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Pizzo, Murphy reunite for commercial based on IU opera student’s experiences

May 30, 2013

Who better than an IU alumnus recognized worldwide for his work behind the camera to tell the university’s story?

Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo recently spent two days on the Bloomington campus, filming a 60-second commercial that will air nationally as part of the university’s new marketing campaign. He was joined by New York-based cinematographer Fred Murphy, the first time the two have worked together since their iconic 1986 film “Hoosiers.” Bloomington-based producer Jo Throckmorton arranged for the pairing.

View footage from the shoot

“When Jo asked me who I wanted to use as cinematographer, I said I’m not familiar with anyone local,” Pizzo said. “And he said, ‘Oh no, we’ve got the budget, so we can hire from L.A. or New York.’ And I said it’d be great to hire someone I’ve worked with before. He said he’d check on Fred, and I thought he was kidding. It’s really exciting for me. Fred hasn’t been in the state of Indiana since he got on the plane after the wrap party 27 years ago, and it’s great to work with him again.”

Earlier this week, the decades since the two had worked together vanished quickly -- Pizzo and Murphy stood shoulder to shoulder, eyeing a camera monitor while directing a row of opera students dressed in teal and white Egyptian-style regalia from the school’s recent production of “Akhnaten,” a faux mountain range and funerary ship rising behind them.

Watch your eyes, Pizzo cautioned the girls, who needed to be looking in the same direction without blinking for the six-second shot. And is that a nose ring? One of the students quickly stepped out of line to remove the tiny stud. More light on the mountain range, Murphy called, adding, “It looks a little dead back there.”

Meanwhile, a host of crew members swarmed the stage at the Musical Arts Center, climbing to the rafters to shift lights at angles imperceptible to the untrained eye and laying rails for a Hollywood-style camera track, threading between huge monitors and other equipment with ease. A young woman walked by, offering coffee, granola bars, smoothies or other snacks to those hard at work.

Pizzo developed the storyline for the commercial, which is based on the experiences of professional opera singer and Jacobs School alumna Ailyn Perez. Though the younger Perez is played by opera student Hanna Brammer, the soprano herself will appear at the end of the one-minute piece.

“It’s a story about reaching your dreams,” Throckmorton said. “How many students want to get into the Jacobs School of Music? They work hard to make that happen and then, once they get in, there’s more work to succeed, plus more work to make it on the professional level. These 60 seconds show the possibilities of what can happen if you choose the right place and have the right mentors to help lead you through this portion of your life. It says, ‘Indiana University is that place that’s going to help you develop into the person you want to be.’”

The commercial has no dialogue. Instead, viewers will hear a vocal melody composed by Jacobs student Ari Fisher, who also composed a new score for the 1922 “David Copperfield” silent film that screened at IU Cinema in 2011 in honor of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

“It’s a great concept. It should be very evocative and emotional and, hopefully, create this feeling of pride in IU alumni and, at the same time, make parents and their students think what a great school this would be to go to,” said Pizzo, who is donating his director’s fee back to the university. “It’s been very exciting for me, and it’s for a great cause. It’s for the university that’s part of my community. It’s not just that I went here; I live here. IU is part of my life, and it’s one of the reasons I moved back to Bloomington.”

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