By Audrey Barrett
Over spring break, the Frank Manor House starred in the pilot episode of “The Perfectionists,” a spin-off of the hit TV show “Pretty Little Liars.” Both shows were created and written by Marlene King and based on books by Sara Shepard. “The Perfectionists,” starring Sasha Pieterse, Janel Parrish and Sofia Carson, continues the story of Alison DiLaurentis from “Pretty Little Liars,” and is set at an upscale liberal arts college. Director of Public Relations and Communications Roy Kaufmann said that the elite collegiate feel of Lewis & Clark’s campus and the estate-like Manor House are exactly what production scouts were looking for.
“There’s a lot of aspects of voyeurism, sort of watching and being watched, so our campus’s use of glass and big windows and spaces where people can look into a space or out of a space sound like they are important for the theme of the show,” Kaufmann said.
Bruce Carter, line producer of “The Perfectionists,” said that most of the college scenes for the pilot episode were filmed at Pacific University, since LC was not large enough. However, they had trouble finding a setting to play as an old mansion in Portland, since most of the estates do not have the kind of grounds the producers imagined.
“While we were at Lewis & Clark, we were looking for a campus but just stumbled on the Frank Manor … with the reflecting pool and the fact that the backyard reaches out into the woods and that the front is a really elegant entrance, we decided that would be a really great house,” Carter said. “We don’t play LC as if it were a campus, we play it as if it were this really high-end, old-world money house.”
On March 23, the last day of school before spring break, the production team began setting up and started filming the following Monday and Tuesday.
“We shot a lot of establishing pieces so that in the future, should we need to go to the house, we would probably build the interior on a stage somewhere and then use the establishing shots that we took when we filmed last week,” Carter said. “But we also filmed a large party where our Pretty Little Liars attend the party and some dramatic stuff happens.”
Liam Beveridge ’20 was on campus over break and saw what was going on.
“One evening they seemed to be shooting some big scene behind the Manor House,” Beveridge said via email. “There were people dressed up all around the reflecting pool and the lawn behind the Manor House. I also got yelled at by a security guard for trying to take the path behind the Manor House to get to work earlier in the day.”
Most students were off campus, so the cast and crew could arrange the setting to their liking without disrupting daily academic activities.
“The only time we can allow that kind of production on campus is summer vacation or spring break,” Kaufmann said. “Otherwise it can be fairly disruptive, and our first goal is to serve the students.”
This was not the ideal timing for the filmmakers, though, because their original schedule would have them filming at LC a week or two before break.
“Frankly it was difficult to get into Lewis & Clark initially because we had to come in on spring break,” Carter said. “We ended up pushing our schedule back about a week to accommodate working the first two days of the break, but it’s a beautiful campus and it went extremely well.”
Kaufmann worked with the production team to alter the filming schedule, since it was not only important for LC but also the Portland community. The Governor’s office and the Portland community were pushing for LC to accept this offer because filming creates many jobs in the Portland area. Several series filmed in Portland are currently wrapping up, including “Grimm,” “The Librarians” and “Portlandia.”
“We got contacted by the (Oregon) Governor’s Office of Film and Video, and they said if there’s any way you can make this work, it would be really appreciated,” Kaufmann said.
Still, Kaufmann said that opening the campus to filming is a complicated process. The production team needed a way to get electricity, water, security and food. LC’s Conferences and Events staff had to work out parking logistics and how to move furniture and art out of the Frank Manor House and store it somewhere else.
“It’s just a tremendous amount of work,” Kaufmann said.
LC has never hosted a filming enterprise of this scale before.
“We’ve had some TV commercials filmed down at the track and around campus, but those tend to be half or one day shoots, with a small cast and a fairly small crew,” Kaufmann said. “We’ve never dealt with a Hollywood pilot production, which is much, much bigger.”
The producers recognized this difficulty.
“I don’t expect institutions, especially really nice ones like Lewis & Clark, to open their arms to filming a lot,” Carter said. “It’s a big investment on the part of the college.”
This investment can get some payoff, though, in terms of a modest amount of revenue. Kaufmann said it is a publicity opportunity as well.
“If the series gets picked up, (it’s possible) for our campus to be featured in what we assume will be a series that a lot of people will see, particularly prospective students,” Kaufmann said.
So far, only the pilot episode has been filmed and is in the process of being edited by the production team, including Director Liz Allen. If the network, Freeform, decides to turn the pilot into a series, then this episode and more will be aired. Carter is optimistic about the show’s prospects.
“It’s very hopeful in this one because ‘Pretty Little Liars’ has such previous cachet,” Carter said.
LC students may soon be able to see the Frank Manor House on a major TV show.
“If they are successful, then I guess we can say we helped birth a TV show,” Kaufmann said.