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   from the issue of October 18, 2007

  Campus shots growing in popularity

Hollywood Calls


Hollywood is taking notice of UNL.

GAME DAY SHOOT - Members of a Warner Brothers Pictures film crew shoot the tunnel walk during the Oct. 13 Husker...
 GAME DAY SHOOT - Members of a Warner Brothers Pictures film crew shoot the tunnel walk during the Oct. 13 Husker football game. Photo by Tom Slocum/University Communications.

They first came to Lincoln to film "Terms of Endearment" in the early 1980s. In 2001, UNL became Kansas University for a quick shot with Jack Nicholas in "About Schmidt."

Reality television stormed campus for "Tommy Lee Goes to College" in fall 2004. On Sept. 23, the Fox cartoon "King of the Hill" showcased a Husker football win over Texas for the Big 12 championship. And, during the Oct. 13 homecoming game with Oklahoma State, film crews from Warner Brothers Pictures shot scenes for an upcoming theatrical motion picture.

So, why is campus becoming a regular stop for film and television productions?

"In the last five years, there has been an exponential increase in national media projects in college campus settings," said David Fitzgibbon, manager of broadcast services for UNL who reviews TV and film requests. "The number one reason is a lot of channels are looking for new programming. They are scrambling to fill a void and university-type shows are one example of how they are doing that."

Fitzgibbon said the university entertains all requests to film on campus. However, each project undergoes a stringent review process to ensure the university is portrayed in a positive light.

"We read every script and ask questions until we are satisfied that the production will be low risk," Fitzgibbon said. "The recent increase in requests has taught us what to ask for in the contract phase. We make sure those contracts state explicitly how the university will be portrayed."

In the last two years, UNL officials have denied requests for two independent motion pictures.

"They were both R-rated and were a little bit too edgy," Fitzgibbon said. "They would not have been a good risk."

Approved productions are also a way to spread awareness of UNL to potential students.

Fitzgibbon said a 30-second television commercial on a major network would cost the university around $300,000. Conservative estimates place the value of the Tommy Lee project - combining both the 30-minute episodes and media coverage - at about $100 million for the university.

"There is also an added value of infusing the name of a university into popular culture," Fitzgibbon said. "It's a hard thing to take a centuries old academic institution and make it seem hip. That's what these projects do. And that helps with student recruiting."

During the Oct. 13 homecoming game, crews filmed performances of the Cornhusker Marching Band, the Huskers' tunnel walk, and crowd reactions. The scenes - along with others filmed around Lincoln - will tentatively be used in the film "Yes Man," which stars Jim Carrey. In the romantic comedy, Carrey's character, who's recently divorced, turns his life around when he challenges himself to say, "yes" to every opportunity that he's presented. He says "yes" at a random airport counter and finds himself in Lincoln. As part of the story line, characters in the movie attend a Husker football game.

The film's production team includes major figures in the industry.

Producer Richard Zanuck won an Oscar for "Driving Miss Daisy" (Zanuck's father, Darryl Zanuck, also a major Hollywood figure, was a native of Wahoo). Producer David Heyman produced the Harry Potter movies. Director Peyton Reed recently directed "The Break-Up" starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn.

The Oct. 13 shoot was the first for the film, which begins principal photography in Los Angeles this fall. It is scheduled to be released in theaters in 2009.

"We have not been able to put pen to paper yet and figure the worth of this project to the university," Fitzgibbon said. "The popularity of the film remains to be seen. But, it is this type of pop infusion that the university should be excited about."



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