Scooter Braun on How Justin Bieber Inspired 'Jem and the Holograms' (Q&A)

Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The manager of some of music's biggest stars expands to film and TV.

Scooter Braun is best known for managing the careers of of more than 30 music artists including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. But he's been expanding into the film and TV world, producing CBS’s TV show Scorpion, Justin Bieber concert docs Never Say Never and Believe, and, now, the musical film Jem and the Holograms, in theaters this weekend.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (who helmed the Justin Bieber docs), Jem and the Holograms stars Aubrey Peeples as a young woman who becomes an internet sensation for her music.

THR spoke to Braun about working on the film, and building his empire.

How did you end up producing Jem and the Holograms?

Jon Chu. He teamed up with [producer] Jason Blum, and because there’s a lot of music involved, he told Jason, "Look, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to need Scooter to help me. We’re going to bring him on as a producer for music." I told Jason, “You know Jon is one of my best friends, we’ve made two movies together, we’ve had a lot of success, and he’s also the guy who introduced me to my wife." Then I understood why he needed my help. He had to go on to Now You See Me 2 in a couple months, so he needed me to do this movie quickly. He said, "So I need you to give me all the original music in two weeks." It was like an impossible challenge, which I like. So we spoke with the A&R team on it, and got all our writers and friends who write. We did 12 original songs in two weeks, and then picked the best seven.

Did you also get to help with the casting of the film?

I helped with the casting of Jem. We kind of went back and forth, and at the end of the day it was Jon’s call. We said, "We got someone who can actually sing, and she had that kind of attitude when she’s acting. She’s shy, but then she can open it up if she needs to. After Jon told me Aubrey got it, I FaceTimed with her. She was in Nashville. I said, "Listen, I just want to congratulate you on Jem."  And she’s like, "Oh my God! I got it?" Jon hadn't told her yet. So I said, "Jon’s going to call you later, and you have to pretend like you don't know." She played the part later for Jon, and a couple weeks later we told Jon that she already knew.

It's easy to see the parallels between Jem's rise as an internet star and the way Justin Bieber became a star. Did you influence the film's story?

I think I influenced it indirectly. I think that Jon Chu had done Never Say Never with us, and I think that project heavily affected his perspective on this. I don’t think that I directly influenced anything. I think just him being around us, and seeing how that real life story took place, he was able re-imagine Jerrica today.

What do you hope fans feel when they see the movie?

I hope they feel the heart. I think the reason why people loved Jem in the '80s was because it kind of gave them this story of a place to fit in. It's about finding your place. It has a tremendous amount of heart — it’s a great family movie. But I also love the fact that everyone I’ve screened it for has cried at the end.

You seem to be building an empire like what David Geffen's done. Is that your plan?

Actually, it was David Geffen who inspired me. He said go into music first and then you can go into everything else, because movies take years, TV takes years — music can change your life in a night. I’m having fun, and I’m waking up every morning and my staff is waking up every morning looking at each other and saying, "What can we do today that would be really cool?" I cannot complain about my life. I got a great wife, I got a great kid now and I get to wake up every morning and do something that I get paid to do, that I’d probably do for free.

Is there anything about the film and TV world that's more frustrating than the music world?

The only thing that’s so different is that it’s so much slower, and you really have to put your trust in other people a little bit more than you do with music because there are so many more people involved with film and TV. But I will tell you I get such joy out of the storytelling, and you know, the opportunity to work with more creative people. I’m having fun and I’m learning a lot.