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November 07, 2007 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-11-07

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My brush with stardom on State Street

n an unseasonably cold
afternoon a few Fridays
ago, I got a phone call that
made me believe in the miraculous
power of dumb luck.
My friend called to tell me that
the famous Hollywood director
Doug Liman ("Swingers," "The
Bourne Identity") was shoot-
ing pick-ups with his lead actor
Hayden Christensen ("Star Wars
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,"
"Factory Girl") for the upcoming
film "Jumper" outside Ashley's
Restaurant and Pub on State Street,
about seven blocks from my home
on Packard Street and McKinley
Avenue. Thousands of teenage girls
have fantasized about the opportu-
nity to meet Christensen, and with
almost as much enthusiasm, count-
less film students like me have fan-
tasized about seeing an A-lister like
Liman at work on the set.
I ran my ass off.
When I got there, gasping for
air and sweating from the uphill
run, I was shamed to see the corner
empty. Had I sprinted for nothing?
I was considering dragging myself
back home when I looked across
the street and saw a four-person
movie crew standing in front of
Michigan Book and Supply. I casu-
ally walked over.

My friend and I introduced self-consciously following the crew
ourselves to the filmmakers and up and down State Street. But then
couldn't help but stare at the crew's it happened - a pair of traffic cones
new digital RED 1 camera, a point gave us an opening. Liman asked
of pride for the film's producer, us to move the orange cones so he
Avram Ludwig. With the capacity could capture a special dolly shot
involving four guys and a pair of
rollerblades. We were in.
When the crew needed to watch
' Turns out even their footage in Ashley's basement,
we might have been expected to
Hollywood llleave. But Liman referred to my
A 4- ea friend and me as "our guests" and
A-.-liters eat allowed us to stay. Some time later,
Jimmy John's the director went off to shoot exte-
riors and I was left to have an hour-
long conversation with Hayden
to shoot at 4K resolution (an image I had thought it would be impos-
with arguably better quality than sible to try to make small talk with
film itself), we were as awed by the someone like Christensen without
camera as we were by the celebrity being dumbfounded by his star
status of the men. power, but something about the fact
After gawking for a while, my that he had ordered and eaten a 8-
friend and I asked if we could tag incher from Jimmy John's made it
along and watch the rest of the easier to strike up a conversation. I
shoot. I expected a polite no, but was pleasantly surprised to find the
was pleasantly surprised to hear actor engaging, polite and respect-
the word sure instead. ful of the many fans who walked by
The following hours were a blur. begging for autographs.
We followed them around between I asked him, "Do you mind all
East William and East Liberty this?"
streets. "This is what I signed up for,"
At first it was painfully clear that he replied. "I remember when I
we were an unwanted entourage went to hockey games and asked

for signatures; I liked the guys that
gave them, didn't like the ones that
Now that's just classy.
And I will add, there's no expe-
rience more humbling than stand-
ing next to an actor for an hour and
having every girl who passes com-
ment on how hot he looks.
What was amazing to me,
though, was watching Liman,
Christensen and their small crew
of cameramen work. "Jumper" has
a reputed budget of more than $100
million, its makers have produced
enough work to garner the kind
of publicity that could shut down
New York City for a week. Yet they
moved around Ann Arbor guerilla-
style, without a pretentious pomp
to mark the boundaries of their
territory. In fact, all they needed
was production manager Heather
LaForge manning "Jumper" head-
quarters in front of Stairway to
While watching Liman direct, a
certain word kept coming to mind
- economy. Economy of time
usage, economy of movement,
economy of space and technol-
ogy. I heard that Liman had used
this term when giving a specific
direction to Matt Damon in "The
Bourne Identity," but I could see

how it applied to the director's
own style. The point was to get a
certain amount of shots done, and
they simply did it. And for an aspir-
ing filmmaker, it was incredible to
watch men at the top of the Hol-
lywood ladder still enjoying the
footwork of movie-making. They
made it seem so effortless. They
reminded me it was fun.
After the shoot, I only said a
few words to Liman, because I
was embarrassed about how long
we had overstayed our welcome
(how do you go home when an
idol is working half a mile away
from your front door?). But even
in the chilled night after a long
day of shooting, the auteur found
time to speak with some wannabe
filmmakers - at least three of us
- answering our questions and
posing for pictures with awe-filled
I walked home that night deeply
impressed by the filmmaker who
seemed alarmingly grounded in
reality and the larger-than-life
actor who ordered a sub at Jimmy
John's. You can bet I'll be at the
front of the line when "Jumper"
comes out this February. And when
I see the shots of Ann Arbor on
screen, I'll remember a pretty ter-
rific afternoon.

