Biopic about PSU student films on and around campus

Film crews took over the campus this week, crowding hallways with equipment and sending the buzz of star sightings throughout the park blocks. The film, “The Music Within,” stars Ron Livingston and in part takes place at Portland State in the 70’s.

Perhaps best known for his leading role in “Office Space,” Livingston plays Richard Pimentel, a man who returns from the Vietnam War with severe hearing impairments to restart his life and focus on efforts to help Americans with disabilities. The film is a true story beginning in the ’60s and spanning a 30-year period.

The film also stars: Rebecca DeMornay, famous for her role in “Risky Business” and last seen in “The Wedding Crashers” and Melissa George of “The Amityville Horror” and “Derailed.” The film is director Steven Sawalich’s first full-length movie.

“The story took place here, so it’s great to able to use PSU for the film,” said Sean Kennedy, the film’s set decorator. Kennedy is also a graduate of Portland State who majored in theater.

Because the film is set in the ’70s, the crew has to cover up and disguise handicapped signs that were not existent at the time. “It’s ironic that we have to cover up the end product of what Pimentel helped establish,” said Drew Dinniger, who is the film’s on-set dresser.

The film’s producers first contacted PSU two weeks ago about shooting on campus. “They worked with marketing on locations to make sure it wouldn’t interrupt classes, which is why they were allowed to film in some places and other places they were not,” said Vishnu Jetmalani who works in the business affairs office.

Sean Gavin, the film’s location manager light-heartedly lamented the difficulty of working on an active campus, especially working around class schedules and other events. “Everybody here at PSU has been really helpful, it’s just been a lot of work to get the logistics down,” he said.

Portland State is being paid for its role in the film, however the exact amount is yet to be determined, Jetmalani said.

“We’re paying the university some money, but we are also paying for any additional costs to the university that the filming might cause,” Gavin said. “Once it’s all said and done, we’ll sit down and figure it out.”

Gavin added that there might be some non-monetary benefits for the university. “In a way it’s kind of like a great big commercial for PSU, that may end up off setting some of the hard dollar costs,” he said

The film is taking advantage of a new law that Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law last August. The Greenlight Oregon Labor Rebate offers an incentive to production companies to shoot films, television shows and commercials in Oregon by providing qualifying productions a rebate of approximately 6.2 percent to wages from which Oregon income tax was withheld. In order to qualify, a production must spend at least $1 million in Oregon on production-related expenses. “The Music Within” has about a $2 million budget.

“Portland’s niche is small independent movies with $1-2 million budgets,” Gavin said, who is a Portlander along with much of the crew.

Richard Pimentel is still alive today and is a famous expert on issues related to disability rights. He is credited with helping to shape the guidelines that later became the Americans with Disabilities Act.

?”Additional reporting by Chris Goodwin