"Campus Movie Shoot: 'Clean' Cash"

by Scott Trimble, The Daily Californian, 28 October 1999

I am writing in response to Chris Lin's narrow-minded letter ("Letters: Film Takes UC Berkeley to Laborer Status," Oct. 26). First, though, I'll just start by pointing out that "Boys and Girls" is not something out of the ordinary.

Not even counting commercials and documentaries, there have been dozens of film projects that have shot on UC Berkeley property over the years: "Patch Adams," "Sliders," "Nash Bridges," "Junior," "Made in America," "THX-1138", and "The Graduate" to name a few. This doesn't even include the many others shot solely on City of Berkeley streets: "Partners," "The Insider," "City Lights," "Panther," "Twice Upon a Time," and "Who'll Stop the Rain."

This is not a bad thing. Movie-making is one of the few industries that is totally "clean," meaning that there is no permanent change to the areas at which it took place. A production crew comes to town, pours millions of dollars into the local economy, sets up the shots they need, films for a certain length of time, and then returns all of it the way they found it.

Sometimes some damage might occur, but it's completely paid for. The property is always returned to its original, if not better, condition.

The only potentially negative effect would be the disruption. But think about it. Is it really such a big deal to have to extend your route to class around a certain perimeter? Is the noise really any worse than the incessant drum-banging by Sproul Hall? Is the fact that UC Berkeley has joined the "Hollywood Dream Factory" such a bad thing when the school is earning such easy money that will eventually go back to helping the students?

Most jurisdictions around the state have film commissions or liaisons to weigh these pros and cons. UC Berkeley has Barb Evans and the City of Berkeley has Barbara Hillman, both of whom work hard to negotiate with productions to ensure the greatest benefits and the least disruption. That's why "Boys and Girls" was not allowed to shoot on most weekdays, and why almost all of the movie's interior shots will be done back in L.A.

During pre-production, producer Jay Cohen told me that the original "Boys and Girls" script was set in New York, but once they decided that wouldn't work, they considered other locales like Chicago and Atlanta before deciding on Berkeley. Had the movie been filmed at any of those other places instead, this university and the surrounding neighborhoods would have lost out on thousands of dollars, hundreds of local jobs, and the prestige of being in a film production.

Seeing the genuine excitement of the audience when Sproul Plaza, Telegraph Avenue, and Unit 1 appeared during ASUC SUPERB's presentation of the "The Graduate" last month, I am hoping that views like Lin's are the minority.

Scott Trimble is a UC Berkeley alumnus and a "Boys and Girls" production assistant. Send responses to opinion@dailycal.org.

©1999 The Daily Californian