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WE ARE MARSHALL

Locations
Filming on "We Are Marshall” began where the story unfolded 36 years ago: at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and in the city of Huntington itself.

Production designer Tom Meyer recalls that McG felt so strongly about the authentic locale, he didn't want to proceed unless a significant portion of the film could be shot there. "When I first met with McG, we flew out there together. It's true what people say, that there's a certain feel to a place that you just cannot fully recreate on a soundstage.

"When we walked down the street,” Meyer continues, "people would approach us and say ‘I remember the night of the crash,' many with a direct connection and real loss. Those emotions became instilled in us in a very powerful way, just as they did when we stood in front of the memorial obelisk at Spring Hill Cemetery. We spent the first three weeks filming in Huntington and by then I had been there half a dozen times. My designs were always altered by my experience there.”

Among the practical sites on campus that Meyer incorporated were the student center and the chapel, where townspeople congregated on the night of the crash. On the vacant third floor of a building being renovated he uncovered three arched windows that had been dry-walled over and created the boardroom for a scene in which Nate Ruffin challenges the university directors on their decision to suspend the football program.

The campus became a set and Marshall students, staff and administrators became extras. Spears, who took the lead in coordinating filming around class schedules and events, recalls how, "As we began to bring the film crew into the Herd, making them part of Marshall University, they began to make us part of them as well. You could see this organizational dance taking place to make sure we didn't hinder production and they didn't stop classes. Campus security, faculty, parking, plant operations—we were all involved, whether they needed a higher voltage of electricity on the third floor of the Morrow Library or a place to park 40 trucks and trailers. If they came to us and said, ‘We really like the Student Center but we want to change the paint color,' my only question was, ‘Will you re-paint it the original color afterwards?'”

With a mandate to capture exteriors in Huntington, Meyer's 100-person crew restored the downtown block of 4th Street to its 1970 look, designing an entire row of vacant storefronts, displays and the large exterior signs of the period, from the Keith-Albee Theater and Frederick Hotel to shoe stores and insurance offices. Luckily, Meyer found the "architectural bones” of the period intact. "They hadn't torn buildings down and replaced them with a brand new McDonald's. You could spin around 360 degrees and see buildings that had been standing for 30, 40 or 100 years, all the way back to the founding of the city. Old storefronts might be boarded up, they might have dropped in a brand new awning or stuccoed over the brickwork, but if you scraped that off, you found the original architectural elements and the natural beauty underneath.”

When it came to recreating the crash site, Meyer accompanied McG and members of the production team, plus Spears, on a scout of the area, and was struck by how close it was to the airport. "You can see the airport runway from the crash site; it's just a quarter mile away. Realizing they were so close to a different outcome that night makes it all the more heartbreaking,” he says. Ultimately it was decided that staging the crash at its original location was inappropriate, and production moved to the Fulton County Airport/Brown Field in Atlanta, a working commuter airfield six miles from downtown.

Matching the densely wooded hills that surrounded the actual crash site was a challenge.

Meyer began by using earth-movers to terraform a f

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