David Fincher Films Harvard Yard Scene In Front of Commons For the Upcoming Facebook Movie, ‘The Social Network’

Hollywood brought snow and Harvard to campus this weekend when the upcoming film “The Social Network” shot a scene in the Flagstaff courtyard on Monday. Last Sunday and Monday, the movie crew transformed Flagstaff Quad into a wintry Harvard Yard with the addition of fake snow and a replica of the well-known John Harvard statue. Filming began at 7 p.m. on Monday evening. The Flagstaff Quad was blanketed in silence as bystanders viewed the filming process while the cameras rolled. The scene was filmed from three different distances. There were about 20 takes for each angle. Each time, the whole scene took approximately 30 seconds to shoot. David Fincher, the film’s Academy Award-nominated director, said, “[The scene] is exactly one page so it’s 1/160 of the movie.” Fincher’s filmography includes “Fight Club” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar. The scene depicts Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook, during his initiation into a Harvard secret society. In the scene, Saverin and other pledges are questioned to prove their loyalty to the group. The film crew prepped for the single-page scene in front of Paresky Commons. The crew filmed additional scenes in the Elson Art Center and at My Brother’s Pizza Place in downtown Andover. Fincher viewed the scene as a necessary step of making a feature length movie. “It’s kind of like being asked, how do you eat a whale? Just one bite at a time. You have to ask yourself what you need for tonight. You need to have a plan,” he said. Harsh winds and near freezing temperatures were especially hard to endure for some members of the cast who were forced to wear very little clothing for their roles. Extras and other set crew took advantage of heat tents and warm drinks provided in the area around the commons courtyard while not shooting. “They gave us blankets, heated tents, tea, coffee and cocoa,” said actor Willie Moore, who plays a Harvard student in the movie. “We’ve been here since 4:30 [p.m.], and it’s pretty typical to be here at least 14 hours. We’ll be here when [the students] wake up.” “The Social Network” focuses on the life of Mark Zuckerberg, creator of the popular networking site Facebook. The movie follows Zuckerberg’s experience at Harvard University, where he first developed the idea for Facebook. The movie is set to hit theaters in 2010. Movie production assistants patrolled the set to maintain the peaceful atmosphere. One production assistant said, “My job is to deal with the logistical aspects of the filming process, keeping the set quiet and making sure no one walks into the shot while we’re filming.” Fincher said, “[Filming with noise is] much worse on city streets where you kind of just have to go with it. It can always be problematic wherever you go. We don’t need everything to be perfectly silent, but if you can hear a hubbub in the background then it doesn’t sound natural.” Cean Chaffin, one of the film’s producers, said that the filming could not take place on the Harvard campus because of strict policies regulating the use of their facilities. “[Dealing with] Harvard is complicated. They took over the entire process and eventually said no to our request,” Chaffin said. “It’s really complicated getting locations. There’s always policy involved, whether it’s there for the right reasons or the wrong ones. We didn’t get around the policy.” “Andover was easy to deal with,” she continued. “When we find a major location like this and we know we have these little insert shots that we have to make, we like to find [locations] that are close by. That’s why we’re using [the] art department and the pizzeria downtown.” Fincher said, “The symmetry of the front [of Commons] made it look like this was a place where there could be a statue. It’s very beautiful. Looking through the windows of the building, it looks regal.” English actor Andrew Garfield, who plays Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg’s best friend, said, “[Andover] is like the Disneyland of English schools. It’s more open. It’s just an intelligent design.” Chaffin said the movie crew and Fincher offered to do the question-and-answer session because they like to establish good relationships and build connections with the communities at the filming sites. Since the scene was set in the midst of winter, the filming company spread fake snow throughout Flagstaff Quad. There were initial concerns that the fake snow product would end up killing a few of trees on the campus. Andover trees, however, should be safe. “Our snow is made out of paper product and a biodegradable food product. We can’t use things that are bad for the environment,” said Chaffin. The crew finished cleaning the set Thursday afternoon. Stephen Porter, Director of Public Information and Web Publishing, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “We were originally told the clean up process would take a day or a day and a half, but it is clearly taking longer than expected.” “The most important thing is that clean up is thorough. And to their credit, the studio folks have promised to stick with the job until it is done to our satisfaction,” Porter continued. The film crew started building the set Sunday morning. Steve Cremin, the Special Effects for the film, said that his department only really needed to handle the creation of the fake snow for the scene. “The look of the snow is probably most important,” Cremin said. “A lot of people will look at it, and a lot of people have seen snow.” The crew used fake snow products made by Snow Business. The Snow Business website said that they have been making wintry special effects for 25 years. Cremin said that the use of an industry-standard snow ensures that snow of different textures will be uniformly photographically white and that it becomes problematic to make it personally. For this particular scene, the fake snow used on the ground had slightly more texture than the snow on the John Harvard statue, Cremin said. He added that the snow on the statue would also become slippery if wet. Cremin said that using professionally-made snow also guarantees what types of chemicals it contains. Brandon McLaughlin, the On-Set Effects Foreman, said that the snow was a completely biodegradable paper product similar to tissue paper. McLaughlin spent Sunday afternoon attaching fake snow to the John Harvard statue. McLaughlin sprayed the snow with an adhesive before attaching it, the same process used to lay the snow on the ground, he said. “The smaller [snow is] a quicker application,” he said. He laughed when asked about the difficulty of creating the fake snow for the set. “This is a piece of cake,” he said. McLaughlin has previously built tanks, machine guns and coordinated building explosions as part of his work. “You’re not going to get killed doing something like this,” he said. McLaughlin said that the white sheets covering the grass on Sunday were terram. He said the terram protected the fake snow from getting into the grass. Terram is normally used in road construction before putting down asphalt, McLaughlin said. “[It] allows us to clean up thoroughly,” he said. McLaughlin said on Sunday that the crew would shovel the fake snow by hand during the clean up. Cremin said that the crew used water as the adhesive for the fake snow on the ground, allowing for easily removal. Mike Monanno, Location Assistant, said, “[The clean up] makes sure [the campus] gets restored back to the way it is.” “It’s not going to be fun,” he added.