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FILM CLIPS / SCHOOL'S OUT

Credit, No Credit Class

March 09, 1997|Robert Stevens | Robert Stevens is a Times staff writer

Watch the ending of the teen horror film hit "Scream," and you'll find the following credit: "No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa city school district governing board."

Though it has made $83.3 million since its December release, the Wes Craven film, in which a masked murderer torments young residents of a small town, had an inauspicious start.

Last spring, the filmmakers believed they had secured "Scream's" primary shooting location of Santa Rosa High School, and were in pre-production in the Northern California town when they discovered that getting the site wouldn't be as easy as anticipated.

According to Marianne Maddalena, "Scream's" executive producer, with the filmmakers already based in Santa Rosa, the high school reneged on its verbal agreement to let the crew film there.

"We made a decision to go to Santa Rosa because the high school was perfect for our movie," Maddalena says. "We created a shooting schedule for when they told us it would be the best time to shoot in the school.

"When we got up there they changed their minds. I think basically someone didn't like the script."

Frank Pugh, the board's president at the time, says that the filmmakers failed to fill out the proper forms and petition the school board before any promise could be made--regardless of any verbal agreement.

"We have 1,700 kids that need an education," Pugh said. "The [filmmakers] want to shut down wings, shut down the cafeteria. . . . Any reasonable person knows that there's paperwork that needs to be worked out."

By the time the filmmakers eventually filled out the necessary forms in March, word of mouth had spread to the town, and it wasn't good. Nearly 800 people showed up to debate the filming at a school board meeting in April.

"The public became very upset that this type of film was going to be shot at a high school campus," Pugh says. "But the board can't really make decisions based on content issues of the film. Instead, the board was interested as to how this shooting would disrupt the campus climate."

After conferring with Santa Rosa High's principal, Michael Panis, the board decided that "Scream's" scheduled filming--which would have paid the school system $30,000 to $50,000--would be too disruptive. Shooting was to take place during the school's finals week in early June.

"It wasn't a dollar issue," Pugh says. "At one time there were as many as 10 days that they were going to film at the school." In May, Craven offered to reduce filming at the school to four days, but those dates also conflicted with finals and were rejected too. Pugh adds that the school, which has been the location for a number of films, including "Peggy Sue Got Married" and the upcoming Fox release "Inventing the Abbotts," now temporarily has a policy of no filming on campus.

"Scream" was eventually filmed at the Sonoma Community Center, a former grade school. Scenes had to be rewritten to accommodate the change. "You have so many problems in production anyway," Maddalena says. "The last thing you need at the last moment is to lose your major shooting location.

"We felt upset about it, which is why we had the credit," says Maddalena, laughing. "In the end everything worked out for the best."

"It's always interesting to see who they thank and who they don't," says Pugh, who watched the tail end of "Scream" to see if the incident was mentioned in the credits. "I guess that was their attempt to try and make a statement or upset the board or something. . . . I don't know. I guess they've got to do what they think they've got to do."

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