By Melanie Spina
On Wednesday Feb. 4, students, faculty, and alumni had the opportunity to see an advanced screening of Mark Lawrence’s new movie “The Rewrite,” which was filmed primarily on LIU Post’s campus, and stars actors Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei. The screening took place in the Gold Coast Cinema in Hillwood Commons at 7 p.m.
“The Rewrite” focuses on Keith Michaels (Grant), a washed- up screenwriter who finds himself lacking any good ideas and getting rejected by Hollywood. In desperate need of a job, he moves to Binghamton, N.Y., to be a screenwriting professor at a college in the middle of nowhere.
Holly Carpenter (Tomei) is a student in his class, and throughout the movie viewers see how their personalities connect. Although you may expect this to be your typical romantic comedy, “The Rewrite” surprisingly has more to it than just the romance; it mainly focuses on Grant’s character trying to find himself.
The event was initially planned for Monday, Feb. 2, and, despite poor weather conditions, a screening was held that day for resident students, without a Q and A. At the rescheduled event, several students and alumni were able to ask Lawrence questions regarding the film. Actors Steven Kaplan and Annie Q, who play students in Michaels’ screenwriting class in the film, were also present for questioning.
Lawrence talked about his past writing and directing for movies such as “Miss Congeniality,” “Two Week Notice,” and “Music and Lyrics.” He said that ideas for writing come in all different ways, explaining that sometimes you write a story because you are asked or need the money, but other times you aren’t really thinking of it, and the idea just pops into your head.
For “The Rewrite,” Lawrence stated that it was about things that he cared for, and he therefore started to write it. “I was talking to Hugh about doing something [on] a smaller scale,” said Lawrence. “We had always done bigger stuff together with huge sets, and we wanted to do something on a slightly more intimate scale.”
Lawrence believes that it’s hard to create movies much like this one in Hollywood today. “The film industry right now is mostly divided between Marvel films, really big movies, and then we have the Sundance world, all of these fantastic types of movies. So the middle ground is harder to occupy these days,” Lawrence said. “Part of it is because there is so much good television, and people are writing more [on] of an intimate human scale for TV, but for movies I don’t know who makes “Forrest Gump” right now.”
Actors Kaplan and Q said that working with Grant and Tomei was really great. “Marisa just has this vibe that she is the smartest person in the room, and her instincts are always right on,” said Kaplan. “And Hugh is so subtly brilliant. I’d be producing something with him, and I would catch the tail end on the monitor of what we had just [shot on film], and I’d see things in his performance that I didn’t even catch when I was standing right in front of him.” Q also confessed that she remembers having late night dance par-ties with Tomei in the halls in between takes.
Although the movie is supposed to take place at SUNY Binghamton, most of it was filmed on our campus at Post during April, May and October 2013. Not only external shots of buildings and different areas of the campus could be seen, but also the classroom and office scenes were all shot at Post. In fact, the office of J.K. Simmons’ character that was used in the movie was the actual office of Dr. John Lutz, chairperson of the English Department.
Although some filming was done on the Binghamton campus, Lawrence decided to film largely at Post for financial reasons, since it was hard economically to shoot the entire movie in Binghamton. “We needed to shoot near NYC, so we started doing location scouts,” said Lawrence. “And this campus was beautiful, but not overwhelmingly Ivy League type, which would have been odd for Binghamton. Also, the color schemes were very similar to Binghamton’s, and it was visually the best. Everyone here was very great and supportive with helping us making the film.”
Kathy Mendall, LIU Post’s Associate Director of Conference Services, claimed that it was a long process for them to actually pick Post as their location to film the movie. “For it to be the first major film being filmed on campus, it was the best learning experience for us to be able to see how things really work, so it has really opened the door for us to be able to have other types of filming being done on campus,” said Mendall.
Since most of the scenes were filmed during the month of May right after classes had finished, Mendall claimed that there were not many disruptions. “When we allow production companies on campus, some disruption can be expected, but we always look to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible for the campus and the production company,” said Mendall.
Lawrence also offered a word of advice for students who want to pursue a career in screenwriting. “You have to write as much as possible, and watch as many movies or television shows as you can. For me, the sort of essential thing in the movie is whether screenwriting can be taught or not; I honestly don’t know where I come out on that,” said Lawrence. “I’ve been on both sides of the argument, but Woody Allen says, ‘Writers write the way institutionalized people basket-weave’, and that’s absolutely correct: you know who is a writer and who isn’t just by the fact that they write. As a writer, you’re either writing or you’re not working, so my advice is to just keep writing and don’t lose faith.”
“The Rewrite” will open in theaters nationwide on Feb. 13.