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‘Loving’ Director Jeff Nichols on Key Production Team Members

Focus Features’ “Loving” tells the fact-based story of Richard and Mildred Loving, and their decade-long legal battle after being arrested as an interracial couple. Writer-director Jeff Nichols praised his behind-the-camera colleagues for their artistry and hard work on the film, which bows Nov. 4.

On Chad Keith, Production designer

When I see films set in that period, they look too good. Cars are an example. When I looked at the amazing archival footage we had of Richard driving his family around, their cars did not look like the shiny cars you see in most period films. The paint then was much different, and the quality was not as good. We had our team dull down the exteriors, which made them feel more appropriate. That was a mandate for everyone: All this stuff needs to feel lived in and honest. But that’s Chad’s instinct anyway. He wants to know the honest answer to any question.

On Erin Benach, Costumes

This was my first period piece, which I was terrified of. I told Erin and Chad, “I can’t tell you what’s ‘period correct’; you have to help me out.” We were pretty obsessive about emulating the look. There was one jacket Mildred wore when she was walking out of the Virginia State Supreme Court: purple, with a black faux-fur collar. Erin built that to a T. This applied to all departments. We absorbed that archival footage and those photos into everything. Every department had the same archival footage; they wouldn’t necessarily communicate, but when we put it together, it was uncanny how things started to match.

Adam Stone, Cinematographer

So many Southern-set films have an antique-y glow. We work against that. Mildred was in love with this countryside in Virginia, enough to leave her home in D.C. and live in hiding, in risk of arrest. So for a couple of scenes, the audience needs to feel how beautiful this area is. But in general we didn’t want the film to feel affected or sweetened. Adam has worked on all five of my films, so we communicate via osmosis. But at some point we said, “We are not setting out to make a ‘beautiful’ film, but a film that supports the lives of these characters.”

On Julie Monroe, Editor

She doesn’t come to the set; she doesn’t like to feel the pain and hardship it takes to get a scene, in case she needs to cut it out. She got the dailies and was cutting the whole time we were shooting. She would say, “I think you might need this pickup shot,” or “Do you think we need an insert there?” And we’ll talk. But, really, that period is her time — she’s making her assembly. It’s her time to own the footage, and make something that reflects her gut reaction to the material. Then I come in and we start from the first scene. Then we go through the film, so I can see a film exactly as I wrote it and planned it. Then we see what limitations there are in that. Then we go back to her construct. By the time it’s all done, it’s an amalgamation between the two. I owe a lot to Julie.

On Cas Donovan, Assistant director

Cas brings grace and clarity, so everybody knows what we’re doing and why. I wanted the audience to get a sense of time passing, so I wrote [the film] in
seasons. We built a schedule that would hold locations, [and] she was very good at making sure everyone on the crew understood why we needed to come back in two months — because of the leaves on the trees, for example. Her work made a massive difference in the creative process.

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