Andrew Dys

Turning Winthrop

The movie "Asylum" is being filmed this week at Winthrop University. At right, the crew film a scene Monday in front of Tillman Hall on campus.
The movie "Asylum" is being filmed this week at Winthrop University. At right, the crew film a scene Monday in front of Tillman Hall on campus.

Making movies sure is different from watching movies.

Shooting for the horror movie "Asylum" began Monday on Winthrop University's campus and will continue all week. It took more than two hours in the morning to film a single scene of heroine Sarah Roemer registering for college classes. Then another two-plus hours in the hot afternoon to rehearse and film a single scene where a less-than-savory character in horn-rimmed glasses and sweat shirt jumps out at Roemer from behind some bushes.

"Asylum," is about college kids who find out their dormitory was once home to the criminally insane. Parents who hear of some of their kids' wilder exploits at college may not think too much has changed.

Yet seriously this week, Winthrop has been turned into Richard Miller University, the fake name of the school in the movie. Tillman Hall had a banner draped across the front Monday saying "Welcome to Tagert Hall." Dozens of extras playing college students walked back and forth countless times.

More than 85 people are involved in filming at Winthrop, from the director through the crew. When Director David R. Ellis, who directed the recent film "Snakes on a Plane," or the assistant director said the shot wasn't right, cast and crew did it over. Again and again and again.

Every detail of each scene, from lighting to sound, had to be right. Crew members like Leslie Gordon of Charlotte had to lay tracks for rolling cameras and maneuver all kinds of equipment needed for the right picture and sound.

Making movies is a physical miracle. The crew members wear earpieces like Secret Service agents, constantly hustling from place to place to do what seems like four things at once. Cranes have to be built to carry aerial cameras. Sound men slither around with microphones on long gaffs. Video people take footage for the eventual DVD release that requires behind-the-scenes material.

Action fills the screen when watching a movie, as heads are lopped off or the hunk gets the blonde. But movie making creation is a brutal set of hiccups and false starts and retakes. When the directors wanted the same registration scene from a different angle, all the camera equipment was moved, the extras corralled and instructed and the set turned around.

Parts of Oakland Avenue fronting the school will be closed to through traffic again today. Yet what "Asylum" mostly means for Winthrop students this week is skirting the campus areas around the cameras. There are signs up that tell people all the areas being filmed. Ryan Drumwright, a sophomore from Fort Mill, made the mistake of wandering over for a look in front of shooting near Byrnes Auditorium while talking on his cell phone. Production staffers swooped in to tell him to find another place to talk.

"But this is pretty neat, that this movie would come to Winthrop and give the university some publicity," Drumwright said.

Movies aren't new to the area: Rock Hill has become the second-largest movie production spot in the state. "The Patriot" was filmed here in 1999, and other movies have followed. "Patriotville" is now filming in Chester, and another movie is scheduled to start in Rock Hill later this month.

The movies "Carrie 2" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and many commercials have used Winthrop's campus before, said DeeAnna Brooks, assistant to the President for University Events. More than 20 theater students are extras or members of the crew.

But not Rustam Seyunov, an exchange student form Kyrgyzstan in Asia. He was stunned to find the grass in front of Byrnes filled with movie sets as he walked to class.

"In my country, we like action movies," he said. "Arnold Schwarzenegger. Van Damme."

Seyunov thought long and hard.

"I would like to be in this movie," he said.

Too bad. The extra parts were filled at a casting call here in Rock Hill a couple of weeks ago. Like most of the rest on campus, all he can do is watch the movie being made. Slowly.