Action! Elmhurst U. Campus Stars in Three Movies

August 17, 2021 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Elmhurst University’s gone Hollywood lately, providing the perfect setting and some behind-the-scenes talent for three feature-length movies that were shot on campus this spring and summer.

Filming wrapped earlier this month on “The Class,” a coming-of-age high school drama starring ’80s pop icons Anthony Michael Hall and Debbie Gibson, as well as teenage stars from hit shows like “Julie and the Phantoms,” “This is Us” and “Cobra Kai.” The film also features the production work of 12 digital media majors from Elmhurst U. who interned on the set during the monthlong shoot.

In June, Thriller Films was on campus to shoot the made-for-TV movie “Web of Deceit,” a romantic thriller that cast dozens of Elmhurst residents as extras and was filmed largely in and around the Schaible Science Center and Memorial Hall.

And earlier this spring, parts of the indie film “Rounding,” from director Alex Thompson, were shot in a University-owned house on Prospect Avenue. At the time, Variety magazine reported in an exclusive story that the dramatic thriller was “shot in secret in Chicago.”

Elmhurst University students on the set of them movie "The Class."

From Left: Gloria Swanson, Evan Weiger, Grace Geschwandner and Ashley Liljeberg on the set of “The Class”

“Rounding” and “The Class” came to Elmhurst thanks largely to professional connections between their directors and producers and Kristyn Jo Benedyk, associate professor and director of Elmhurst’s Digital Media Program, as well as a veteran filmmaker.

She says the first time she set foot on the Elmhurst campus, she knew it would make an ideal movie setting. “It is exactly what you picture in your mind when you think of a perfect college campus, and I think that when productions go out and location scout, they see that immediately too.”

It’s part of what drew “The Class” writer and director Nick Celozzi, who grew up in the western suburbs and decided to shoot the entire film at Elmhurst U. He believed an authentic school setting would better inspire the cast, especially the youngest members. “I wanted the kids to feel fluid,” he said. “Walking in a real environment, walking down a school hallway, sitting in a real classroom—there’s nothing better to give an actor than surroundings like that.”

For the Elmhurst students who got to work on “The Class,” there was no better opportunity to gain professional moviemaking experience firsthand, without ever leaving campus. The digital media majors interested in working on the film submitted their resumes to the producer, who selected 12 student interns. Because the students’ interests were so varied, each department—art, sound, editing, producing, directing, camera and more—had one or two interns.

From Left: Jade Link, Grace Geschwandner, Nick Noack and Ashley Liljeberg on the set of “The Class”

Grace Geschwandner ’23 and Ashley Liljeberg ’23 worked as director’s assistants, putting in 12-hour days and helping with everything from wardrobe fittings to coordinating COVID tests to alerting cast members when it was time to shoot their scene.

“It was a lot of work, but it’s been so much fun,” Geschwandner said. “I really enjoyed getting to see all the behind-the-scenes things, especially the little things, that go into it.

“But most of all I‘ve really been enjoying myself around the people. Everyone was so kind and supportive, even when we were exhausted around each other, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”

Besides her work on the production team, Liljeberg had a moment in front of the camera, as an extra. She hopes her scene—she’s dancing in the background on the football field—will make the final cut.

“It was amazing to be able to have this kind of experience while I’m still in college,” Liljeberg said. “It was a really great networking experience, and helped us get our foot in the door.”

Evan Weiger '21 on the set of "The Class" movie.

Evan Weiger ’21 on the set of “The Class” movie.

Evan Weiger, who graduated this past May, got to work on all three films that were shot on campus, through his job with the University’s Office of Conference and Event Services. He worked as a production assistant, “2nd 2nd” assistant director, assistant locations manager and more. What he liked most was experiencing the “unique atmosphere” of each production.

“Different production companies operate differently, directors have their own approaches and processes,” he said. “Each film I worked on had its own vibe.”

Benedyk noted that the construction of two major new studios in Chicago means it’s likely that more film and television projects will be headed Elmhurst’s way.

“I have no doubt that a lot of those productions are going to learn about Elmhurst U., learn about our talented media students who can contribute so much to their shoot, and continue to come back,” she said.

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