Features and Columns · Movies

26 Things We Learned from the ‘Spring Breakers’ Commentary

“He’s kind of like a cosmic gangster. like some kind of strange gangster mystic. you think he’s one way, and then he starts going into outer space. From booties to god in a split instant.”
Spring Breakers
By  · Published on July 11th, 2013

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, we listen as Harmony Korine discusses his 2013 film, Spring Breakers.

Harmony Korine caused a bit of a stir with Spring Breakers. Not only did it feature former Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens cutting loose in a wild sequence of debauchery in Florida, but it also touched on subjects like racism, rape culture, and adolescent violence.

Korine gives his sometimes pretentious insight into his film on the DVD and Blu-ray commentary, describing the origins of the film in hedonistic modern American imagery from frat parties and real spring break excursions. Much of the filmmaking techniques are pretty obvious from watching the film, but he also offers stories from the set, including Gomez’s nervousness about the ever-present paparazzi and how he brought elements from his own colorful childhood into the film.

The movie wasn’t for everyone, but Korine’s commentary adds to the notoriety with information that ranges from the esoteric to the rustic.

Spring Breakers (2013)

Commentator: Harmony Korine

1. The opening party scenes on the beach were shot in St. Petersburg, Florida. The production hired regular extras and real spring breakers, as well as girls who worked at the local Hooters and various strip clubs (which probably explains all the fake boobs in the shots).

2. The scenes of the boring college the girls escape from, which was meant to be somewhere much more boring than Florida, were shot in Ringling College in Florida.

3. Faith’s (Gomez) youth group preacher was a WWE wrestler. The role originally was offered to Val Kilmer. Korine describes the role as: “Kind of amped-up, crazy, loved-up on Jesus. A lot of the youth ministers growing up had that thing. They were kind of like wrestlers, only they were wrestling for Jesus.”

4. Gomez smokes in her second scene, which was one of the first times she ever smoked a cigarette. She was excited to give it a try on set, but she ended up not liking it.

5. The frat party at the college was originally designed as a single continuous shot, which followed Cotty (Rachel Korine) through the party. However, the shot was edited down because it ran too long.

6. Korine used handheld cameras and Steadicam to keep the image in near-constant motion. He did not want the camera to settle anywhere, but rather have image and sound float throughout the film.

7. Korine describes the scenes leading up to the robbery of the Chicken Shack as “liquid film,” which is an assembly of micro scenes rather than a traditional narrative, which he later also calls “a collection of moments.” The repetitive dialogue is meant to emulate loop-based music or sample music, as well as a hypnotic drug experience.

8. Rachel Korine did all of the driving, including the stunt driving, leading up to and including the robbery of the Chicken Shack.

9. Hudgen’s line “Seeing all this money makes my pussy wet” comes from a rap song by Gucci Mane (who plays Archie in the film). The original lyric is, “Seeing all this money makes my dick hard.”

10. The girls were worried when shooting the scene of them peeing on the side of the road because throughout the production there were paparazzi everywhere. To get the shot, male members of the crew had to build a blind with palm trees to avoid the paparazzi taking pictures of the girls squatting.

11. The majority of the film was shot in 35mm anamorphic film. Some of the spring break party scenes were shot on VHS and PowerShovel cameras, to offer a harsher, grainier image.

12. Korine suggests that Faith is really being honest in her phone conversation with her grandmother. He believes she really would like to bring her grandmother with her on spring break in the future.

13. Much of the kissing that takes place in the movie (in particular the Florida frat party scene and Alien’s “Look at My Shit” scene) is modeled after kissing in a porno movie, using wide-open mouths and lacking intimacy. “Porn is romance now,” Korine explains.

14. Much of the film’s dialogue was improvised based on suggestions from Korine as well as ideas that arose on set. The entire parking lot sequence in which the girls begin to sing a Britney Spears song and later re-enact the Chicken Shack robbery was developed on the set.

15. The pre-arrest coke party took place in a real abandoned motel, and Korine instructed the actors to destroy the room. However, once he got people started, he couldn’t get them to stop easily. Similarly, the jail scene was shot in a real jail, and the girls were held in a real holding cell.

16. Korine and James Franco worked on the character of Alien for a year, basing him on people Korine went to high school with as well as pictures and videos of white southern rappers. Additional elements to the character emerged from Franco hanging out with Dangeruss on set.

17. Franco’s first scene that was shot was in the park after he bailed the girls out of jail. Franco did not rehearse for the role traditionally, and Korine was nervous until he started talking during the scene, and he realized Franco had the character.

18. The park where Alien takes the girls was in a bad area of town, where a dead body had recently been found. Also, Korine recalls a severed finger was found in the park.

19. The scene in the pool hall was originally to take place in a bowling alley, but Korine wanted something more “legit.” So, he drove around the hood until he found a place to work. Many of the extras in that scene were the regular clientele of the pool hall, which freaked the girls out during the shoot. Korine says that the pool hall may have been shut down shortly after production.

20. The scene in the back room of the pool hall, where thugs were hanging out with pit bulls, was unplanned. Korine found the room and then grabbed Gomez while she was ready to wrap for the day. He put her in the scene with Franco, giving him limited direction to make her feel uncomfortable. The scene was shot four or five times, leading to real tears from Gomez.

21. The raw footage for Alien’s “Look at My Shit” scene runs 35 to 40 minutes, filled with blue Kool-Aid and shorts of every color, yo.

22. Gucci Mane was in prison when Korine offered him the part of Archie. The entourage that surrounds him throughout his scenes is the actual crew he brought with him to Florida.

23. Mane smoked so many blunts during production that Franco got physically ill one day.

24. The gun barrel blow job scene arose from improvisation on set. Korine suggested the girls emasculate Alien by sticking the gun barrels in his mouth. It was then Franco’s idea that Alien would get turned on, leading him to perform oral sex on the guns. After this scene, Korine describes the film as a love story.

25. Korine made Archie’s hitman a woman because he felt violent behavior was more shocking when perpetrated by a female. This is the same reason he feels the robbery of the Chicken Shack (and its subsequent parking lot recreation) works as a shocking element of the film.

26. During Archie’s sex scene with the “girl with an insane ass,” right before he is killed, Mane actually fell asleep and began snoring on set. He woke up to say, “It’s like you’re playing Mozart on my dick,” a line that was added to the film.

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

At times, Korine seems perfectly at home talking over his movie, offering some interesting insight into how scenes were conceived, lit, and shot. He doesn’t offer too much technical information beyond what is fiercely obvious in the film itself (like saying that the colors in the film are a character). He does get overly obvious at times (see above in Best in Commentary for some examples), and on the surface, his awareness of his own composition seems to be pretty shallow. However, he did manage to make a visually striking film.

Still, the commentary slides into silliness a few times, like when he says, “We lit that car on fire for real. Blew that shit up. Old-ass El Camino is gone.” Whether Korine is actually aware of this and speaking ironically or so self-absorbed that he doesn’t realize he sounds like the characters he’s put on display, I’ll leave for the viewer to decide. This is a personal film for him, which is clear with the focus he puts on the character of Alien.

Fans of Korine should enjoy the ride through the discussion. However, if you were annoyed with the movie, you’ll likely be annoyed with the commentary as well.

Related Topics: ,