'The Lifeguard' wraps up filming here

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Offstage, Kristen Bell seems to have found her love-life niche with actor, writer, director and all around funny guy Dax Shepard. The same can't be said for her on-camera roles, though.

After her love triangle involving a boyfriend of five years and an English rock star in the 2008 hit romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Ms. Bell's relationships aren't getting any less complicated. Case in point: "The Lifeguard."

A drama that has used Pittsburgh's diverse landscapes and neighborhoods for nearly a month to replicate New York and Connecticut, "The Lifeguard" wrapped up here Tuesday after filming in Sewickley, the Strip District, Churchill and Fox Chapel.

The movie's producers came primarily for Pennsylvania's competitive tax incentives and ended up hitting the jackpot.

"Pittsburgh has been an absolute dream, honestly," said writer and director Liz W. Garcia. "I came here not knowing if the landscape would really work, and it did. It's so beautiful here."

Ms. Garcia created the TV series "Memphis Beat" along with Joshua Harto, who is also an actor and producer of "The Lifeguard."

Ms. Bell, or 29-year-old Leigh in the film, plays a reporter for The Associated Press who is finding life in New York to be "mundane," said Ms. Garcia, as bills pile up and a dysfunctional relationship carries on. Longing for the excitement of years past, she decides to leave The Big Apple for her hometown in the suburbs of New England, regaining her high school job as lifeguard at the local pool.

"[Leigh] comes home and finds herself sort of ensconced in her old high school life and meets a group of kids who are still in high school," said producer Mike Landry. "And she enters into a dangerous sort of relationship, as well."

Dangerous because it is with 16-year-old Little Jason, a boy with behavioral issues who is played by up-and-coming actor David Lambert.

Besides these new acquaintances who stroll the halls of Woodland Hills High School, the set chosen by film producers, Leigh also meets with old friends Todd and Mel, played by Martin Starr and Mamie Gummer. This isn't the first time Mr. Starr is buddy-buddy with a movie's main actor. He played the pot-smoking and beard-growing friend of Seth Rogen's Ben in "Knocked Up."

The low-budget feature, still exceeding $1 million, frequented the pool at Sewickley Heights Manor as the location of Leigh's lifeguarding position that "she is still sentimental about," as described by Ms. Garcia.

"It was really an embarrassment of riches. We had several [pools] that we could choose from and we just found this one to be perfect," said Mr. Landry. "It is exactly how [Ms. Garcia] pictured it in her mind."

A pool of talented local personnel has also made for a smooth production process. According to Mr. Landry, 60 percent of hires for cast and crew were done locally.

An additional perk of that statistic: local tour guides.

"A bunch of the crew is local, and so they had a fun time showing a couple of our out-of-town actors to the Pirates game," he said. "We've had a good time on the South Side, a good time in the Strip District, and, of course, everybody had to hit Primanti's."

Pittsburgh native Michael Dolan of Smithfield Street Productions, an executive producer of the film, has helped with all facets of production.

Although the film does not have a distributor, the producers hope to engage one after the movie premieres at a festival in 2013.

The film is being sold by Creative Artists Agency. In addition to Mr. Landry and Mr. Harto, Carlos Velazquez is also a producer.

"All in all, we hope it has been a win-win for Pittsburgh and 'The Lifeguard' production," said Mr. Landry.


Rob Wennemer: rwennemer@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1723.


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