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The Daily Princetonian Thursday March 7, 2013 page s1 the daily PRINCETONIAN CHECK OUT OUR ARTS AND CULTURE BLOG, INTERSECTIONS. ‘ADMISSION’ Abby Williams gives you a behind-the-scenes look at Princeton’s role in Tina Fey’s new movie. The road outside of Whig Hall Blair Arch The movie opens on this classic Princetonian image. Later, inside of the arch, Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) spies Mark (Michael Sheen), her ex-boyfriend, and his new wife at the bottom of the steps. She turns around and pushes her way through the Nassoons as they perform “Tigertown Blues.” Portia drives by as her ex-boyfriend and his new wife exit their wedding to the cheers of their guests. Portia accidentally rearends their car. The path from Alexander to Blair Portia runs into John Pressman (Paul Rudd) and his student Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff) as they take a tour of campus. Q&A with Paul Weitz Street sat down with “Admission” director Paul Weitz to talk about his experiences filming at Princeton. Q: You filmed at Princeton over the summer. Could you describe your time on Princeton’s campus? A: Well, there were certain things that we weren’t supposed to shoot, like the admissions building. So that was a bit of a puzzler, because you’d have a character walking across campus and you’d say, “Wait a minute; I can’t shoot that,” and then you’d have to find a different place to put the camera. I think the thing is that when you’re going to a place, there are certain iconic images of the place that, if you are living there or going to school at Princeton, you’re not necessarily looking at Blair Arch all the time and going, “Wow, it’s Blair Arch!” That’s not how you experience the University. So while there’s some of that in the film, it was almost preferable to shoot things that were visually interesting but were not necessarily what would be on a brochure. And then we were just running around as fast as possible to shoot as much as possible because we only had a limited time. It was certainly exciting to be there. Q: How did you decide to feature the Princeton Nassoons in the arch sing scene? A: It seemed like the epitome of a certain type of tradition. Clearly Princeton has changed so much over the last few decades and is an extremely diverse place, and yet part of the diversity is this tradition. We really wanted that represented in that exact moment, which is Tina’s low point in the movie — she’s sobbing and comes across these guys in blazers singing “Tigertown Blues.” So that was great. It was so nice to not have to worry about whether they were going to do it properly, because they so know how to do it. Q: What drew you to the character of Portia Nathan? A: I felt like her strengths were her weaknesses. Her intellectual ability and ability to justify her decisions in life allowed her to hide an aspect from herself, and I really like that. Because I think that’s the case with a lot of people who are smart, and I imagine it’s the case with a lot of Princeton students. They’re so capable of doing certain things that it’s easy to neglect large aspects of your growth. And even sort of the aspect of having gotten over this huge hurdle of getting into Princeton, which is an amazing achievement, and at the same time your life doesn’t stop then — it’s just at a new phase, so what are you going to gain from it? I like that aspect of her character, that she’s achieved something and then she’s just stuck there. Q: One of my favorite parts of the movie was the round table discussion about applicants and the visual in which applicants would literally fall through the floor after being rejected. How did you craft the tension of qualified applicants slipping through the cracks? A: Well, I definitely believe, and especially in talking to admissions officers, that they’re not cynical about the process. They’re really trying to get people who are going to succeed and benefit from being there. My personal belief is that there’s almost like a DNA double-helix effect of your education, and what breaks you get in life, and your personality. That situation [in the movie] is fun because Tina suddenly is so desperate to get this one kid into the school, which seems kind of horrible, and at the same time that is some essence of it, that you’re making an arbitrary decision about who’s going to have this particular experience of going to Princeton. And you don’t know who’s going to benefit from it. You can have somebody who’s an incredibly high achiever who’s going to crash and burn, or you can have somebody who’s underachieving but at the point when they’re exposed to certain classes or a certain community might really come to life. So it seems like a really hard job, and a very, very