Choreographer Paul Becker Talks Hellcats, Sucker Punch and the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

The young and talented choreographer Paul Becker has made quite a name for himself in the entertainment industry. Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, he fell in love with dance from a young age and has never stopped. At the age of 31, he is already one of the busiest choreographers in Hollywood. Currently, he is the lead choreographer of the CW television series Hellcats, starring Ashley Tisdale, and was the choreographer for the elaborate musical numbers in Zack Snyder’s recently released film Sucker Punch (2011). His other choreography projects include the highly anticipated film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1 (2011) and Part 2 (2012)), Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) and the sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2011), and Girl Walks Into a Bar (2011), the first full length movie released exclusively on YouTube with an ensemble cast including Carla Gugino, Zachary Quinto, Josh Hartnett, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Amber Valetta and Gil Bellows. As the protege of the genius Kenny Ortega, Becker has worked with Ortega on multiple projects including Jonas Brothers’ Concert World Tour. Furthermore, he received much praise for his choreography on the music video to Michael Buble’s hit single “Just Haven’t Met You Yet.”
Becker’s unique versatile style has made him a brilliant horror movie movement consultant. His work can be seen in Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take (2010; recently released on DVD and Blu-ray) and Joss Whedon’s upcoming film The Cabin in the Woods (2011).

Other notable film and television credits include Case 39 (2009), A Muppets Christmas Special: Letters to Santa (2008), Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (2008), Eragon (2006), Human Target, Reaper, The L Word, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen and So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

AC: When and how were you first introduced to dance?

PB: As a child I would watch films like Beat Street (1984) and White Nights (1985). I would always get up and do my version of the moves on TV. My mom would also show me Fred Astaire, but I didn’t think he was cool until much later.
Two girls invited me to take a hip hop class at their studio. From then on I was hooked. I quickly jumped into ballet, tap etc!

AC: Who were some of your role models as a young dancer and choreographer?

PB: Ben Vereen, Gene Kelly, Michael Jackson, Jack Cole, Bob Fosse.

AC: How did you meet Kenny Ortega and become his protege? What is like working with him?

PB: I met Kenny Ortega inside of FAO Schwartz Toy Store in NYC. Two weeks later he called me to fly to Seattle to choreograph a young boy band who we discovered to be the Jonas Brothers.

I have learned a lot about being a director, story telling and working on a large scale from Kenny.

AC: Aside from Kenny, who else has helped you to develop as both a dancer and choreographer?

I have had the pleasure to work with many great people like Debbie Allen, Bill Condon, Wes Craven, Zack Snyder, Alan Arkush, Rob Marshall, and Brian Levant. These people and more have helped inspire me and I continue to learn from people like these to develop into a great director.

AC: Let’s talk about some of your latest projects …

How did you become involved in CW’s television show Hellcats as the lead choreographer? What is your favorite episode so far?

PB: Kevin Murphy and Allan Arkush called me into a meeting and the rest is history.

It is a huge responsibility as I not only choreograph the dance moves, but everything is designed for the camera.

My favorite episode is episode 19 where Sharon Leal is starring in a huge Fosse Number!!! Stay tuned.

AC: You also did the dance choreography for Zack Snyder’s film Sucker Punch. How was your experience working on the film with Zack? Was it more difficult to choreograph because much of the film was shot in front of a green screen?

PB: Being the choreographer in Sucker Punch was an absolute blast. A huge 1950’s glam theatre was built to accommodate the huge production numbers. Each girl had their own special number. It was a choreographer’s dream.

AC: Is it more challenging to choreograph routines for a television show that has multiple episodes than for a film? What are some of those challenges?

PB: A television show is much more difficult. We are constantly casting, creating, rehearsing and shooting. I have no time to myself. It is a lot of work. We have to stay two episodes ahead in order to deliver on time.

The biggest challenge is time for rehearsal amongst the busy shooting schedule.

AC: What do you do when an actor or actress has a hard time learning a particular routine? Are there any favorite actors or actresses who you love to work with?

PB: I always have a plan b to adjust the choreography to suit the actors strength. I have never had a bad experience with an actor. I try to keep my time fun.

AC: Aside from dance choreography, you are a brilliant horror movie movement coach and choreographer. How did you first become involved and what are some similarities and differences when compared to dance choreography?

PB: Movement is movement. Choreography is the art of movement. My first horror film was on the series Masters of Horror. I quickly discovered I was good at it. There are many creatures and zombies that I have created for films like Cabin in the Woods, and My Soul to Take.

AC: Will you share with us a bit about your next project(s)? Also any revealing tidbits about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn?

PB: I am currently directing a documentary on song and dance legend Ben Vereen.

If I reveal anything about Twilight, I will have to release the vampires on you. I will say that I had a blast and it is going to be a great film. The cast was great to work with.

AC: What are some of your favorite films? If you could redo the dance choreography of one film, what would it be?

PB: If I could redo the choreography of a film it would be “Good Morning” in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). It is hard to change something already perfect, but it sure would be fun trying.

AC: Finally, do you have any expert tips to offer some of our dance challenged readers?

PB: Just do a basic “step touch” …keep it simple on the dance floor!!

Watch Hellcats on Tuesdays at 9pm / 8c on CW. Missed an episode? Catch up on Hulu.

Check out A Girl Walks Into a Bar on YouTube now.