'Perks' director finds a lot to like in his hometown

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As the film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" starts shooting in Pittsburgh, it turns out there are perks to being in the South Hills.

Stephen Chbosky, the director of the movie and author of the book of the same name, is a native of Upper St. Clair, and in the past two weeks, the film's production crew has popped up in places around his hometown.

According to Gary May, 61, of Bethel Park, Mr. Chbosky is interested in filming much of his movie in the South Hills, including a few scenes at Bethel Presbyterian Church, where Mr. May is an elder.

Two months ago, a photographer who said he was a location scout took pictures of the church. On May 16, about 200 actors, extras and crew showed up for a 15-hour shoot that began just before 3 a.m.

"It was quite a production," Mr. May said.

He was on the set for most of the day, and said he spoke with Mr. Chbosky and actor John Malkovich, who is producer for the film.

Mr. Chbosky liked the traditional look of the church and said it fit the time period of the book, which is set in the 1990s, Mr. May said.

There was one problem, however. The script called for a Catholic church.

"I was joking with the location coordinator. I said, 'Wouldn't it be easier just to re-write the script and make it a Protestant church?' and he said, 'No, that's the way they want it."

Incense and a Catholic priest were used to create the Catholic feel, Mr. May said. Three scenes, including a funeral scene, were shot in the church sanctuary and one was shot outside.

The next day, the "Perks" production moved on to Peters Township High School, where they shot classroom and homecoming dance scenes.

The high school was renovated in 2000, so the crew removed a smart board, projectors, television, phone and digital clock and installed wood blinds and added wooden desks to make it look like it was still the 1990s, said Kris Bergman, 37, an administrative intern at the high school and a sixth-grade teacher in the district.

To avoid disrupting the school day, the crew filmed scenes from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. May 17-18. A dozen students were extras in the classroom and dance scenes, and Mr. Bergman also nabbed an extras role, as a chaperone at the high school dance.

"On the 18th I was a chaperone for the movie, and then on the 20th I was a chaperone for the actual prom, so I guess it looked good on my resume," he joked.

During the filming Mr. Bergman did not see Mr. Malkovich or Emma Watson, one of the film's stars, but did see Paul Rudd and Logan Lerman, two other actors in the film.

"It was just a unique opportunity and experience to be part of," Mr. Bergman said. "Being in education, you kind of don't get those experiences, with the movie coming here and being able to talk to the directors and the producers and the art department. The whole experience has been awesome."

He had high praise for the production crew, saying they ran a "smooth operation."

"Perks" plans to return in June to film a few more scenes at the high school and the middle school, he said.

The cast and crew, including Ms. Watson and Mr. Lerman, took a break from filming on Saturday to attend "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, said John Maggio, president of the not-for-profit group Friends of the Hollywood Theater.

It won't be the only time the cast and crew is in the Hollywood. The "Perks" production has rented the theater space to film a scene there later this summer.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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