New Line Cinema’s Sugar and Spice, which focuses on five high-school cheerleaders who decide to rob a bank when one gets pregnant, could have easily been the next Bring It On. Unfortunately for director Francine McDougall, it was a box-office disappointment. As someone who actually saw Sugar and Spice when it was in theaters, I was surprised at its poor box-office receipts. After all, the film was more mature than Bring It On, had just as many laughs and was equally as irresistible– you could almost call it “Bring It On Part 2.” But something stopped teens across America from flocking to the movie, and thus prevented this Australian director’s first feature film from being a box-office success. Recently I got a chance to speak with her about the film and its DVD release, as well as just what made audiences shy away from this intelligent teen comedy.
When I saw Sugar and Spice at an advanced screening, I was actually surprised by how smart it was. The trailers almost dismissed it as another dumb teen comedy that was just trying to ride the wave of success Bring It On had. In reality though, the film is quite dark and very mature– something that teens who feel their intelligence is being insulted with every Freddie Prinze Jr. movie would really enjoy. Did you have any say in the film’s marketing? If not, did you approve of what New Line was doing with the film’s trailers when you did see them? ^ I actually had nothing to do with its marketing. In fact, no one really has much influence on what the studio does to market a film. I know that they had a hard time with Sugar and Spice because the MPAA wouldn’t let them show any guns or that Diane (Marley Shelton) was pregnant, and that was basically the main story. So they had a big challenge on how to market it since there was so much they couldn’t show. When they did send the trailers over for me to look at I suggested some shots to put in it, but that was about it. It was really just comes down to that it was a hard film to market. They wanted to market to teens, but it was sophisticated in ways. The humor works for both a younger audience and older audience, and that didn’t really get across in the trailers.
I am used to watching DVDs from New Line and nearly all of them have over an hour of bonus materials. However, for a New Line Cinema DVD, Sugar and Spice is lacking in its bonus content. Besides four deleted scenes and talent filmographies, the DVD doesn’t have much to offer. Why isn’t there a director’s commentary, something that is almost on every DVD release these days? ^ That’s a good question and I honestly don’t know. I was more than willing to do it. In fact, Marley Shelton and James Marsden said they would have done it with me if we were asked by the studio to do one. They are hilarious and I know it could have been really funny. Unfortunately though the studio didn’t ask me to do one. I didn’t push it either since I guessed that comedies don’t usually have one.
What about other DVD bonus features? While there are four deleted scenes on the DVD, combined they don’t even run ten minutes. Did you have any say as to what went on the DVD, or any idea that virtually no special features were going to be included? ^ I am so out of the loop at this stage. It’s really hard to stay in the loop once it moved on to a different department. There was an electronic press kit that was made for the film as well as some behind-the-scenes stuff that I was really hoping would make it onto the DVD but didn’t. I’m just assuming the studio discovered that the people who watch these styles of just aren’t interested in it, so it isn’t worth their time and money. I must admit though that I am kind of disappointed. I always think of DVD bonus materials like a hidden track on a CD or a buy one get one free offer. It’s not just about the great picture and sound quality. Look at There’s Something About Mary. During the director’s commentary the Farrelly brothers spend the whole time listing the film’s many extras since most of them are all friends or family. It’s so funny and you don’t get a chance to see that on the VHS version.
As I mentioned before, the few deleted scenes that made it onto the DVD run under ten minutes long, so obviously they weren’t cut because of time constraints. Why were they cut? ^ Mainly they were cut out because they would have given the film an R-rating, in particular the scene involving Kansas’s mom giving birth. I was really upset that scene didn’t go in too, but the MPAA kept saying that ‘it’s sex, it’s sex.’ I was like ‘oh please it’s so not sex, it’s shadows,’ but it still had to come out. What really pissed me off though is about three weeks later the MPAA gave The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps a PG-13 rating and they have this huge hamster sex scene. I mean where exactly do they draw the line? Shadows jumping on bed is not aloud, but hamsters having sex is? It’s just weird.
Speaking of the MPAA, did you get any hassle from them regarding the bank robbery or Diane’s pregnancy? I can almost hear them harping that the film condones violence and teen sex. ^ The thing with the MPAA is that they usually don’t watch the whole movie again. Sometimes they just watch the scenes they had problems with the first time around. That’s potential inspiration for a director since you know that after the first screening the MPAA is watching your film with a lazy eye. (Laughs)
While Sugar and Spice marked your feature film debut, you have directed before. Your short film “Pig!” actually won the prize for Best Short film at 1998’s Sundance Film Festival and you recently wrote/directed/produced “Mosaic,” a six-part documentary on sub-cultures found in Los Angeles. What made you chose Sugar and Spice, a film that is classified as a dark teen comedy, as the first film to make you recognized as a Hollywood mainstream director? ^ Actually my short films “Pig!” and “The Date” have the same theme– comedy. I really like comedy. It’s a box-office poison, but I know it’s poison. But as for what drew me specifically to Sugar and Spice, I liked where the bad girls came from and was eager to explore why they acted the way they do. I mean, sometimes you can pick out who is trouble, but there are always people out there that really shock you. Most of the girls in the film came from normal loving backgrounds; they just turned crime to help a friend. I liked that.
Read the complete interview in part two of GIVE ME SOME SUGAR: A FRANCINE MCDOUGALL INTERVIEW>>>