Commercial filming project on campus sparks strong reaction after reports of simulated gunshots


A commercial production filming on campus redesigns a Loyola sign for their set on Nov. 8 2019. The production sparked controversy when students and faculty reported hearing simulated gunshots. Photo credit: Hannah Renton

Erin Snodgrass

The filming of an outside production on Loyola’s campus has left some students and faculty feeling frustrated.

A commercial filming project using Loyola as its set sparked controversy Friday after some students and faculty reported hearing what they described as gunshots, even though university officials said such sounds weren’t part of the day’s plan.

In an email sent to the Loyola community Nov. 6, Leslie Harris, chief of staff, informed students and faculty that a production would be filming near the sculpture garden in between Bobet and Marquette Halls on Nov. 7 and 8. The email also said that the storyline called for an actor to run around the set with a fake gun, but that no gun sound effects would be used.

However, Friday morning, multiple students reported hearing the sound of gunfire on campus.

“When I arrived on campus this morning I heard a gunshot and then screaming,” Allison Belcher, classical studies senior said. “I knew it was from set but the email sent out to us stated that there would be no gunshot sound effects.”

Belcher said that if she had not known filming was in progress, she would have been scared.

Grace Koehler, psychology senior, also heard the sound of gunshots and described it as “odd.”

“They said that gun noises were not going to happen, but in fact they did,” Koehler said.

Justin Nystrom, associate professor in history, indicated that he, too, heard simulated gunshots and tweeted video of the scene outside his office.

“Somehow having a [production] film a fake shooting scene outside my office is screwing with me. Was it being at Virginia Tech in 2007? Oh right, right. It is that.” Nystrom tweeted Friday morning.

Nystrom was at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University when a mass shooter opened fire in 2007.

“Until I heard the scenes being filmed it did not occur to me that it would trigger unpleasant memories,” Nystrom said. “I’m afraid the decision to use simulated gunfire in the first two or three takes did not help, especially when we were informed none would occur.”

However, Jonathan Vogl, digital filmmaking assistant professor and film production liaison for Loyola, said no gunshots or simulated gunshots occurred.

“I think the marketing department made it very clear that there was filming on campus and described the nature of it,” Vogl said. “There were no gunshots or simulated gunshots that went off.”

Vogl, along with Harris vetted the production prior to its arrival on campus, according to a comment provided by Harris.

“Many of our faculty, staff and students are used to seeing filming on campus and around the city,” Harris said. “Regardless of the filming on campus that occurred in the past, we recognize that for some in our community it was jarring.

Harris went on to apologize to any members of the community who were unaware of the filming and concerned.

“While we provided notification in the days leading up to the filming and all locations were marked with clear signage, we recognize that not everyone may have been aware.”

Her comment, however, did not confirm or deny the use of gunfire or simulated gun noises.

Belcher, who is sure she heard something that sounded like gunshots continues to feel frustrated.

“I think the denial is somewhat insulting because even if there were no gunshots or simulated gunshots, something was used that created the same sound,” she said.

For Nystrom, even simulated harm to students is difficult for him to digest.

“Virginia Tech will always inform my approach to teaching and interacting with students,” Nystrom said. “Life is precious, and our students are precious.”

Cody Downey and Anum Siddiqui contributed to this report.

To read Harris’ full comment regarding the production, click here.