The Facebook page for the coming movie “People Like Us” contains the expected highlights: photos of stars Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, video interviews, information on advance ticket sales, and a trailer.
Then there is something else – an interactive “People Like Us Locations Map” displaying locations of the various restaurants and businesses featured in the DreamWorks Pictures/Reliance Entertainment film. Visitors can see photos of houses and neighborhoods where the characters lived, ate tacos, watched the sunset, bought groceries and even did their laundry. They are invited to share the map with friends on Facebook.
Studios often use social media to promote their movies, but posting an interactive map displaying actual film locations is highly unusual, underscoring the key role that hometown locations from Van Nuys to Malibu played in “People Like Us.”
The low-budget drama, to be released Friday by Walt Disney Studios, is about a salesman named Sam (played by Pine) whose life is upended when his record producer father dies and he meets a sister he never knew he had. The story is based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek” and “Transformers”), who wanted to convey a more homegrown, less glitzy side of his native city by highlighting some of his favorite hangouts.
They aren’t the typical Los Angeles landmarks and tourist attractions normally seen in movies, but mainly places only locals would know. Among them: Neptune’s Net in Malibu, Henry’s Tacos in North Hollywood, Rhino Records in Claremont, the Standard Hotel Rooftop Bar downtown and the Canyon Country Store in Laurel Canyon.
“I think of L.A. as the fifth character in the movie,” said Kurtzman, making his feature-film directing debut. “I really feel that as someone who was born and raised in L.A., we rarely see my L.A. in film. It’s a very glossified, non-native version, an uber-Hollywood interpretation of what L.A. is supposed to look like.”
Kurtzman said he set out to portray “the small intimate spaces that we make for ourselves: the restaurants, the coffee shops, the museums, places to watch the sunset.”
The $16 million movie was shot entirely in Los Angeles County, over 40 days, from February through April of last year.
From the start, Kurtzman wanted to set the story locally, drawing from his own experiences. His father had been married before and had two other children, but the siblings never knew each other. Kurtzman first met his half-sister when she introduced herself at a party, planting the idea for “People Like Us,” which he wrote with his business and writing partner Roberto Orci and their college friend Jody Lambert.
Filming took place throughout the San Fernando Valley, where Sam’s sister, Frankie, a struggling bartender, lives with her son in an apartment complex, which was actually the Saticoy Court Apartments in Canoga Park.
The crew also shot several scenes downtown and at a home in the historic West Adams district, which stood in for Laurel Canyon, where Sam’s mother, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, lives.
Kurtzman selected places he visited growing up, including Cole’s French Dip in downtown, Neptune’s Net in Malibu and Rhino Records in Westwood. That store closed several years ago, so Kurtzman found the last remaining Rhino Records – in Claremont.
“It was nice just to highlight the fact that our store still exists, considering the fact that so few of us are left,” said Jennifer Scriven, a bookkeeper at the Claremont Rhino Records.
Scriven said she wasn’t sure how much the filming would draw customers but added, “It can’t hurt.”
Neptune’s, which has been featured in other films, including “Point Break” and “Fast and Furious,” welcomes film crews. “People Like Us” paid $10,000 to film one day at the restaurant. Some of the staff were hired as extras. The big-screen advertising also brings long-term benefits, said restaurant manager Dan Walden. “We’ve had people come from out of state to visit our restaurant because they’ve seen it in the movies,” he said. “It definitely boosts our business.”
Even the actors offered suggestions on where to shoot. Pine suggested his favorite taco joint in North Hollywood – Henry’s Tacos – which he frequented as a high school student at Oakwood School.
“For us, it was finding places like home,” Kurtzman added.
“It’s a great honor,” said Janis Hood, owner of Henry’s Tacos, which opened in 1961. “We’re an iconic place in our little part of the Valley, and I’m hoping this might highlight how important we are to the community.”