To tell the story of “Mudbound,” director Dee Rees surrounded herself with strong women behind the camera.
Wells met Rees as a makeup artist on her press tour for “Bessie.” “One day I let her know, I just don’t do personal calls. I run makeup departments,” says Wells, who works on the TV show “Black-ish.” She got the call for “Mudbound” a few weeks later. “We talked about authenticity and realness of the looks,” says Wells, who headed a department of 13 people. “This wasn’t one of those ‘It’s supposed to look rugged, but people are too pretty.’ Dee wanted realism, and I appreciated that.”
Director of Photography
Morrison (“Fruitvale Station”) knew Rees from the indie festival circuit, where they developed mutual respect. “She was intent on frames that were bursting at the seams,” Morrison says about creating the look for the film, “contrasting isolation with clutter and claustrophobia and the American dream as this unattainable thing.” Despite a grueling shoot, she described “Mudbound” as a calm set. “It always felt like there was a focus. I get the impression that women are really good multitaskers.”
“Mudbound” is the first score from the underground rock singer-songwriter. She wrote the entire music for the film in five weeks in post-production. “I don’t know how I did it,” she says about the 10-hour days. “I lost hair. I gained weight. I think it’s such a testament to Dee’s leadership qualities. The project was pretty tight and intense.” The soundtrack isn’t specific to a period. “Dee talked about trying again, slipping, falling, things of this nature. We were using a lot of descriptive language to set the stage.”
“There were no trees,” Cusack says of the film’s New Orleans location. “Even though there was rain, I felt the layers of wind and lightning and thunder would help build intensely to the drama that was happening. A lot of the challenges besides the terrain were the different levels for the actors, only because there was so much trauma. And there was obviously the physical challenges of getting the equipment in and out every day. All the cabins had no cover. We had to build trailers.”
Rees collaborated with Kamitsuna on “Pariah,” but the offer to edit “Mudbound” was a surprise. “I’m a writer-director too,” Kamitsuna says. “I was talking to her to take a look at my screenplay. It kind of came up. And of course, I can’t say no to Dee.” They knew each other’s shorthand. “She has a very definitive voice,” Kamitsuna says. The decision to employ women wasn’t an accident. “She really wanted to prove something with female creative professionals creating this story.”