A chorus of “It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it” resounded after Paul Becker scored one of his hottest gigs in January.
The Victoria-born director, dancer and choreographer staged sexy end-zone sequences for a glossy Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl commercial that put a steamy spin on fantasy football.
“And you made fun of me for being a dancer!” Becker wrote in messages he texted to old high school friends along with photos of Victoria’s Secret models.
In the eye-catching commercial, Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews plays a coach encouraging five “Victoria’s Secret Angels” to “score more,” with the girls’ football plays choreographed like dance numbers.
It marked the start of another busy year for the grownup B-boy, who has come a long way since the days he performed with Kim Breiland’s Stages Dance Company.
The busy Los Angeles-based triple threat has since worked with stars including Ariane Grande, Michael Bublé, Ben Vereen, Liza Minnelli, Kristin Chenoweth, Miley Cyrus and The Muppets.
Becker has also frequently collaborated with his mentor Kenny Ortega, most recently on Disney’s Descendants, filmed here two years ago.
While the former Spectrum Community School student has received praise for his film and TV work that includes Twilight, So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Mirror, Mirror and episodes of Once Upon a Time, he’s particularly pumped about finally making his feature-film directorial debut. Becker wrapped principal photography in New York last winter for Breaking Brooklyn, on which he was co-writer and choreographer.
Set in Brooklyn over Christmas, the dramatic feature focuses on a homeless 12-year-old aspiring tap dancer (Colin Critchley) and his rebellious older brother (Nathan Kress), who seek shelter in an old theatre. After meeting two forgotten Broadway legends played by Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) and Vondie Curtis-Hall (Dreamgirls) who teach them old-school dance moves, they unite to save a Brooklyn landmark.
“We had a decent budget, which was good because I could execute some of the things I wanted, and I got phenomenal actors,” said Becker, who wrote the script with Rory Owen Delaney while living in Brooklyn.
While there is one big tap- dance number and a “great finale,” with some Broadway and hip-hop in the mix, Breaking Brooklyn isn’t a conventional movie musical.
“It’s more of a Billy Elliot-meets-The Pursuit of Happyness,” Becker said. “It’s more music-driven and it’s got heart. All the dance numbers have a story.”
Becker said the narrative shows how the wide-eyed young wannabe dancer unites these “old showmen who don’t talk to each other anymore and resurrects their careers, scene by scene.”
Gossett, Jr., who became a “father figure,” was “very supportive and great to work with,” Becker said. “I had always wanted to tell this story,” he said. “It came to me while I was riding the subway in Brooklyn. I wrote the first draft on the subway.”
While Breaking Brooklyn, due this Christmas, is in post-production, Becker is completing the screenplay for his next film, among other projects.
Descendants 2 is on the horizon, and he’s working with Neil Patrick Harris, who plays villainous Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events, the new Netflix series shooting in Vancouver.
“It’s pretty epic and the sets and everything are amazing. I’m just blown away by the artistry. And [Harris] is great to work with,” Becker said.
Becker also directed and co-choreographed the closing ceremonies for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, which featured Serena Ryder, Pitfull and Kanye West. “It was always a dream of mine to actually do a big games show,” Becker said. “There were 60,000 people in the stadium. It was nuts.”
Despite what the tabloids say about Kanye West, the outspoken rapper was great to work with, Becker said. “He was very collaborative and creative and a gentleman to everyone. That was my Kanye experience.” Becker also reunited with Sofia Carson, who played Evie in Descendants, on Disney Channel’s remake of Chris Columbus’s comedy Adventures in Babysitting. “It’s a movie I grew up with, so I was really excited to be involved,” Becker said.
Doing Descendants remains one of his most gratifying experiences, said Becker, who is returning to take part in a master class at St. Andrew’s Regional High School on April 17 at 1:45 p.m.
Becker will share industry insights and participate in a Q&A. Mark Samuels, a dancer in Descendants, will teach choreography from the film.
An open call for experienced dancers will be held for Becker’s future films. “I never get the chance to really teach and give back and see new talent, so it’s a good opportunity,” he said.
For details, go to paulbeckermasterclass.com or call Stages at 250-384-3267.