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'Think Like a Man' movie casts Culver City in a starring role

April 10, 2012|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

The upcoming Screen Gems movie "Think Like a Man" is a romantic comedy based on a bestselling book by comedian Steve Harvey.

It's also a love letter of sorts to Culver City, which plays a starring role in the movie.

"I came up with this idea that if we shot Culver City for Culver City, we could get the local politicians and shop owners on board and excited about this movie so that it would almost be a little postcard for the community," said Glenn Gainor, head of physical production for Screen Gems, a label of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Screen Gems considered filming in Georgia, where Harvey is based and which offers a richer film tax credit than California. But the company opted to film locally in part because it was able to save money by filming so close to its home base, cutting down on parking and transportation costs. Producers also enlisted the help of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce to find local merchants willing to showcase their establishments in exchange for a lower film permit fee.

"My motivation to shoot in Culver City was inspired by how movies used to be made," Gainor said. "The script needs houses, restaurants and streets. I said, 'Culver City has houses, restaurants and beautiful city streets. Why should we take it anywhere else?'"

"Think Like a Man" did benefit from a state film tax credit and some local incentives from Culver City. Over the decades, many classic movies have been shot at the historic Culver Studios, once the home of MGM, including "Gone With the Wind," "Wizard of Oz" and "E.T."

But like other cities in L.A. County, Culver City has been squeezed by a loss of business to other states offering bigger film tax breaks. In an effort to live up to its motto as "The City of Screenland," the City Council voted last year to suspend for five years a business tax that production companies must pay to film in the city. Screen Gems took advantage of the tax break, saving about $10,000, for "Think Like a Man."

The film prominently features several popular eateries, including Rush Street on Washington Boulevard and Akasha and L'Epicerie on Culver Boulevard. Using lightweight digital cameras and LED lights that didn't require big generator trucks, the crew also filmed in residential neighborhoods and at Culver City High School, where one of the characters, played by comedian Kevin Hart, challenges Metta World Peace and other Lakers basketball players to a pickup game.

"I was born and raised in L.A. I knew Culver City used to be a desolate town, but it's grown up to be this amazing hot spot for dating with these great restaurants,'' said Tim Story, the film's director. "I remember reading the script when I was in Rush Street, which was used in the film, and the place was gorgeous."

The movie is a point of pride for city officials. "They actually did more than just use the city as a location. They called out a number of business names from the downtown community, and that's unusual," said Councilman Andy Weissman. "Recognizing Culver City in a positive way is good for the brand."

The movie, which opens April 20, also filmed in several downtown L.A. locations, including the JW Marriott hotel, the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live and Wolfgang Puck's restaurant WP24.

Will Packer, the film's producer, whose company Rainforest Films is based in Atlanta, said he was drawn to the idea of filming a different side of L.A.

"There are such interesting looks here — the shops, the restaurants, the historic buildings. I thought this would allow us to stay close to the studio and showcase a side of Los Angeles that is not usually seen," said Packer, producer of the 2010 heist film "Takers" and the 2007 drama "Stomp the Yard."

Packer was inspired to make the movie after reading Havey's book "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." "Everywhere I went women were reading this book, and it intrigued me,'' he said. "I thought this would make a really good movie."

Packer got Harvey's approval and brought him in as executive producer. "When I wrote this I never had any intention of this becoming a film,'' said Harvey, who has starred in numerous TV shows and movies and hosts the nationally syndicated radio program "The Steve Harvey Morning Show." "I was absolutely stunned by it, to tell you the truth, because it really captures the essence of the book."

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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