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Posted on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Indie film 'AWOL' transforms part of South U into Vietnam-era protest

By Jennifer Eberbach

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A motorcycle rider takes part in "AWOL" filming in Ann Arbor today.

Melanie Maxwell |

Indie film “AWOL” is filming outside of Ulrich’s Bookstore on South University today.

The film, which is based on a true story, is about a Vietnam soldier played by Austin Stowell (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”) who goes AWOL with his best friend played by Liam Hemsworth (“The Last Song”) to win back his ex-girlfriend played by Aimee Teegarden (“Friday Night Lights,” “Scream 4”).

A production assistant on the scene said they plan to be there filming until around 6 p.m. this evening. Some areas are blocked off; however, onlookers can get a clear view of the action from the sidelines.

The film is set on the U-M’s campus at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The corner near the entrance to the Diag is transformed to look like the Vietnam era — old police cars, actors with hippy-style clothing and hairdos, and art fair booths (one selling tie-dye) set the scene.

Some of the giant puppets that have appeared in Ann Arbor’s annual FestiFools parade are featured in the scene. The colorful, funky, and visually striking artworks seem right at home in the scene.

Around noon, filmmakers shot a group of young protesters jumping and dancing around, which was a little funny without any music to go along with it (presumably they will add that in later). Some carried protest signs with popular phrases from the Vietnam era including one that reads “Flower Power.”

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Crew members at today's "AWOL" filming.

Melanie Maxwell |

Debbie and Dave Kopf of Highland were on campus waiting for their son to finish a math class at U-M when “we saw a police car blocking off the street. We thought it was some kind of art fair or event going on that we’d want to check out. Then we saw they were filming a movie, and we’ve been watching for about a half an hour already.

“We enjoy looking at all of the props. We both had bikes like the ones they are using. The clothing, the cop cars — it’s kind of a flashback. It looks authentic,” Debbie said.

U-M freshmen Kelli Graham and Precious Thomas “were in class taking a test, and our teacher and whole class were all looking out the window in the middle of our test to see if we could see Miley Cyrus,” who dates Hemsworth and has been spotted around town, Graham said. “I haven’t seen her down here yet, but I’m hoping to see her,” she says. “We all started running to the window, but then we had to stop and take our quiz!” Thomas said with a laugh.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a movie being filmed. It’s very different than what I thought it would be like. I thought it would be more closed off, but there are students and people walking back and forth watching them film around most of this area,” Graham said.


Blanch DuBois

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Who cares.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 6:43 a.m.

I hope Liam Hemsworth is a better actor than his girlfriend Miley Cyrus. She can't act her way out of a paper bag! She is no role model for young people! Here is a link with her BF and smoking like a chimney on Orchard Lake. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:32 p.m.

I heard 3 different security guards telling people not to take pictures, I don't get how they can stop since it's a public street


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I don't think it is illegal to take pictures of their set, but it is their preference. It's like me taking pictures of you over and over and you telling me to stop.

David Briegel

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

I had pants like that and I rode my motorcycle down to a protest on South U in '68. I don't remember helmets like that. I wore a pretty plain helmet. I do remember speaking to Sherrif Harvey as he passed by with his SWAT team and Dr. Ed Pierce who was there in his white lab coat!


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

Is that motorcycle and rider part of the scene? I'm pretty sure the helmet is out of character and not necessary during that time period. I rode my motorcycle to the ruckus at South U and East U in 1968. I lived on East U so it's not like I was being a thrill seeker. The tear gas sent me back home, all without a helmet.

Barnaby Fry

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

But if you had a stunt driver riding for you, wearing your same outfit and pretending to be you, the helmet would have come in handy.

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

A reader just sent us this picture of AWOL being filmed today. Or I guess more specifically, a crew member telling him he couldn't take pictures of the set. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

Agreed, the no pictures thing is weird. The filmed next door to my house for a couple of weeks in July...I took lots of pictures...from inside my house. Can't stop me there! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

The whole not being able to take pictures thing is strange. When they were filming the movie in Liberty Square last month, I took a picture of the set. No actors or anything were present. A rent-a-cop yelled to me that I couldn't take pictures. I was standing on a city sidewalk taking pictures of a city park. How can anyone tell me not to take a picture?