Lowbrow Comedy Meets Higher Education
What do the movies Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes and Scream 2 have in common? They're among the 30 or so films and TV programs shot at Atlanta's picture-perfect Agnes Scott College, where the tones of the school bell echo among Gothic Revival-style buildings and drift through meticulously groomed quads.
The scenic campus makes Agnes Scott a favorite among production crews — so much so that the 850-student women's college has an office devoted just to coordinating film shoots.
But last fall, the school gave the OK to Road Trip: Beer Pong, a chauvinistic movie about bimbos, breasts and the eponymous drinking game. That news didn't exactly go over well in a student body taking courses with titles like "Feminist and Womanist Ethics."
Students didn't raise a fuss about the film shoot initially. But when a fellow student solicited extras for a scene about "Lesbians Until Graduation," senior Louisa Hill thought the producers had gone too far.
"They were looking for people to 'act like lesbians,' " Hill says, "and they welcomed background kissers if we were so interested."
It wasn't that Hill found the content too racy; she just cringed at the movie's stereotypes and wondered whether producers would set the same scene at an all-male college. She confronted Agnes Scott's administration.
"They recognized we were upset, but I don't think there was any policy change that they were considering because of it," Hill says. "I think that making this public and being transparent about our concerns put some pressure on the administration."
And pressure did come, in the form of blog items and newspaper editorials. Eventually, some alums withheld contributions — even swore off campus visits.
"I got lots of people saying, 'How could you have possibly allowed that to happen?'" says Agnes Scott's president, Elizabeth Kiss, who had reviewed the script and approved the shoot. She says some aspects got blown out of proportion.
"This is a source of revenue for us, and this is obviously a year in which ... every dollar counts."
Agnes Scott gets up to $10,000 a day per shoot, with much of the money going to fund scholarships.
Kiss says there was no lowering of standards because of the cash. But the protests got her attention. She created an advisory board of students, faculty and staff that's empowered to screen scripts. And now students have a say in future films' production.
Agnes Scott has requested that its name not appear in the credits for Road Trip: Beer Pong. Oh, and the movie won't be coming to a theater near you. It's set for release directly to video.
Jim Burress reports from member station WABE in Atlanta.
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