November 16, 2020

Students take tour of Soderbergh's 'No Sudden Move' at Maccabees Building

Supervising art director Priscilla Elliott explains to students how the Maccabees Building was transformed into the offices of an automobile manufacturing company circa 1955. Courtesy HBO Max.

Production wrapped last week on Steven Soderbergh’s feature film No Sudden Move, a caper set in 1955 Detroit, but not before students in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts attended a workshop with key members of the movie’s crew.

Scenes with a powerhouse cast that includes Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Brendan Fraser and Ray Liotta were shot on the second floor of the Maccabees Building. The offices at 5700 Woodward were transformed down to the smallest detail to serve as the offices of an automobile manufacturing company. 

“When the location scout and Soderbergh saw the space, they were enamored with it immediately,” said Art Lionas, Wayne State’s director of media content.

Location manager John Adkins said that they usually like to invite students to visit during filming, but couldn’t because of complications caused by COVID-19. Instead, he and Lionas organized the workshop, which featured the film’s executive producer, supervising art director, location scout, health and safety manager, and publicist. 

“Wayne State was an extraordinary partner to us since the beginning of our project, and even more so when we reconvened to shoot during this crisis,” said Adkins. “We wanted to give back to the school through some kind of student enrichment.”

Following a tour of the set in Maccabees, students were given a chance to pick the brains of the Hollywood veterans.

Wayne State University graduate film student Taylor Nondorf (left) listens as Priscilla Elliott, supervising art director, explains how no detail was overlooked in recreating 1955 Detroit. Courtesy HBO Max.

“I’m from the Upper Peninsula and I’ve always been a member of Productions Plus (a talent agency) here in Detroit, so I know that the industry was down here, but to come to a school right in the middle of it is so cool, just to be close enough to be a part of it,” said Adam Graber, a first-year student in the M.F.A. in acting program. 

Ryan Bernier, also a first-year student in the M.F.A. in acting program, came to Wayne State from Florida specifically for the program and opportunities like this.

“It’s absolutely wild; it’s cool to just be on the set. I primarily do theatre, so it’s kind of nice to be able to look into a room and be like, ‘Jon Hamm was probably in here, I wonder if I’m standing where he was.’” 

After taking classes online all semester, the students said the visit to campus and the movie set provided a much-needed boost.

“It definitely inspired me to see how much work goes into it and to be able to say ‘I saw that,’ and then see it in the film later; that’s really awesome,” said Taylor Nondorf, a film graduate student.

When the film releases this summer on HBO Max, keep an eye open for the Park Shelton — standing in for the Gotham Hotel — in Amore da Roma in Eastern Market and several neighborhood scenes in Rosedale Park.

No matter where the shooting occurred, staff under the supervision of Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., Wayne State assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research innovation and chief innovation officer of Wayne Health, handled the COVID-19 testing for the movie using mobile testing units.

Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist and alumnus of the Wayne State School of Medicine who consulted with Soderbergh on his movie Contagion, connected Soderbergh with WSU President M. Roy Wilson, who connected him with Levy.