Campus Cameos: Filming at Berry through the years

Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

the white house
The production crew for “Sweet Home Alabama” set up all around the Oak Hill grounds. “Sweet Home Alabama” was filmed at Oak Hill Museum in the fall of 2002. Photos courtesy of Berry College Public Relations.

Berry students walk around one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country every day, but some may not realize that the campus has often been featured on the silver screen and television screens. Many students may wonder how directors and producers get to film here, and according to Chris Kozelle, director of public relations, there are multiple ways creative teams find Berry.

“Generally they have movie scouts, and Georgia is (one of the) top locations for filming in the country, because of our tax incentives that we provide to the movie industry,” Kozelle said. “There is also a database they can go to, and if they are looking for a castle-like building, they can type that in and Berry and other places will pop up with photos.”

Kozelle also cites word-of-mouth and the tourism efforts of Floyd County and the state of Georgia as ways that movie scouts can find Berry.

There is a section of the Berry website titled “Filming at Berry” that gives a full list of all the movies and TV shows that were filmed on Berry’s campus, but the most commonly heard titles are “Remember the Titans,” filmed in 2000, and “Sweet Home Alabama,” filmed in 2002.

Alan Storey, retired executive assistant to the president, was on set for both of these movies and was the campus film coordinator with the production teams.

The production team for “Remember the Titans” mainly set up at the Ford Buildings. Storey did give a full campus tour to the star of the movie, Denzel Washington.

“I was worried about what he would be like, but he could not have been nicer, “ Storey said.

Though Storey said it was fun to meet Washington, he had an interesting time with the production crew.

the three musketeers
From left to right: Berry president Dr. J. Scott Colley, actor Patrick Dempsey and Alan Storey.

“Of the movies that were made here, I think that one turned out to be my favorite, but it was also one of the most complicated for me,” Storey said.

One of the complications Storey dealt with was the bright lights used for the night running scenes that the crew hung out of students’ windows. The production team was supposed to finish filming over Thanksgiving weekend, but they did not, so some of the girls living in the Ford buildings came back to huge lights sticking out of their windows. These lights came on at random and multiple times during the night, more than once, while the students were trying to study and sleep. The movie company eventually paid for some of the students to stay in a hotel downtown until they finished filming, but it was Storey who had to coordinate the well-being of the students with the requests of the production team.

Storey also coordinated “Sweet Home Alabama,” which was mostly filmed at Oak Hill. Storey met one of the stars of the film, Patrick Dempsey, whom he says the female students at the time were very fond of.

“He would talk to everybody, and he was very interested in old houses,” Storey said. One of the things Storey saw was a scene filmed in the (artificial) rain.

“Reese Witherspoon is supposed to be carried like she is dead through the rain,” he said. “They had a huge sprinkler thing that they rigged up, and it had to be cold water. If you had hot water there would be steam coming off of it, so it wouldn’t be as realistic.”

According to Storey, Witherspoon was in a wedding dress, and they were shooting in late November.

“Between takes when they were resetting the cameras, they would spray warm water on her and she would be shaking uncontrollably,” Storey said.

He did see Witherspoon the next day and when he asked her if she had to get wet again that night, she shrugged it off as part of the job.

Students here today who are fans of these movies can easily access some of the filming locations. Kozelle said there are many locations at Oak Hill museum used for filming that Berry students can visit for free, including a staircase used in “Sweet Home Alabama.” There are also the “selfie spots” around campus installed by the State of Georgia Tourism Board that students can see anytime.

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