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Campus a movie backdrop again.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

It's been a long time between takes, Eugene.

Eight years to be precise. That's when filming at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field and other Lane County locations wrapped up for "Without Limits," a Warner Bros. movie about the late UO distance runner Steve Prefontaine.

Now, the UO has a role in another major motion picture, as the backdrop in "Sisters," a film inspired by Anton Chekhov's play "The Three Sisters." Eugene media executive Carolyn Chambers is producing the $5.5 million movie, which will start filming later this month. The cast includes Maria Bello, Rip Torn, Mary Stuart Masterson and Chris O'Donnell.

The story is set on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but most of the action takes place on a college campus.

"It's supposed to be a college in the East, but the UO will do just fine," Chambers said.

"Sisters" will be filmed entirely in Lane County - on location and at the soundstages at Chambers Media Center on Chad Drive in Eugene. Most of the postproduction work will be done at Chambers' 100,000-square-foot media center. A few tasks, such as melding the film's eight to 10 sound tracks, will need to be done in Hollywood, Chambers said.

Although it will be filming in Eugene for only four weeks, "Sisters" should drop quite a bit of cash on the local economy. The production has about 75 full-time employees, from actors to camera grips.

In recent years, Oregon has suffered from a drought of filmmaking, compared with the wave of movies shot here in the early 1990s.

So this movie is good news to Oregonians who try to make a living in the film industry.

Charlie Carlsen, business manager for IATSE Local 488 in Portland, which represents technical employees, called "Sisters" a "big deal for Oregon - the fact that it's being done by Chambers and that it's an in-state production."

In recent years, intense competition - and lucrative incentives - have lured U.S. film productions not just out of Oregon, but out of the country.

"We've been struggling with the competition," said Veronica Rinard, executive director of the Oregon Film and Video Office.

"Originally it was Canada, now its global: New Zealand, South Africa, Eastern Europe."

But with "Sisters" in Eugene; a segment of the sequel to last year's suspense thriller "The Ring" filming in Astoria; and a couple of productions considering Portland, it's shaping up to be a promising spring, Rinard said.

The outlook should brighten even more next year, she said, when legislation takes effect setting up a rebate to filmmakers of 10 percent of expenses incurred in Oregon, such as labor, equipment and services. The production must spend at least $1 million and the rebate is capped at $250,000 per film.

Rinard said she's happy to see Chambers working on "Sisters."

"I hope it all goes well for them and that this is a sign of more things to come for them," she said.

It may be, Chambers said.

Photography will begin later this month and is scheduled to finish up on May 15, Chambers said.

"We have two producers coming in the next two weeks to see what we're filming and how we're doing it here, with the intention of seeing what they can do here," she said. "We hope they come and are pleased."

Chambers said she thinks the future for filmmaking in Oregon is improving.

Film producers are "always looking for places where they can do things relatively easily," Chambers said. "Eugene is conducive to that. You don't have to drive through miles of freeway or do the other things you have to do in California," she said.

Several distributors are interested in "Sisters," said Chambers, adding it will be released first in theaters and later on DVD and video.

Besides the University of Oregon, other local sites slated for a few moments of film fame are the old Cottage Grove Hospital, a local department store and the Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House, to be used in a flashback to the sisters' ancestral home in Charleston, S.C.

"Sisters" marks Chambers' third collaboration with director Arthur Allan Seidelman. He directed "Puerto Vallarta Squeeze," the $10 million movie Chambers co-produced, based on the novel by Robert James Waller, the author of "The Bridges of Madison County." The film, a romantic thriller starring Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel, was completed last summer. Now, it's being evaluated by the ratings bureau and should be released to theaters soon, Chambers said.

Chambers also was a producer of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," a Broadway production that closed when principal actress Polly Bergen had medical problems, Chambers said.

But it's playing to sellout audiences in Germany, Israel and Spain and will open soon in London, she said.


Feature films made at the University of Oregon and other local sites:

"Sisters": Starts filming later this month. A $5.5 million film produced by Eugene businesswoman Carolyn Chambers and inspired by Anton Chekhov's play "The Three Sisters."

"Stealing Time": Debuted in 2001 at the Seattle International Film Festival. Formerly named "Rennie's Landing." A $1.2 million independent film co-written and produced by Michael Garrity, a UO graduate.

"Without Limits": Released in 1998. A $25 million Warner Bros. movie about UO running star Steve Prefontaine, starring Billy Crudup and produced by Tom Cruise.

"Personal Best": Released in 1982. Starred Mariel Hemingway as a track athlete.

"Animal House": Released in 1978, starring John Belushi.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; `Sisters' is the first major film to be shot in the Eugene area in eight years
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 11, 2004
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