CFA becomes soap opera setting

With the recent sightings of Russell Crowe and Jake Gyllenhaal filming different movies in Pittsburgh, it is clear that the city has been, and still is, a hot spot for filming locations. So it should come as only a mild surprise to hear that CBS’s soap opera As the World Turns recently completed filming a story arc in the ’Burgh. While the names may not be as big among our generation, stars Michael Park and Maura West, who have been in a staggering 1350+ combined episodes of the show, could be seen on campus and around Pittsburgh this past week.

As the World Turns premiered in 1956 and has been running uninterrupted ever since. It has spawned spin-offs and launched careers (Julianne Moore used to star in the show), broke the 10,000-episode barrier back in 1995, and has done pretty much everything a show can do during its run. Without going into the complete life story of the soap, let’s just say that it is set in the fictional town of Oakdale, Ill. and focuses on a wide array of characters and the relationships they form and break along with all the difficulties that come up in life — a typical soap opera, really.

This week, the show filmed at the College of Fine Arts building on the Carnegie Mellon campus. Christopher Goutman, the executive producer of As the World Turns, received his master of fine arts degree in directing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Sonia Blangiardo, line producer for the show and a staff member responsible for selecting locations, commented on Goutman’s choice.“The director for this episode (Goutman) remembered the College of Fine Arts building from his time here and we thought it would be good for what we needed location-wise,” she said. And in regard to the multi-episodic story arc, she said,“We’re not taking a cop-out; you will definitely be able to tell that you are in Pittsburgh.”

Indeed, viewers familiar with Pittsburgh will definitely recognize the locale, as the soap is also filmed at the Mattress Factory, the Pittsburgh Food Bank, and Clark’s Bar and Grille, among other well-known locations. Blangiardo also said that the story arc will have a “Feeding America” theme — hence the food bank — and will air over the time period of Nov. 17–25.

Probably the most interesting part about the filming, besides waking up at 6:30 a.m. to go see it, was actually to be able to see what goes on behind the camera. Sure, we’ve all seen “Behind the Scenes” episodes of our favorite shows, but to actually watch the boom mic operator check sound, the extras stand around, and much more was — simply put — really, really cool.

Keep in mind here that the crew had to jam all of their shooting, which consisted of three different scenes, each a few minutes long and both in and outside of the CFA building, into a one-hour period from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. so that they could beat the rush of students who were sure to be arriving soon. It was pretty impressive to see them have to pack light when they moved around and always to be on the ball. Each scene was wrapped up in just a few takes, each with minimal disruption.

One thing that jumped out pretty quickly was how easy it was to tell the actors, director, and the rest of the crew apart. There wasn’t any tension among the different groups, but it was surprising that, without knowing anything about the show going in, they could be spotted in an instant. In addition, the director was clearly in charge from the get go — he was constantly pacing and lining up shots, with not a moment to lose.

As the World Turns airs daily at 2 p.m. on CBS. Be sure to catch the episodes that will be airing during the week of Nov. 17 as you may recognize several of the locations, and who knows: Maybe you’ll see yourself in the background.