Hollywood Comes to Campus

Disney produces a remake of the 1978 cult classic The Initiation of Sarah on Centenary’s campus. The movie, starring Summer Glau, Mika Boorem, Morgan Fairchild and Jennifer Tilly will air the week of Halloween on the ABC Family Channel.

'The Initiation' Films on Campus

With hurricane-displaced television productions and motion pictures being filmed all over Shreveport and North Louisiana in the past year, it was almost inevitable that one would end up filming at Centenary and several others would continue to scout the photogenic buildings and grounds of the campus.

The first television movie* to be filmed at Centenary is The Initiation of Sarah, which was on campus intermittently for two weeks in May. A co-venture between MGM and the ABC/Disney Family Channel, it will air during a series of ghostly-themed evenings leading up to Halloween “probably the Sunday before Halloween,” said Lampton Enochs, its producer.

The Initiation is a remake of a 1978 TV flick that starred Kay Lenz, Shelley Winters and Morgan Fairchild. Enochs describes it as “a tongue-in-cheek take on sorority life and the battle between good and evil. It is written in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that is, a few laughs and a few scares.”

This time around the actresses are Summer Glau, Mika Boorem, Morgan Fairchild and Jennifer Tilly. Director is Stuart Gillard and executive producer is Hudson Hickman, a native Mississippian who was instrumental in locating the production locally.

“The campus is going to look great,” Enochs said. “We’re pleased that we landed here. Centenary added a lot to the production values of the movie.

Those who have been on campus will notice familiar locations but will note also that the magic of Hollywood has transformed the granite main entrance sign to read “Temple Hill University.” And while much of the movie was filmed at Centenary, other locations around town, including the campus of LSU in Shreveport, were used as well.

Some of the Centenary locations for The Initiation of Sarah were:

  • The Quad area alongside the columns of Mickle Hall and bounded by Hamilton Hall and the back of Magale Library, which was the backdrop for an opening-of-school day scene that seemed to be shot and re-shot for almost an entire day.
  • Crumley Gardens, where a dam was built to form a small pond into which a stunt person was catapulted by means of a forklift and pulley arrangement.
  • Anderson Circle, which formed the backdrop for the scene in which Morgan Fairchild’s character returns to her alma mater and drops off her twin nieces on their first day of college.
  • The Fitness Center, where the men’s locker room was transformed into a ladies shower area (used because the ladies’ locker room was “too nice” for the scene) and the dance room and gymnasium were also used.
  • Hamilton Hall lobby, where a walled-in office complete with a stained glass window, was constructed and furnished for scenes in an administrator’s office.
  • A Hamilton Hall first-floor office for a view of actors walking past the Hargrove Band Shell and up the walkway to the building.
  • Cline Hall courtyard, where fake smoke and fire, along with firemen and hoses, portrayed the action around a mysteriously set conflagration.

When filming began during the first week of May, some campus constituencies wondered whether the movie’s presence at that particularly busy time—just before commencement—was a good thing or not. Production trucks occupied parking lots, cables ran across campus and detours were common. The three early May days were necessary due to conflicting actor schedules. By Thursday, the filmmakers moved on other locations until mid-May, when the post-semester parking situation was much better.

Meanwhile, a scout and location manager for a motion picture starring Denzel Washington showed up on Friday, May 5, to look for locations on campus conducive to a 1930s-era film. Since then, Washington himself has made a tour around campus, though no decisions have yet been made concerning actual locations.

Earlier, representatives of The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, and Factory Girl, starring Sienna Miller, had made several visits to Centenary, though neither ended up filming on campus. Factory Girl director George Hickenloper, a graduate of both Yale University and film school, commented while touring campus that a liberal arts education was the best possible preparation he could have found for the challenges of the film industry.

In all, more than a dozen productions have sent scouts, producers and directors touring around Centenary spaces and throughout Shreveport-Bossier locations. Enochs, who earlier had worked with the television series Thief during its filming in Shreveport, is one of many who hopes to help build the film industry in Shreveport.

“We would like to bring a lot of jobs to Shreveport and would like to see Centenary graduates look to the film industry for employment,” he said. The former New Orleans production company consultant sees Shreveport as the best area in the state for year-round filming.

Already several Centenary alumni have worked with several productions and many Centenary students served as extras during The Initiation of Sarah and other films. There are opportunities for internships and chances to meet with various film industry professionals in class and beyond.

