Thursday, September 16, 2010

RMU Provost’s Home to be Featured in New Sci-Fi Flick

On a quiet Saturday morning back in April, Sue Jamison, part-time faculty member and wife of David L. Jamison, J.D., RMU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, heard a knock at the door.

The man behind the knock was Kent Jackson, assistant location manager for the movie “I am Number 4,” a new DreamWorks film, which will debut in February 2011. Jackson told Sue that he and his crew really liked the all-American look of her house, and that they may want to use it for a new movie project.

“I was a little suspicious at first,” said Sue, who assumed Jackson was talking about some small, local film. “We’re all about supporting local filmmakers,” she said, “but I was still somewhat hesitant. Then he mentioned that one of the executive producers was Steven Spielberg, so I invited him in for coffee.”

Jackson took some photographs of the interior of the Jamisons’ home and then adjourned to the local Starbucks to discuss things with the rest of his team. They returned a couple hours later to let the Jamisons know that they thought their home was the perfect location for the film.

And so, on June 11-12, the Jamisons’ home, located in the small town of Beaver, was transformed into a Hollywood movie set. For two days, the street outside their house was closed as dozens of residents gathered to watch the filming, which took place each night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The production company put the Jamisons up at the Embassy Suites during the duration of the filming (they even boarded their dog and cat). Then, the crew removed all of the furniture from the Jamisons’ first floor and put it in storage in the South Side, and brought in four entire rooms of brand-new furniture for the shoot.

Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre, associate professor of communications at RMU, also took part in the filming. She, along with her husband, Jack, and kids Bennett, 12, and Johnna, 8, spent two nights standing in as extras for scenes shot at a carnival. “The kids loved the excitement of the set,” she said. “And Bennett loved riding a nasty upside-down carnival ride called the “Zipper” for 45 minutes straight!” She said the toughest part was staying awake during the all-night shoot. “I didn’t realize it was possible to fall asleep riding a merry-go-round.”

Based on the novel by James Frey, "I Am Number 4" is a teen/sci-fi film, in which (according to “Nine alien teens come to Earth after their planet is destroyed by an enemy species.” Soon after arriving here, however, the friendly aliens discover that the not-so-friendly aliens have followed them to Earth.

The film was directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia”) and produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay (“Transformers”). Cast members include Dianna Agron, from Fox’s hit show “Glee”; Kevin Durand, who played the roll of Martin Keamy in ABC’s “Lost”; Timothy Olyphant, from the F/X drama “Justified”; and title character Alex Pettyfer, from the 2006 film, “Operation Stormbreaker.” Both Argon and Pettyfer were present for the two days of filming at the Jamisons’ home.

Other notable movies which had scenes shot in Beaver include “Wonder Boys” (2000), which starred Tobey Maguire and Michael Douglas; and “Gung Ho” (1986), which starred Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton.

- by Valentine J Brkich

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mail from Managua

You've read a lot about, and a lot from, RMU nursing alumnus Lee Folk. You'll be hearing a lot more about him as well in the coming weeks -- and that's all we'll say for now. In the meantime, to read all his accounts of the trips his took to Nicaragua, click here and here. You can find his more recent posts here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RMU Holds Early Success Program Day of Service

On Monday, August 23, RMU students had yet another opportunity to change lives through the university’s annual Early Success Program (ESP) Day of Service.

(Watch a video of the Day of Service.)

Over 150 participants, separated into groups, visited 10 service locations from Moon Township to downtown Pittsburgh. Students did everything from visiting elderly residents at a local rehab center to helping with painting and landscaping at a home for abused or neglected children.

This year’s day of service was planned by Randon Willard, coordinator in RMU’s Office of Student Civic Engagement (OSCE), along with Nicole Hammond and Meredith Weber in the university’s Center for Student Success. The OSCE and the Center for Student Success have been partnering on the ESP Day of Service for the past four years. This year, for the first time, RMU’s First Year Success Program (FYSP) Mentors attended the event. These mentors help to run the FYSP class with the instructor and serve as liaisons for the first-year students and the university.

“The day of service allows our first-year students to see the variety of nonprofit partners that RMU serves, and it gives them a taste of the ways they can invest in the greater Pittsburgh community,” said Willard. “Our hope is for first-year students to get exposed to a few of the organizations that we work with regularly for them to continue to volunteer with those organizations if they would choose.”

RMU’s Early Success Program is intended to assist new students with the transition from high school to college. It gives students various opportunities to learn about the university environment, through group workshops, interactive assignments, and social engagements. Upperclassmen can also serve as ESP leaders who act as positive role models and friends for their students.

Laura Kennedy, of the World Vision International Distribution Center in Sewickley, was impressed by RMU’s student volunteers. “They were terrific,” said Kennedy. “The groups keep getting better and better each year. It's great working with Robert Morris University.”

Chris Crytzer, grant writer for Focus on Renewal in McKees Rocks, echoed Kennedy’s statement. “We had a wonderful time with the RMU students and mentors today,” said Crytzer. “Our staff and volunteers all had very positive things to say about the students and the work they did today. Our clients even clapped when the volunteers walked past them. It was a very positive day.”

On August 28, RMU freshman had another opportunity to give back when they visited Alternative Energy Youth Farm in Clinton, Pa., a group home that uses its farm and alternative energy sources to mentor adolescent males. Students also volunteered at Promise Camp, a summer camp in Clinton that gives inner city children a place of hope.

“This year’s day of service was a huge success,” said Willard. “Our partners kept commenting on how the small acts of kindness that the students did while volunteering would continue to have ripple effects for years to come. It is my hope that this class of RMU students will continue to invest their time into the community and be a class that is characterized by changing lives.”