Filming on St. Thomas Campus
A University of Memphis sign stands in front of the Arches for a scene in “Overnight Delivery,” 1996.

Tales from the Archives: Lights, Camera, St. Thomas

The colors of autumn can make the St. Thomas campus look like it is straight out of a movie set. In fact, our beautiful campus played a role in at least three television and feature films in the 1990s, remaining an inspiration for today's Film Studies Program.

In the spring of 1991, the St. Thomas campus became a hub of activity as the cast and crew of “Crossing the Bridge” descended upon it. This film, set in 1970s Detroit, featured up-and-coming actors Stephen Baldwin, Josh Charles and Jason Gedrick. If one watches “Crossing the Bridge” closely, one can spot scenes filmed at various iconic locations on campus, including the lower quad, Summit Avenue in front of the Arches, and offices and classrooms in Aquinas Hall and Albertus Magnus Hall (now known as the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts). 

Approximately 150 St. Thomas students were recruited as extras, giving them a unique opportunity to be a part of the film. Not only that, but the production company also donated a generous $1,500 scholarship for a deserving film student. Intern positions were created for four students, offering hands-on experience as location assistants, set dressers and film editors.  

Just like the learning experienced by these students, the present Film Studies Program at St. Thomas gives students interdisciplinary skills in film history, analysis and production. This opportunity illustrates St. Thomas’ dedication to the liberal arts philosophy and to facilitate diverse student interests.

Filming on St. Thomas Campus
Student extra for the film “Crossing the Bridge” has makeup applied, 1991.

In fall 1994, the St. Thomas campus found itself again in the spotlight, this time for the made-for-television movie “She Led Two Lives” starring Connie Sellecca, A Martinez and Perry King. In the film, a married woman visits the small college where her late father was once a botany professor. During her visit, she reconnects with her first love, who has become the school’s basketball coach. Their rekindled romance ultimately leads to a second secret marriage for Sellecca’s character. Eagle-eyed viewers can spot scenes shot on St. Thomas’ lower quad, the greenhouse by the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts, and inside the first Schoenecker Arena.  

In June 1996, St. Thomas was once again thrust into the world of film, this time in the motion picture “Overnight Delivery.” The film starred Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon, and followed Rudd's character on a cross-country journey to retrieve a package he impulsively sent to his girlfriend. Summit Avenue, the Arches and the old Foley Theater building are among the locations one will see on this imaginary campus. 

In 2008, the Theater Program at St. Thomas closed its curtain. This inspired a group of faculty from multiple departments to brainstorm how to reinvigorate the creative arts on campus. The result became the present Film Studies Program at St. Thomas, introducing a minor in 2013 and a major in 2020.

Film Studies graduates have gone on to careers as filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, editors and as professionals in related creative fields. The Film Studies Program is now housed in the newly named Department of Music, Film, and Creative Arts (MFaCE). This newly named department represents the creative synergies of music, recording arts, and cinematic arts and the professionalization of courses in film and music production and film and music business.

“Crossing the Bridge,” “She Led Two Lives” and “Overnight Delivery” are available on various streaming services and on DVD. So make some popcorn, curl up on the couch, turn on one of these films and watch for St. Thomas!