're not just these daughters that parents are trying to stop from having sex. They have specific story lines and are distinguishable from one another. Specificity was really important. I felt like we worked really hard on that. When I said yes to directing, there were things I wanted to change and wanted to do. I went in and it was literally me and, like, 10 guys. And again, this is a rated R comedy and Point Grey [Pictures] does rated R comedies better than anybody. So I had a lot to learn from them. But I did feel like there was this [sense of], This moment feels a little rough, this doesn't ring true to me

On the role that consent plays in the film:

Something that was important to me was this idea of consent. There was a scene where Kayla is about to take a drink of alcohol. And I told the producers, She cannot take a sip until she has told her date that she wants to have sex tonight. She has to give consent before a sip of alcohol. And it's not that they didn't know that or understand that, but they were like, No, they can be partying or whatever! And I was like, No. It's not consent if she's under the influence at all. Those may seem like little things, but they were big things to me. 

On whether there's a bias in Hollywood against depicting women as independent in their sexual identities:

Certainly. Us ladies struggle with getting our own rights over our bodies from the beginning of time. Or control. Or equal pay. All of these things. For us to feel equal and have a say in what we do in our everyday lives ... that includes sex and who we have sex with and when we decide. All of that has always been controversial. It's just a way to not allow us to be empowered.

On the importance of having mentors:

Luckily for me I had Tina Fey. She literally opened up doors for me in terms of hiring me at "30 Rock," to write. That was my first real job. And I just learned so much from her. I got to see someone who broke through the glass ceiling of comedy writers in that she was the first female head writer at "Saturday Night Live." She's also a mom, she also runs her own company. There's a lot to learn. In that way I felt really good. I love John Hughes, so I didn't even think at the time that he was influencing me so much. But I remember his movies ... "Pretty in Pink," "Breakfast Club." I thought "Weird Science" was the funniest movie I had ever seen. 

“Blockers” opens on April 6.



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