“Bring It On,” behind the scenes in Malibu


If you’re wondering why a “Bring It On” musical, launched over a decade after the release of the 2000 feature film, has become a success, consider that the Kirsten Dunst cheerleader comedy’s popularity has never waned. Can you cheer “S-T-R-A-I-G-H-T T-O D-V-D F-R-A-N-C-H-I-S-E!”?

Since the release of screenwriter Jessica Bendinger’s original hit, “Bring It On” follow-ups have come fast and furious: 2004’s “Bring It On Again,” “All or Nothing” (2006), “In It to Win It” (2007), and “Fight to the Finish” (2009)

The last film was both set and shot in Malibu, and starred singer Christina Milian as an East L.A. teen who relocates to the fictitious Malibu Vista High, where she competes to join the posh school’s cheerleading team but must face off against its snobby rich-girl captain, Avery (Rachele Brooke Smith).

Smith, a vivacious 24-year-old rising star, told The Malibu Times how beach scenes and the “Avery” home footage (shot across two days) were filmed around Zuma Beach. Gym scenes were filmed at Cal State Northridge and East L.A. scenes at Boyle Heights’ Roosevelt High. Smith loved working with Woodruff and still socializes with co-stars Vanessa Born, Nikki SooHoo and Gabrielle Dennis.

SooHoo said she was a fan of the original “Bring It On” when she was growing up.

“Making these films, I gained a respect for gymnasts and cheerleaders,” SooHoo said. The hardest part of cheerleading bootcamp? “Trusting that your teammates were not going to drop you. It really is teamwork.”

Born already knew Malibu before shooting, having discovered a rocky Point Dume perch.

“It’s my thinking chair,” said Born, who still meditates there. “That is the place where my dreams come true.”

SooHoo, too, knew Malibu prior to filming. Back in junior high, classes at her Orange County school paired up with universities, which the respective classes visited. “My class was Pepperdine,” she said. “The first time I visited Malibu, I fell in love with it.”

After spending a decade in sales and marketing at HBO, screenwriter Elena Song was hired to pen the screenplays for the last two “Bring It On” installments. Fresh off of a vacation to Turkey, screenwriter Elena Song told The Times her original “Fight” script had “more about teamwork, more female empowerment stuff.” Song, who polished up Alyson Fouse’s screenplay on the fourth installment, took lead writing on number five, on which Fouse shares a co-credit.

Producers asked Song to “give it that ‘Bring It On 3’ flavor,” she said. (Universal considered “All or Nothing” a benchmark among the sequels.) Song excels in structure while Fouse “has that trash talk down.” At the Beverly Hills premiere of “Fight to the Finish,” the film’s director, Bille Woodruff, facetiously apologized to Song for streamlining her script. Nevertheless, Song enjoyed the finished product.

“These movies inspire a lot of girls and show them anything’s possible,” Born said.

Such female empowerment messages emanate from Jessica Bendinger, the writer of the original “Bring It On” film. Over the summer, screenwriter Song was happy to learn about the franchise creator’s reached a legal settlement with the producers of the musical for borrowing too heavily from her storyline. Bendinger won above-the-title credit on the production.

SooHoo also paid tribute to the “Bring It On” founder.

“She totally deserves it. She created a staple for that whole cheerleading world.”