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 IMDB.com) “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