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LUV

Home Court Advantage
Sheldon Candis returned to his hometown of Baltimore to shoot his first feature film. With a wealth of local connections to call on, the filmmakers used the city to its full advantage.

Producer Jason Michael Berman's family also hails from Baltimore, and the filmmakers used his father's offices as the production office. "I shot an earlier film there as well, so we had a lot of the same crew, including the same line producer," he says. "A lot of incredible people worked on the movie. We had the full support of the community because it's a Baltimore story. In some ways, it's almost a love letter to Baltimore. That support really helped us stretch our dollars."

Justin Wilson grew up in nearby Virginia and his family spent many summers on the Maryland shore. Though he had visited Baltimore often, accompanying Candis there several times during the writing process gave him a more intimate understanding of the city and its unique culture. "By the time we started writing, I had researched the city carefully."

The film offers viewers a broad range of Baltimore's diverse landmarks, from the city's famed waterfront to working-class Cherry Hill, Pimlico Racetrack, the Inner Harbor and the 250-year-old Lexington Market. "There are so many different neighborhoods," says Wilson. "There's also the City versus the County, as they call it in Baltimore. The County is the more upscale suburban area where Mr. Fish's house is. If you spend time around Baltimore, you learn that's a distinction they use. We also made sure to include some of the local dialect in the way Woody and Vincent say certain words."

The writers also included one of Baltimore's most beloved rituals -- the crab dinner. "In the dinner scene, everyone is cracking crabs and demonstrating their particular techniques," Wilson says. "That is a huge part of the social atmosphere, getting a bunch of people together, spreading newspaper out and getting those mallets. That's something my family used to do."

Those details were important for Common as he built his character. "Being there helped me as an actor to become more of a Baltimore boy," says Common. "This is a movie about truth and heart, and that came from Sheldon, based on his own experiences, so Baltimore was the right place to shoot it. The city has its own unique character, and we tried to stay true to it." Candis says he is grateful for the opportunity to have made this very personal movie and he credits a determined and talented team for helping make his vision a reality. "For all our good fortune, we faced a lot of challenges getting LUV made," he adds. "Not only were there the everyday run-and-gun decisions that go with making any independent film, we were also working with a minor in a leading role on a very short shooting schedule.

"I heard a thousand 'no's for every 'yes,'" he says. "People sacrificed a lot to get this movie made. They called in favors and really believed in me as a first-time filmmaker. Producers Jason Berman and Michael Jenson in particular have been with LUV for the past seven years. Jason is the kind of guy who, if he says he'll get it done, he'll get it done, whatever it takes. They all had to be fearless and passionate. They were on the ground every day actively working with the team to make sure the film would make it across the finish line."

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