Communications specialist for Centenary Kelsey Johnson writes about her experience as an extra in The Initiation of Sarah below. As the film industry continues its expansion in North Louisiana, other Centenarians will have tales to tell about their roles in its growth.

- by Lynn Stewart, Editor, Centenary Magazine

Movies in Shreveport Area Mean New Opportunities for Centenary Theatre and Film Students

Having a dozen or so movies filming in Shreveport in the past year has brought the once-distance industry to the steps of the campus. That’s been a boon for Centenary students following the film/television/video track in the communication program and those majoring in theatre.

It’s one thing to talk about acting or filming in the classroom and entirely something else to shadow a director or producer putting together a feature film right before one’s eyes. Or to work as an extra or intern. Or to watch the construction of sets and see stunts right on campus. Or to chat over coffee with a location manager or executive producer.

Along with the productions in town has also come a great opportunity to highlight Centenary programs and area attractions. Centenary’s film/television/video track is structured to teach students to express themselves and communicate with others using various electronic and film media. The track description states, “With a liberal arts perspective and extensive production experience, students will have the opportunity to become creative artists and analysts of the media who have a strong sense of the complex realities of the role that film, television and video play in communications.” Centenary’s theatre and dance program teaches all aspects of creating a full-scale theatrical production, including acting, directing, costume design, set design, sound and makeup.

Though many of the Hollywood productions initially moved to North Louisiana following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the discovery of all that the area has to offer is attracting others beyond those displaced from the New Orleans area. Fueled by Louisiana’s best-in-the-nation tax incentives, the film industry is a new growth industry
in North Louisiana and Centenary students and faculty are poised to contribute to it.

Related item, Nov. 2006: National NBC Nightly News Item about Shreveport as a Hot Film Location

  • Note: the independent film The St. Tammany Miracle was filmed on the Centenary campus in the early 1990s.

- by Lynn Stewart, Editor, Centenary Magazine

The Initiation of an Extra

Kelsey Johnson ’05, communications specialist for Centenary’s Office of Public Relations, goes on assignment to check out what it takes to be an extra.

Thursday, April 20
10:14 AM
Needless Nerves

I can’t believe I was actually nervous going to the casting call in the SUB this morning. I guess I assumed they’d make me audition or something. But, it was more or less a painless experience. Just fill out some paperwork describing yourself (weight, height, hair/eye color, etc.) and provide contact information, get your picture taken and you’re done. No big deal.

Tuesday, April 25
1:53 PM
Extra! Extra!
I just got a call from the extras casting office for The Initiation of Sarah. The woman said they want to cast me as a preppy college student—and, as some of my friends have quipped, that shouldn’t be too hard to pull off.
After explaining that the film, which is set in the fall, will be shot on Centenary’s campus May 1–3, the woman from the casting office listed what I’d be required to wear:
* khakis, nice jeans, or a skirt or dress
* no white, black or red colors; only light colors, even pastels
* no brand names or graphics
* “loafers or clean, expensive looking sneakers” (What prep these days actually wears loafers? And yes, she actually said “sneakers.”)
I’ll report to the extras holding location at 6 a.m. Monday morning wearing my first choice of clothing while toting four other outfits for the wardrobe department to pick from. My hair and makeup should already be done when I arrive on set, and I need to bring my photo ID along with any “preppy props” like a laptop, books, etc.

Monday, May 1
6:06 AM
Early Start to a Long Day
The sun barely peeks over the horizon as the extras parade into the Fitness Center, carrying duffle bags, purses and pastel skirts on hangers. It resembles college move-in day on a predominantly female campus. Everywhere I turn there is a stereotypical sorority girl clutching a makeup case and teetering in her trendy heels.

Where are the guys? I wonder as I join the estrogen procession, feeling very much out of place in this miniature world of blondes in low-cut blouses. A few sleepy-eyed males finally stumble in at the rear of the line, trying their best to get it together so they can fill out the paperwork all of the extras have been handed.

Once we sign the paperwork, we are shuffled through another line in which people from wardrobe choose our first outfits from the three to four changes of clothes we were each instructed to bring. Some of us (namely the scantily clothed ones) were griped at for not bringing appropriate autumn attire.

The film is set in Oregon during autumn, but we were all decked out for a mild Louisiana season. Evidently there had been some miscommunication among wardrobe personnel because the extras were all given different instructions for outfits over the phone.