subjective one, no matter how hard they try to make it objective. Q: Did Princeton give you all of their actual promotional materials for the film? MOVIE PREVIEW Fact: Tina Fey’s hair is as glossy in real life as it is in her Garnier Nutrisse commercial. Fact: Paul Rudd is actually as charming and funny as he is in Judd Apatow’s films. I was able to glean these critical journalistic tidbits from a short press conference on Fey and Rudd’s newest project, “Admission.” After pre-screening the film for an audience of college journalists in New York, Fey, Rudd, actor Nat Wolff and director Paul Weitz answered questions for a student press corps. Street was there with the people behind “Admission” to discuss the film, Princeton and the cancellation of “30 Rock.” “Admission” follows Portia Nathan, an admission officer at Princeton, as an explosive secret from her past lands on her desk in a single college application. Portia, played by Fey, begins the movie as a careerdriven employee who seeks validation for her hard work in a major promotion within the admission office. But when John Pressman (Rudd) calls to invite Portia to visit the alternative high school New Quest, he inadvertently changes the course of her life and career. Portia encounters John’s student, Jeremiah Balakian (Wolff), a prodigy with an abysmal transcript. Initially dismissive of Jeremiah’s chances at admission to Princeton, Portia changes her tune when John informs her that he believes Jeremiah is her son. She Outside Firestone Portia sits and cries as she realizes that Jeremiah might in fact be her long lost son. Her ex-boyfriend finds her there, and awkwardness ensues. MAP COURTESY OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MANAGING EDITOR EMILY TSENG PAGE DESIGN BY STAFF WRITER LIN KING begins to question the validity of the admission process and the value of her personal relationships as she struggles to grant Jeremiah admission. In doing so, Portia is forced to make several admissions of her own. The movie’s message about the subjectivity of the college admission process comes through loud and clear on screen, a point that Weitz reinforced during the press conference. “It’s not about where you go to college but who you come across when you’re there,” he said. “You could be coming out of a great school having no idea of the most important things in life.” Paul Rudd added a light-hearted anecdote to the discussion. “I didn’t apply to colleges,” Rudd said. “You just showed up?” Fey interrupted. “Yup, I bought the shirt,” he joked. “Like, okay, this is the high school I go to, and this is the college I go to.” Despite the film’s not-so-rosy outlook on the admission process, Fey still enjoyed her time on Princeton’s campus. “My favorite scene that we shot on campus was with the a cappella group,” Fey said, referring to the cameo by the Princeton Nassoons. “I’m, like, in tears, and they are singing their collegiate a cappella song, and they always sounded so good that we kept on letting them finish the song every take.” Tina, you’re welcome back to the Orange Bubble anytime! Be sure to look out for “Admission,” coming to theaters near you on March 22! PROS Tina Fey and Paul Rudd have compelling chemistry. Princeton’s campus is heavily featured. CONS Fey is a crying mess for much of the film. The film makes heavy-handed moral judgments concerning the admission process. A: Yeah, they did, which was very lucky. I mean, I was really scared about what we were going to do if we didn’t get Princeton because I didn’t think there was any other university that fit the bill in this way, because of the size of the school and because of the range of applicants. So it was a huge relief when they said, “Okay, we’ll let you do this.” Q: What are your words of advice for high school students who are currently waiting on acceptances from schools? A: It probably, on some level, feels like the end of the world, whether you get in somewhere or not, but it doesn’t matter. You have to have control over your intellectual growth and your growth as a person. Good for you if you get into Princeton — that’s fantastic, but that doesn’t solve anything. Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not worthwhile because you don’t achieve a specific thing. Sometimes it’s how you react to failure that makes you as a person. I definitely feel that for myself. You can be a champion prizefighter and step into the ring and get hit with a hook in the first minute and fall to the ground. Just keep arm’s-length from it psychologically. COURTESY OF ASSOCIATE PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR MEREDITH WRIGHT Tina Fey and Michael Sheen take a break between takes while filming near Blair Arch in July 2012.

Street: March 7, 2013

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