Author: Noel Hemphill
It was hard not to notice the presence of film crews at Occidental this spring break, with multiple shows, including Glee and True Blood, shooting scenes throughout campus. Occidental has served as a hot spot for on-location shoots over the course of many years, for projects ranging from the movie “Clueless” to commercials for Doritos. The school hosts an average of 15 film crews a year, according to Occidental Director of Master Calendar and Filming, Mary Grogan.
Grogan stated that the school receives $125,000 dollars in revenue on average for the rental of campus space for filming. Occidental’s close proximity to Hollywood studios and its “aggressive courting of the film industry,” make it an attractive site for filming, according to an article in The Los Angeles Times. The assistant location manager for “Arrested Development,” Darrin Cummings, commented to The L.A. Times on how the school works to be a convenient option for filming.
“Anytime you’re looking for a school, this is always on the list to shoot,” Cummings told The Times. “When you’re filming on a school there are a lot of rules and regulations. This college really works hard to cut the red tape for us.”
Newsweek Magazine lists Occidental College as the sixth most beautiful college campus in the United States, and film location scouts have taken notice. After a shoot for “Arrested Development” last semester, The L.A. Times commented on Occidental’s classic and generic college appearance, which draws students and filmmakers alike. Campus buildings have served as museums, student unions and homes for shows like “NCIS,” “Parenthood” and “Private Practice.”
All filming at Occidental is coordinated through Unreel Locations, a company that serves as an intermediary between historically significant locations and location scouts. The company guides scouts, and then eventually directors and producers, around Occidental to display its various areas for filming.
“We don’t advertise,” Grogan said. “Unreel Locations does that for us. We get a lot of business, but we turn down a lot of business. I turn down 80-95 percent of filming requests because it can be too disruptive [to student life].” Unreel Locations leads about 250 tours a year, though the ultimate decision of whether the filming occurs is left up to Grogan and the film’s directors and producers.
Grogan and other Occidental staff decided that there will be no more filming in the library as long as class is in session for fear of interrupting studies. Students have mixed feelings on the presence of film crews; while many enjoy having a little slice of Hollywood on campus, others complain of how much space they take up, both in and around buildings and in parking spots.
Urban and Environmental Planning major Campbell Scott (first-year) expressed displeasure with the interruption that the filming can cause.
“Although on-campus filming makes for good stories, it’s frustrating when it limits our access to resources like the library and The Cooler,” Scott said.
Theater major Declan Meagher (first-year) finds value in the shoots on campus.
“It is awesome to see them around – it reminds me a little more every time how cool it is to be in L.A.,” Meagher said. “As a prospective theater major who came to L.A. to pursue theater both on stage and in film, it is cool to see film crews in action.”
Grogan believes that having these crews on campus provides a major benefit for students interested in film.
“We invite the film students to trail the productions. Some productions really work with students, others just let them watch.” Grogan said.
Occidental’s relationship dates back to the days of silent film, serving as the backdrop for a long list of productions including Judy Gardland’s screen debut in a 1936 comedy about college football, and later “That Hagen Girl,” starring Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.
Appearing in Hollywood films is not typical for most schools, and Grogan pointed out that this recognition can be a selling point for prospective students. Meagher commented that he enjoys the frequency of film crews on campus, which are advertised on Occidental’s website and in campus tours.
“I had heard on my tour when I visited Occidental that there were crews that filmed on campus in the past, but though they were few and far between. I didn’t expect it to be almost every other weekend, It’s awesome!” Meagher said.
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