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From Real to Reel : Van Nuys: Assistant Principal Joseph Walker of Grant High has connections in Hollywood. When producers need a school setting, they come to him.

November 29, 1992|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The big thing is to find a place with no palm trees around it," says Rhonda Baer, the movie's location manager. "This is supposed to take place in Long Island, and this place has no palm trees and no Spanish roof. It doesn't look like Los Angeles."

The cast filmed three hours one evening for a scene that lasts about a minute and a half. Long before the rest of the crew arrived, set decorators and production assistants touched up a downstairs corridor, tacking up a bulletin board, filling an empty trophy cabinet, even putting up a Grant cheerleading poster they borrowed from the floor above.

Despite the initial absence of filming equipment, Grant students who strolled by between classes seemed to know instantly that the hallway had become a movie location. A few of them stopped only long enough to inquire what the title of the production was.

"The kids are rather blase about it," says Principal Bob Collins. "They don't even look anymore. They just walk over the wires and go to class."

Student body President Alison Atikian agrees.

"We just pretty much ignore it. It's kind of an inconvenience to us actually," she says. "But we do get excited sometimes when they ask for extras."

Or when they're filming "Beverly Hills 90210," which has enough teen-age heartthrobs to set off campus fire alarms.

"I knew a lot of people who were hanging around the trailers trying to see someone," Alison recalls.

Grant, the alma mater of actor Tom Selleck, has been popular with studios for several years. But during Walker's tenure as assistant principal, the school has begun exploiting its Industry appeal more thoroughly. Now the campus is one of the top filming moneymakers in the entire school district.

Until two years ago, each school was permitted to make its own arrangements with film companies and charge fees at its own discretion, which at Grant, Walker says, amounted to about $2,000 a day.

However, to impose some order on the process--and to answer complaints of unfairness from schools that were not in demand for filming--the Board of Education adopted a uniform fee schedule in July, 1990, that is still in place now: $3,000 per day, plus extra charges for certain hours. Half, or $1,500, is earmarked for the school, with $750 going to the district's general fund and $750 distributed among non-participating campuses.

Thus, last year's $38,000 take means that Grant garnered $76,000 overall, with the rest allotted to the district's general fund and other district campuses.

There are restrictions on filming, however. For example, Walker demands to know the subject matter of a movie before he approves a request.

"I don't want the campus to be the sequel to 'Behind the Green Door,' " he says, referring to a notorious adult film.

And anyone who wants the fullest cooperation should come prepared with something to munch on.

"The food that they serve on these film catering trucks is the most exquisite, delicious food in comparison to cafeteria food," Walker says, laughing. "We look forward to that more than anything else.

"We'll put up with anything if we can eat at their truck."

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