by Joel Crary, published on March 9, 2013|
When I moved to Vancouver I thought about putting together some entries on visiting film locations. Vancouvers perfect for that sort of thing, after all a ton of movies and shows are shot here in Hollywood North, and its common to trip across film crews and sets as youre running errands or what have you. One of the first locations I wanted to visit was out of the Minnesota-set 2007 movie Juno. In one of the movies crucial scenes, Ellen Page drives to a convenience store called Honey and Milk and lays on the hood of her car and tries to figure out what the hell shes going to do about the mess shes in with her soon-to-be-born babys adoptive parents. Not a bad place to start.
The other day I was itching to get outside, and a little field trip to a film location suited me fine. But it had been a while since Id checked into the Honey and Milks whereabouts and forgotten that it was way over in Port Coquitlam (and now called the Natureway Farm Market, though the adjacent K.C.s Cafe still remains, according to Google Maps). It would have taken me the better part of the day to get there and back, and I had an editing deadline. I needed something closer. I popped in Juno out of curiosity, and less than five minutes later I was staring hard at a paused frame of the Dancing Elk Drug Store, where Page buys a pregnancy test and a rope of licorice to hang herself.
The window placement and distinctive red trimming looked really familiar. There was an address above the door. I Googled Vancouver, 706, convenience store, and there it was: Scott Grocery on Victoria, at the corner of Georgia. A block and a half away from my apartment. I pass Scotts a few times a week on my way to the supermarket. Victoria is a quieter route away from the shops on Commercial Drive and boasts scenic parks, including one frequented by elderly Italian lawn bowlers. Id never actually been inside, though not for lack of trying. Its hours are erratic and nowhere to be found on the big metal gate screaming Dont even try it when the place is closed. All of a sudden, the corner of Victoria and Georgia became the spot were Juno MacGuff once peed on a stick and traded barbs with Rainn Wilson to the delight of Academy voters. And its a stones throw away.
Its not the first convenience store Ive visited due to its association with a movie in the past half year. Back in November I looked up where Shaun twice stumbles from his flat to a nearby convenience store in Shaun of the Dead, and took the Tube to North London to check it out. At that store I picked up a can of Diet Coke as a souvenir. It made it all the way back to Canada with me, and I unceremoniously left it on the plane after landing in Toronto. The Holy Grail of convenience store locations has to be the Clerks Quick Stop in New Jersey, where Kevin Smith once whiled away his daytime hours watching Degrassi episodes (and serving the odd customer) and made a movie by night. My shopping list there will be the jug of milk with the latest expiration date and the perfect carton of eggs.
There are a lot of blogs devoted to visiting movie locations, some far more obsessive than I could ever hope to maintain. You watch movies differently after youve seen where they were shot. After visiting Seattle last year, I now know where everybody in the Singles apartment complex would probably catch the bus. Visiting a film location instills a strange and exhilarating kind of familiarity. It causes movies to lose some of their mystique, which has always been a valuable commodity in visual storytelling. But I dont mean to say its a bad thing. Doesnt it make sense that having a better idea of the physical world inhabited by your favourite characters can bring you closer to their story? The unique knowledge of what a character will run into if they keep taking a street after the shot cuts personalizes every step they take.
In a few days Im heading to San Francisco, and then Los Angeles beyond that, the Mecca of film locations. Ive steadily been putting together a list of places to check out. Lately Ive been watching films and paying more attention to backgrounds and street signs. Its been a whole new way to experience movies Ive seen many, many times. In San Francisco, Ill be staying in a hotel thats thematically devoted to Hitchcocks Vertigo, and at some point Ill make my way over to the site where Kim Novak threw herself into the San Francisco Bay. Ill always be tickled by these little temporal displacements. On this spot stood a character. And now here I stand. Missed them by that much.