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Miami rejects Franco filming

By Jenni Wiener
On August 29, 2011

  • Academy Award nominated actor James Franco‚Äôs production company showed interest in filming at Miami but was denied. CONTRIBUTED BY DAVID SHANKBONE

Miami University is starting to look like a hot commodity for film producers. Since the filming of Ides of March this spring, another major production company has requested to film on campus, but was turned down.

James Franco's production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, contacted Miami over the summer about potentially filming a cable television reality program on the life of undergraduate students this fall, said Richard Campbell, director of the journalism program and interim chair of communications.

"We had some discussions in person and through email with Franco's production partners," said associate director of university communications, Claire Wagner. "We were unable, however, to come to an agreement with his company."

Wagner said she, Campbell and some communications faculty were involved in the decision-making. Legal counsel was also brought in to review questions on the matter.

Originally, Rabbit Bandini was willing to give Miami a say in what would be aired and said it would portray the well-rounded life of undergraduates, according to Campbell. However, the company later changed its mind and brought in a legal team that wanted to reserve the ability to fictionalize elements of the story without Miami's prior consent. The university was not in agreement with these terms.

"The university would have been allowing them to film on our campus, with our students and faculty members," Campbell said. "Miami needs to have some say in the matter for the purpose of protecting its reputation and undergraduates."

Wagner agreed saying, "We were not able to come to a location agreement, which includes aspects such as privacy and the location for filming on campus. We were concerned about students and their well-being."

Franco's production partners had also talked to the communications faculty about incorporating an academic component in the filming. Students in certain communications classes could have been involved in hands-on production of the film, Wagner said. However, the discussions ended before more details were established about the independent study.

"I was disappointed when Rabbit Bandini changed their mind," Campbell said. "I thought we had it all set up and ready to go, but then they changed their plan. It would have been great for our students to have that kind of experience."

The eleventh hour changes Rabbit Bandini requested derailed the deal.

"We never fully had a final set of factors for how it would play out," Wagner said. "We were concerned for student safety and getting everyone's permission."

This included the permission of students, faculty and residence halls.

"Our academic setting was not in agreement with their creative ideas," Wagner said.

There was no agreement that even came close to being signed, according to Wagner, but there was potential for Franco to come to campus in the fall to talk with students and lend a creative hand.

"Franco is currently in the process of filming a movie in Detroit," Campbell said. "So he would have potentially been close enough to visit three or four times."

Miami sophomore Rachel Cohen was shocked to hear that Franco could have come to campus.

"I love James Franco," Cohen said. "It would have been really cool if he came here, but it might have been distracting or put pressure on students to behave a certain way."

Junior Halle Francis was disappointed to hear that Franco wouldn't be here this fall.

"James Franco is a great actor and super cute," Francis said. "It would be awesome if he filmed on campus."

Wagner said if Franco's company changes their conditions or comes up with a different plan, the university would be open to further discussions in the future.

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