From page 7B
After the completion of the Alumni Memo-
rial Hall Museum of Art addition and the Law
Quad expansion, there will be little room left
on Central Campus for new construction.
Because of this, the University has shifted
much of its attention to North Campus in
order to make it a more dense and lively
area. The VSBA plan and the North Campus
Redux" plan spearheaded by architecture
and urban planning dean Doug Kelbaugh
have provided the backdrop for Michigan's
North Planning Campus Update. As North
Campus begins to unfold into a richer envi-
ronment; however, important changes are
still occurring to the south.
Efforts are now being made to strengthen
existing architectural connections and to
introduce new ones; the Hill area and Medi-
cal Campus Corridor are two examples of
a renewed effort toward campus continu-
ity. In 1997, these locations were identified
as having unrealized potential for kiitting
once-disparate campus elements together.
So the University built the Biomedical Sci-
ence Research Building and the Life Sciences
Complex. It also undertook the Public Health

Building addition and Medical Science Build-
ing renovations, along with the Cardiovascu-
lar Center and the Hill Dining Center. Plans
are in the works to find a food vendor for
Palmer Commons that would further ener-
gize the complex as well as provide a new
destination point for the area. Regardless
of whether you like the actual architecture
of the area, its use as a key connection is an
indisputable success. Gott cited the Life Sci-
ence Complex as the most important campus
development in recent years. These projects
represent concrete steps toward building
a better segue from Central Campus to the
Medical Campus, clearly campus plans are
more than just idealized fantasies.
One area now under University review
lies on the northwest corner of Michigan's
original 40 acres, where the campus bleeds
into the Ann Arbor community and eventu-
ally to downtown. Though always bustling
with student activity, the State Street stretch
around North University Avenue is riddled
with high business turnover and lessening
vibrancy. Using this area as a key passage-
way into the University would create a hub
of activity - or, architecturally speaking, a
node - for future Wolverines.
Over the next decade, the combined efforts
of the University with North Quad along with

the recent apartment high-rise above Buffalo
Wild Wing's will hopefully provide a critical
mass of people to reshape this campus cor-
ner. Because growth begets more growth,
this area will be one of the most changed in
the coming decades.
Correspondingly, the southwest end of
Central Campus is also ready for improve-
ment. Although temporary, the art gallery on
South University has stretched the Universi-
ty's reach further into that area of Ann Arbor.
The possibility of a mixed-use residential
private development where the Village Cor-
ner now stands along with a more accessible
Business School complex Nill further aid in
creating a more serious campus node instead
of a mere aggregate of separate buildings.
Michigan is also attempting to better
define its borders as a way of articulating a
more compact campus. North Quad and the
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy are,
seen as north and south "gateways" into the
campus along State Street. The idea under-
scores the University's desire to solidify its
boundaries in order to restore the essential
character of the campus.
"The gateway architecture provides both
a ceremonial and functional welcoming to
campus," Gott said. "Such treatment dem-
onstrates the collegiality of the University of

Michigan and provides a positive contribu-
tion to the civic realm at the intersection of
town and gown."
These strikingcampus structures will send
a signal to visitors that they have entered the
University of Michigan rather than allowing
them to stumble upon it when they see the
distinguished Law Quad or Angell Hall and
realize they're academic buildings. Using
architecture in such a manner is a subtle,
smart way to signify both the campus limits
and bring forth campus character in a single
stroke, and they are definitely more preferable
than gaudy signage or pretentious archways.
In 1997, Bollinger looked at 1987 to imag-
ine the following hundred years. Ten years
later, the University's campus is still in that
transition of looking in the rearview mirror
to better steer its course. Yet with continuous
development, the University will likely be
in transition for years ahead. This is a good
thing, and it forces architects and planners to
constantly reeval'uate how Michigan's cam-
pus should look and where it will lead. The
process of combining the outcomes of yes-
teryear with the motivations of today bripg
forth a certain picture of what tomorrow will
be. Twenty years from now, the world will
have again changed dramatically, but Mich-
igan's buildings will remain.

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