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Steven Spielberg on How Longtime Collaborators Helped Push ‘The Post’ on the Fast Track

Fox’s “The Post,” about The Washington Post’s 1971 decision to publish the Pentagon Papers — and the political and business consequences of that choice — was produced on a fast track. Filming began on May 30; the final sound mix took place on Nov. 13. Director Steven Spielberg spoke to Variety about how many of his longtime collaborators made that happen.

Production designer Rick Carter 

“We shot in White Plains, New York, Manhattan, Brooklyn and some in D.C. The newsroom was in an abandoned building in White Plains, with real windows looking out over real scenery. Rick added new walls and a ceiling. With his entire department Rick was going for authenticity. Even if the camera wouldn’t catch details like the desktops, the actors and extras sitting at those desks would see newspapers of that exact date, so every actor would feel part of the experience. If every detail was authentic, even though the camera would never show that, this would inspire us. The authenticity made us realize why we were taking the story so seriously.”

Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński

“He was going for a documentary feel, so not every scene has what we call portrait lighting or mood lighting. Janusz wanted authenticity; he wanted it to feel like the ’70s, not to feel like today. His color palette — he’s so expert in figuring out what skin tones will look like, how to light the costumes to bring out the genius of [costume designer] Ann Roth’s amazing work. He was happy with the overhead lights because they were completely authentic to The Washington Post before they moved into a more colorful newsroom, but he also wanted to make Tom [Hanks] and Meryl [Streep] look good.”

Composer John Williams 

“John said to me, ‘I don’t want my music to stand in the way of the story and these performances. I want it to be a kind of uncredited source; I would like the music to have a subliminal effect but not a conscious effect.’ We talk before he scores to discuss where music should or shouldn’t go. This was a rare instance I was unavailable to be in the room when he watched the movie, so we spotted it over Skype. Circumstances forced me to be somewhere else; time was so tight, we couldn’t wait even a week.”

Sound designer Gary Rydstrom

“Gary wanted us to record as many authentic sounds as possible on location, so for example we had microphones hidden all over the linotype machines. Gary supervised our New York sound crew to get all the details to cut into the film.”

Costume designer Ann Roth

“She compelled me to do wider angles, so I could put more of the cast together in one shot because the costumes — whether on eight, nine, 10 or 50 people — were making a statement. I wanted to make sure this was part of the conversation. She built costumes from scratch for all the major characters, even though it’s a comparatively low-budget film. Some of the costumes for Katharine Graham are based on clothes she was photographed in, but a lot of those photos were in black and white, so Ann came up with independent color choices. Other costumes were based on Ann’s ideas of what Graham would look good in — not Meryl Streep but Katharine Graham. ”

Editors Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar

“Mike and Sarah worked together; they were not cutting in separate rooms. I think the main challenge was the pacing of the entire narrative. Mike has a huge intuition for pacing, so he was less concerned about any individual scene but [more about] how one scene gives over to the next. When we looked at the whole movie, we were able to make important decisions about what to shorten, what to delete, what to elongate.”

Co-producer, AD  Adam Somner 

“I could not have made this film without Adam. He knew the strain we were under, with a limited time and resources. Adam held the entire company together. He is the greatest assistant director, co-producer and production manager I’ve ever worked with. Adam and his team of assistants allowed me to make this movie in the time frame I was handed. I owe him a lot.”

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