A scene from The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (2018) was recently filmed in Island Trees at Island Trees Memorial Middle School (ITMMS). Several students were given the opportunity to assist with the production and they had a great time doing so.
The movie, starring Richard Gere, Julianna Margulies and Bradley Whitford, is based on the book of the same name. A book-length psychiatric case study by Milton Rokeach, the story is about his experiment on a group of three patients with paranoid schizophrenia at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan. The book details the interactions of the three patients, Clyde Benson, Joseph Cassel and Leon Gabor, who each believed himself to be Jesus Christ.
Everyone arrived in the ITMMS lobby at about 10:15 p.m. and all the kids remembered their credentials. Maryann Loverro laminated them and put them on a lanyard so we looked very official. Lots of waiting ensued as the director, Jon Avnet, showed up first but we didn’t get a chance to speak with him because he was playing a little one-on-one basketball in the gym before the set up.
As far as meeting any actors, the students saw actors posing as mental patients and an orderly. Bradley Witford was in his trailer and Richard Gere and Julianna Margulies were not on set.
However, we spoke to Nick, a production assistant, who explained the process of scouting and choosing a location. At about 11:45 p.m., all of the equipment and crew started arriving. Some of the students offered to help but there wasn’t much they were allowed to do because of union rules. This was an excellent opportunity to explain what a union job was and what it means to be in a union.
At about 12:45 a.m., we had the chance to tour the set (the locker room). Chris, another production assistant, showed us around and introduced us to everyone. We met the director of photography, a gaffer and prop designers as well as the continuity person who explained what her job entailed and what she looks for in a scene. She also talked about being a film major when she went to college. We then met more production assistants and prop people who explained that they had been working 36 hours in the last three days. They were all dead tired but upbeat and they answered all of our questions.
The producer was very generous with us. He was impressed the students had stayed up so late for their art and thanked them for being there. He gave us a more in-depth look into the story and why he chose to do this particular project, which he referred to as an “important film.” He also has another film coming out in the fall called Lion.
At about 1:30 a.m., the crew had to get everything started so the students called their parents to let them know it was time to go.
Although it was a very late night, it was a great opportunity for the students. Special thanks to Dr. Charlie Murphy for thinking of the drama students and asking the producer for the opportunity. They learned a lot and had the best time.
—Story and photos submitted by Carol Siegel, ITMMS