Wear the blue sweater you have on, but change out of those jeans and put on this khaki skirt and these white tennis shoes. I follow the lady’s instructions and go change in the upstairs bathroom.

When I return, most of the extras are still receiving instructions regarding their wardrobe, so I sit down to read and chat with the people around me.

Long rows of tables and chairs run the width of the gymnasium. I estimate there are close to 200 extras packed in the room, and I am curious as to my chance of actually being recognizable in one of the scenes being shot today.

7:14 AM
Introductions
One of the movie guys, Derrick, introduces himself to the extras, shouting above the crowd’s noise to get our attention. He’s a hefty guy with dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail, boasting a huge grin and plenty of energy and enthusiasm to spare. He pumps up the extras, telling us how excited he is to have us all here. We’ll look to him for instructions for the rest of the day, and he assures us that we can come to him with any questions or problems that may arise.

9:06 AM
Shooting the First Scene of the Day
For the next four hours we run one scene over and over in the Quad. It is described to us as the first-of-the-year college club recruitment fair where tents are set up and people mill around. We serve as the background for when one of the two leading actresses enters the Quad with a letter in hand screaming, “I got in! I got in!” We had to reposition several times for different angles.

Luckily, I am placed at a table under the shade of a tent while others have to walk back and forth across the lawn carrying heavy book bags as the morning grows steadily warmer.

I find it awkward at first having to pantomime with complete strangers. We pretend to greet friends back from summer vacation with enthusiasm, hugging and waving like we actually have a clue who these people are.

The grips run cameras over long tracks, and I learn to appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work required just to film a two-minute scene. Lighting, microphones, props, sound equipment, cables, personnel…it’s a lot more complicated than I thought.

12:52 PM
Wardrobe Confusion
At lunch we get chewed out again by someone in wardrobe for not bringing the appropriate attire. She says we all looked too summery in our pastels, even though those are the colors some of us were instructed to wear when we got our callbacks.

What cracks me up is that this lady went berserk over the extras’ wardrobe and yet one of the leading roles sported a tiny skirt and baby tee for most of the day. The skirt was so short that wardrobe had to use double-sided tape to prevent too much exposure! I want to shout in my wool sweater, “Why doesn’t she have to layer?”

2:33 PM
Afternoon Sizzler
Walking in a single file line, we return from lunch in the Fitness Center to the set and await instructions. The sun zaps us of all energy as we are broken up into clusters—a group of three lounging on a blanket in the Quad, six at a picnic table, two guys tossing a Frisbee, etc.

It seems that no one has brought any sunscreen, and as the afternoon heat begins to reach its climax, flushed cheeks and perspiring faces make us look more like a group of beach bums than college students enjoying an Oregonian autumn. We seek shade under the giant oak tree in the Quad, peeling away our layers of jean jackets and sweatshirts to expose our telltale summer clothes.

The movie people scurry around handing out snacks and drinks periodically, but most of us still feel dehydrated and exhausted. One of the girls gets a bad headache and a medic is walkie-talkied to bring Advil.

With the heat also come extensive hair and makeup touch-ups for the actresses who suffer along with us. We just have to do it over and over again until we get it right.

Some extras take advantage of the wait by socializing. It’s almost like some of the extras, who were recruited from all over the region, came just for the chance to get a phone number from an attractive twenty-something. I overhear many flirtatious conversations as I sit at a picnic table in full sunlight pretending to drink coffee out of a Styrofoam cup—thank goodness it’s just water.

7:03 PM
The Remains of the Day
Cooler weather hardly refreshes us as we walk around virtually deflated from the day’s work. We must wait to be released though, because if we leave early, we won’t get paid.

All I can process anymore is that I have a killer headache and sore feet. I comfort myself, Count your blessings—at least you didn’t try to wear heels all day just to look sexy.

Finally, we hear Derrick’s voice booming to announce the end of the day. We follow him back to the Fitness Center to have our paperwork processed. He says our checks should arrive in two weeks.

9:11 PM
Hitting the Sack
I’m not ashamed to go to bed early after a nearly 14-hour day. Sounds from the day echo in my head as I drift asleep: Quiet all around… settle… roll sound… rolling… scene, take one (two, three, four, to infinity)… background… action… and, cut.

- by Kelsey Johnson, Associate Editor, Centenary Magazine

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