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The Hollywood of the South?

October 1, 1997

Nick Marinello

Because of its scenic beauty, academic resources and temperate climate, the Tulane campus is a natural choice for photographic, film and video projects, says Tom Grady, a media specialist in the Office of Public Relations.

"We get calls all year round--from fashion magazines to film and television crews," says Grady. In recent years these projects have ranged from large-scale ones such as the filming of the Pelican Brief in spring 1993, to smaller ones such as a recent Crest toothpaste commercial that called little attention to itself when it was shot this summer.

Another project that was hardly visible on campus but highly visible in the real world of shopping malls was a photo session for Ralph Lauren shot on the Newcomb Quad last spring. According to Grady, the project, which produced photos for on-rack displays, brought approximately six fashion models and a dozen technical workers to campus.

Filming for USA Network's "Big Easy" series caused somewhat more of a stir when it brought the show's lead actor, Tony Crane, to campus in August. "The 'Big Easy' producers want to make things look as realistic as possible," said Grady, "and the script called for a college setting."

The shoot, which was completed in one afternoon and evening, used the Hogan Jazz Archives in Howard-Tilton Library and an area outside of Dixon Hall. "They had a script about the attempted theft of a rare jazz item," says Bruce Raeburn, director of the Hogan Jazz Archive. "They wanted to achieve the working conditions of a jazz archive."

Because the amount of material housed in the archive's stacks made filming too difficult, the crew improvised the scene with Crane in one of the archive's listening rooms and then later replicated the stack area on a sound stage, says Raeburn. While the producers of dramatic series do not often seek the photographs and documents within the archive's stacks, documentary producers do, says Raeburn, who, in the last two years, has made his graphics collection available for Korean, Japanese and German film companies.

When asked, he will even make himself available for consultation and has done several on-camera interviews. He is currently on the advisory board for a new Ken Burns documentary on jazz. Burns is a noted documentarian who produced The Civil War.

"He came down here in April 1996 and later sent his crew back down," Raeburn says. "They've gone through just about everything in the archives."

John Baron, chair of the department of music, is also becoming something of a film-industry insider. The "Big Easy" crew used his office for six hours last November to shoot a portion of one episode. Despite the minor inconvenience, Baron considers it to have been an interesting experience.

"They allowed my children and me to sit in my office and watch and banter with the actors and crew. I'm still waiting to see my episode!"

In August, however, the filmmakers, who had planned to use his office again, opted to shoot the scene outside of Dixon Hall. "I was with some potential students and their parents at that time," said Baron, "and I think they were impressed by all the activity."

According to Grady, making a good impression is exactly what opening up Tulane to media crews is all about.

"We do this for the publicity, not for the money," says Grady, who admits Tulane's rates for facility usage are probably lower than other locations in town. "We don't solicit Tulane as a location. These are side events that we do as time permits, as long as it is convenient for the campus. We don't want to jeopardize the educational use of the campus."

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