Movie intern learns lingo amidst fame, glitz

By Anna Vinnik

Since the cast and crew of Proof left campus nearly a week ago, James Adelman, a fourth-year in the College and intern on the set, has been experiencing what he describes as “production withdrawal.”

During the time Adelman spent around movie stars, directors, producers, and the crew, he learned complicated camerawork, provided producers with suggestions about University of Chicago culture, and mastered the intricate language of on-set lingo.

Adelman wears oversized sunglasses and smokes one cigarette after another—a habit he insists has grown more acute during the filming. Though he has always been interested in film, Adelman said he never expected to be working on a movie as on undergraduate.

Ticking through his list of experiences with the movie stars, he described Gwyneth Paltrow as aloof and Anthony Hopkins as more amiable.

“Gwyneth Paltrow lit up when her boyfriend was around—it was very normal,” he said. “Jake Gyllenhaal played boggle in his trailer and Anthony Hopkins was friendly to everyone. Hopkins once asked me for my Pad Thai. He ultimately decided he didn’t want it, but there was a very ‘Hello, Clarisse’-type quality in his request. But maybe it was just me.”

The University along with the producers selected four interns after advertising the opportunity on the University Theater and Fire Escape listhosts.

According to Larry Arbeiter, director of university communications, the internships were created when the University agreed to allow filming of the movie on campus, a request that the University does not often honor.

But when moviemakers are permitted to come here, Arbeiter said, they are asked to contribute to the educational experience of students on campus, adding that he hoped the interns not only enjoyed the experience but learned from it

“Production is an elaborate process, and I’m glad to see the students have witnessed it first-hand,” Arbeiter said.

Adelman also became aware of the “division of power on the set” created by the presence of union workers, calling it a “dynamic set-up for conflict.” Any production has to hire a certain number of union workers, Adelman explained, describing them as “the people who do things like move trailers at midnight and generally play football and catch during the day.”

The union workers are an insularly loyal group and are seldom star struck, Adelman said. He recalls the producers waiting longer than they expected during lunch hour because the union workers gave priority to their own members before making the producers’ sandwiches.

“There is a loyalty among the Chicago crew; they treat each other very well,” Adelman said.

While the workers emanated loyalty, the producers, Adelman said, exuded glamour. “They sit on their chairs, they talk on their cell phones, and you don’t know what they are doing, except of course you know that it’s very important, and that it makes them wealthy,” he joked.

He interacted the most with second assistant director Don Julian, whom he described as the “oil in the machine.”

All of the members of the crew were connected through personal radios and microphones. The Hollywood term for a crew-wide radio communication is called “cuing up,” a process that Adelman explains is often amusing, but can be dangerous. “Everyone on-set can hear what you are saying when you cue up,” Adelman said. “People ruin their careers over this.”

By the end of the filming, Adelman had become good friends with a variety of people on the set.

For Adelman, the experience reinforced a long-standing desire to pursue a career in film.

“I wasn’t treated like a paid staff person,” Adelman said. “I was allowed to do everything I wanted to do. But I certainly have much more to learn.”