Returning Pepperdine students may be surprised to find that during the summer their campus was transformed into Pacific Coast Academy, a boarding school for kids that has recently gone co-ed.
This unusual change is only temporary, and PCA will dissolve Sept. 17. PCA is not a real school, but actually a television set.
The cast and television crew arrived on Pepperdine’s campus during the second week of May to begin filming a new show for Nickelodeon called “Zoey 101,” said Sally McIlwain, who oversees filming and reservations in the Special Programs office.
The show stars Jamie Lynn Spears, younger sister of pop singer Britney Spears, as 13-year-old Zoey Brooks. Spears’ character is among the first group of female students to be matriculated into the fictional all-male boarding school.
“Pacific Coast Academy will be like a living fantasy school for kids,” said the show’s creator and executive producer Dan Schneider. “It’s kind of like 13-year-olds going to this fun, magical college, living on their own, in charge of their own lives.”
The filming of “Zoey 101” took place in many areas on campus. Two lounges in Towers were converted into dormitories for the students of PCA.
“They needed to use a bigger room to fit in all of the camera equipment. A regular sized room wouldn’t have been big enough,” Director of Housing Jim Brock said.
In addition to Towers, the film crew also shot scenes around Joslyn Plaza, outside Elkins Auditorium and in the HAWC.
Filming will continue at Pepperdine through Sept. 17, but McIlwain said production will be moved away from the main hub of student activity. During these early weeks of the academic year, the crew will be filming in one lounge in Tower 6, as well as in Alumni Park and the Fireside Room.
In addition to filming at many locations across campus during the summer, the production company moved into some of the Lovernich apartments, which served as interim production offices, McIlwain said.
Pepperdine agreed to allow such an extensive shoot for several reasons.
The first criterion examined by Special Programs was content.
“We get a lot of requests for material that is not really appropriate or in line with the mission and goals of the University,” McIlwain said.
The production company was also willing to film during the summer, which was very important to Pepperdine.
“Our first priority is our students,” McIlwain said. “We wanted to choose a time that would affect them the least.”
McIlwain said the show targets children who will be going to college in the future. “Some of them might want to come to Pepperdine because of it,” she said.
Besides added exposure for the University, Pepperdine also stood to gain monetarily from the shoot.
“It’s a really great revenue maker for the school. It’s safe to say that Pepperdine will make around $350,000 from the filming,” she said.
The filming of “Zoey 101” is not the first time a film crew has set foot on the Pepperdine campus.
“Pepperdine is involved in a lot of filming projects, including photo shoots and lots of commercials,” McIlwain said. “Usually these projects are done over one to three days. The ‘Zoey 101’ project is much more extensive and was a real experiment for us.”
Despite all the potential benefits for Pepperdine, there were some drawbacks to opening the campus up to a large production.
“The biggest complaint I’ve heard is about the amount of parking spaces the crew took up in Rho parking lot,” said McIlwain.
Summer school students faced the added difficulty of having to work around the crew during the day.
“Hearing that they would be filming on campus initially was exciting, but when they actually got here it was annoying,” junior Shalonda Martin said. “They were everywhere and at times they would stop you from walking and ask you to take an alternate route. It was really inconvenient and I felt like they should be working around us and not the other way around.”
Despite some student complaints, McIlwain said that the summer filming went very smoothly and everyone seemed to get along well.
Some people even enjoyed having the production crews on campus.
“I think the filming was actually a lot of fun for the summer campers. Many of them were from other parts of the country and had never seen a film crew before. They were just thrilled to watch the filming,” McIlwain said.
Some Pepperdine students reacted positively to the filming as well.
“I think it is great that they chose our school to film at,” sophomore Jennifer Lowe said. “I liked the way the HAWC looked while they were filming there, and I wish they would leave it the way that it is for the rest of the year.”
The success of the summer filming was largely due to cooperation and compromise between Pepperdine and the production company. According to McIlwain, steps were taken to ensure filming was scheduled around the needs of both Pepperdine summer school students and children attending camps on campus.
Pepperdine limited filming near residential areas and asked them to begin filming at 10 a.m., rather than 7 a.m., to protect the rights of students and accommodate people who might be sleeping. Filming also had to be finished by 10 p.m. every day. These requirements will also apply to the filming being done through Sept. 17.
Brock said the Housing Office has known since spring that the filming in Towers would need to continue into the early part of the school year.
“We compromised and asked that they only use one Tower lounge and not use the other locations in the community when classes began,” he said.
The Housing Office also sent e-mails to all Towers residents to inform them of the filming going on in the lounge and encouraging them to voice any concerns about it.
“We will continue to work with the RAs in asking them to let us know if they are aware of any concerns and we will address each concern as it comes to our attention,” Brock said.
The production crew has been asked to move their vehicles out of Rho parking lot in order to make the lot more accessible to the student drivers who need to park there. Also, the crew has been moved from Rho to Drescher and areas around the Executive Center so that no parking will be taken away from students in the fall.
Because the locations for filming are farther away from student activity, Pepperdine does not expect any problems for the crew or students. Students may still see production vehicles and crewmembers on campus after Sept 17 because they officially have until Sept. 21 to move off campus completely.
“Zoey 101” is slated to air on Nickelodeon in January.