Students and faculty returned to an atmosphere of excitement and a number of campus refurbishments this fall as a result of filming that took place over the summer on the Sonoma State University campus for the third season of the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why. Preparations for the filming of Paramount Pictures’ popular teen drama based on the book of the same name took place two weeks before the filming dates of Wednesday and Thursday, July 24 and 25, according to Paul Gullixson, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications at Sonoma State.
Preparations for filming included the replacement of campus signage with temporary signs renaming the campus ‘Sanderson State University,’ as well as a number of cosmetic improvements to the school including the power washing of school buildings, landscaping, and tree trimming, the cost of which was reimbursed to the school to the terms of a lease agreement. This paid for all of the school’s refurbishments. A rounded $12,000 site fee was paid to Sonoma State for the use of the campus, with the rounded cost of the lease and the school’s refurbishment totaling to an approximate $35,000, according to Gullixson.
On the subject of the show’s discussion of serious topics such as depression, suicide, and sexual assault, Gullixson said “satisfied with how they were being addressed,” noting how the show prefaces each episode with a warning and provides links to resources and encourages discussion relating to its subject matter. The show has been criticised in the past for its handling of these subjects by organizations such as the National Association of School Psychologists, prompting the streaming service to undertake a variety of actions to limit this criticism, such as by removing a graphic suicide scene from its first season earlier this year, according to NPR. The show also has a website with mental health resources for viewers to search and use. Gullixson said that the decision to allow filming on the campus was met with extensive discussion before permission was granted As to the experience of working with Paramount Pictures, the film studio behind the show, the studio was “very responsive to our needs,” and that “the production team respects the fact that this is a fully functioning university,” said Gullixson. The school has not yet determined a use for the money the school received as a product of its lease agreement, noting that it is “not a huge amount of money.”
The show’s third season premiered on the streaming service on August 23. The show is known for using locations across Sonoma County as filming sites for its fictionalized events, according to The Press Democrat. An email sent to campus staff noted the filming locations to include “the main entrance, the Student Center and Seawolf Plaza, the exterior of Stevenson Hall and in the plaza between Stevenson and Darwin halls, the exterior of Salazar Hall and Room 1010 and at the large lake” according to The Press Democrat. Students may be able to recognize these locations on the show as it’s presently available on the streaming service. Although the signage used in the show has now been removed, some cosmetic changes to the school made prior to filming have not been removed.
“It was an all-around positive experience,” said Gullixson.