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Starring Roles

University High School in Los Angeles has never taught a Kennedy, but it has played one on TV. Well, sort of.

The imposing brick building serves as a filming location for the WB network's popular series "7th Heaven." Some of the characters on the family-oriented show attend the fictional Kennedy High School.

University High also has played roles in the TV show "Lizzie McGuire" and the movie "Bruce Almighty."

Its fee is $1,700 per day; its agent, the Los Angeles Unified School District.

With an eye on their tight budgets, an increasing number of schools in the district are seeking such roles. A total of 165 campuses have added themselves to the Entertainment Industry Development Corp.'s "film-friendly schools" list.

In fact, filming adds $1 million annually to the school district's $6 billion budget. However, the nonprofit economic-development corporation—which acts as a middleman between the district and the entertainment industry—cautions against seeing filming as a cure-all for the district's monetary problems.

"It's all relative. LAUSD has a billion-dollar budget. Filming increases it by a million," said Susan Yackley, the director of business development for the corporation's facilities and services division. "It will not solve the budget issues at hand."

The corporation, created by the city and county governments, took over the leasing aspect of filming in 2001, after production companies overwhelmed Los Angeles principals.

Whenever a production is filmed on school property, 12 percent of the fee goes to the corporation. Of the remaining money, 75 percent goes to the school and 25 percent goes to the district. Principals can use schools' revenues for items on their wish lists.

"Filming is our school's biggest fund-raiser," said Dino Stirpe, the movie-industry liaison for Verdugo Hills High School, which has served as a backdrop for such shows as "CSI" and "American Dreams."

"Without it, we wouldn't be able to put uniforms on our football team."

Sometimes, the experience of having their campus filmed turns out to be an educational opportunity for students.

"The production company gets their location, the principal gets their money, and the students get their experience. It's a win- win for all sides," Ms. Yackey said.

—Natasha N. Smith

Vol. 23, Issue 21, Page 3

Published in Print: February 4, 2004, as Take Note

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