PEOPLE LIKE US
The Making of "People Like Us"
"People Like Us" was filmed entirely in Los Angeles and the
surrounding area. Instead of iconic landmarks and tourist
attractions, the locations the filmmakers chose were more
grassroots, hometown Los Angeles-the L.A. most tourists
never see. As producer Bobby Cohen explains, "There is
something special about shooting in real locations. There
is a texture to them that you can't rebuild. It makes a
difference. That had been one of Alex's [Kurtzman, director]
main things from the get-go-he wanted to shoot the parts
of L.A. that don't normally get attention."
Continues Cohen, "We're not shooting the tourists'-eye view
of L.A. As a born New Yorker, it's been fun shooting in more offbeat
neighborhoods. Alex intuitively understands
the moods of these places and has done a very good job of capturing those moods
Director Alex Kurtzman comments, "I'm a native Los Angeleno and my city is
not the glitzy, clichÃ©d Los Angeles
that I feel like I see on screen in other films. I felt strongly about
representing the L.A. that was the story of the
movie and was one that others had never seen."
One of the scenes in the film was shot at Rhino Records,
one of the oldest record stores still in existence, and famed
Hollywood High School became the setting for the Toluca
Park Middle School. Old-time eateries Henry's Tacos,
Cole's French Dip and Neptune's Net were featured to lend
authentic L.A. flavor-no pun intended.
Shooting in real locations, such as the houses, restaurants,
schools and churches used in the film, presents challenges
for lighting-walls cannot be moved and there are usually
not high ceilings to accommodate the lights. But director
of photography Sal Totino was a genius at coming up with
simple, yet elegant ways to light the film that did not sacrifice the high
quality of the filming.
Director Alex Kurtzman relates, "To Sal Totino, it isn't about what's the
most beautiful lighting scheme. It's
about: how is this frame telling the emotional story of the characters? That's
the first question that he asks. He
translates an emotion beautifully. I can't imagine ever working with anyone
Production designer Ida Random brought a very real look
to the film, as if the audience were actually brought into
the living room of a familiar house. Without overdoing the
production design, Random was able to create an intimacy
and comfort level that draws the viewers in, but never
visually bores them.
Much of the music business memorabilia in the "Jerry's
Study" set belongs to Jody Lambert's father Dennis
Lambert, a Songwriters Hall of Fame nominee whose hits
as writer and/or producer include "Ain't No Woman (Like
The One I Got)", "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Baby Come Back"
and "Nightshift." Lambert showed production designer Ida
Random a storage unit full of his father's memorabilia and
she used it in the set, including photographs of Dennis Lambert himself and his
actual Gold records.
Costume designer Mary Zophres continued the "real" look with her choice of
clothing for the characters and the
extras. Zophres says, "It's not the kind of movie where you want the clothes to
be front and center. They tell the
story of who the characters are and then you move on. You
shouldn't be aware of the clothes. They should just sort of
tell the story and go away."
In dressing Chris Pine's character Sam, Zophres had him in
an expensive suit that is above his means at the start of the
film, but when he goes to L.A. he only packs casual clothes
for what he thinks is a 48-hour stay: two pairs of jeans, three
T-shirts, a jacket and two button down plaid shirts.
For Elizabeth Banks' character Frankie, Zophres chose a
leather jacket that she wears a lot in the beginning of the
movie. Then as the story progresses, she loses the jacket
as her character evolves. The subtle shift in costuming was
deliberate to parallel the storyline.
In dressing Michelle Pfeiffer's character Lillian, Zophres
took into account that the character had cared for her dying
husband for some time and probably lost some weight
without knowing it, thus she dressed her in slightly looser
Zophres was also very aware of the background costuming.
"The background helps tell the story. We've had very
specific scenes where there should be a look to where we
are, like we were at Cole's downtown versus The Standard. Those are two hugely
different looks. One is an old
diner and the other is a trendy nightclub. You reveal those two places through
how you dress the people in the
background. It is a very important element to me."
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