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BLACKKKLANSMAN

About The Production
From Production Design to Art Direction, Camerawork to Costume Design, every effort was made to recreate the details of the era. The 1970's aesthetic also influenced the overall look of the film, with Cinematographer Chayse Irvin shooting on classic 35mm stock and drawing inspiration from such classics of the period as The French Connection. But when developing certain shots or sequences, both Lee and Irvin embraced a spirit of iImprovisation-mixing formats and approaches to create a more experimental, more contemporary feel. (A bracing black-and-white segment featuring Alec Baldwin as a vile bigot spewing racist invective was shot on Ektachrome during Pre-Production.)

"I never want The Director or Myself or The Actors to feel really boxed in by a particular idea," Irvin says. "We were kind of feeling things out. We started reacting to things as they were developing, especially off the actors, feeding off that energy."

The approach of marrying 35mm film with Super 16 video, GoPro and other formats was one that had worked well for Irvin in his projects with the visual artist Kahil Joseph including Beyonce's Epic Video Album Lemonade, and one that the Cinematographer credits Lee with pioneering. "He was doing that back in the day, too, with Malcolm X and Clockers," Irvin says. "He was playing with a lot of different processes."

Production designer Curt Beech sought to highlight the different worlds of the film visually while at the same time using the sets and environments to underline the themes at work in the script. Ron's apartment was hip, progressive and cool, while Felix's house-the home of the character played by Jasper Paakkonen that routinely hosts local Klan meetings-was rooted entirely in the past. "I thought it was important to show the Klan members not as a bunch of backroom rednecks but as the people next door," says Beech, who previously worked with Spike Lee on his Netflix series, "She's Gotta Have It." "The living room should be pretty nice, a place that seems fairly comfortable and ordinary, but at the same time dated and that the ideas that are shared there are dated and outmoded. These are not the ideas of the future."

The Police Precinct where Ron worked hovered somewhere in between, Beech says. The basic design dates to the 1950's, but the place is now worse for the wear, covered in tobacco stains. "It's this slightly older space that is a little outdated and in need of a facelift, both physically and conceptually," he says. "They need to rethink their policing and who they're hiring."

Both Ron's apartment and Felix's house were practical locations-Ron's home was found in Brooklyn, while Felix's residence was located upstate in Ossining, New York, the same town that doubled in certain scenes for downtown Colorado Springs. Beech and his team sourced authentic vintage furniture for both homes as well as equipment for Felix's basement print shop. "That basement is a pretty well-organized nerve center for the organization," Beech says. "It was a place where they were producing literature, sending word out. If it were today, it would be very modern, almost Mission: Impossible-style, so scary and well-funded. I was after the 1970s version of that."

The Precinct was outfitted with period-appropriate props from the desks and chairs to the typewriters and ashtrays-even the pencil holders. Tellingly, Ron's desk is somewhat smaller than all the others and positioned in the far corner so that the other officers' backs face him. "It was a very purposeful arrangement to ostracize him from the rest of The Cops," Beech says.

In terms of color, Beech opted for a more muted palette of neutral browns, dark greens and dark reds, so that the white of the Klan robes would stand out in stark contrast. It was a decision he arrived at in concert with Costume Designer Marci Rodgers, who also previously worked with Lee on "She's Gotta Have It"; The Department Heads wanted to ensure that Washington as Ron would be noticeable and distinct in every scene, so his costumes became just a bit brighter than those worn by the people around him.

For her part, Rodgers began preparing for BlacKkKlansman by watching both Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. Her research also took her to the Library of Congress and to Howard University-her Alma Mater and The Alma Mater of Kwame Ture-where she reviewed historical documents and periodicals from the era.

"It was interesting to go through those archives and see his journals-at that point, he was Stokely Carmichael. He hadn't gone to Africa," Rodgers says. "Even to see that change and that transition within these documents [was useful]. Then also I was able to look at archival Ebony Magazines, Jet Magazines. I was just going through every book within that era, taking pictures and really looking at what people wore, even the hair accessories. The accoutrements were really a thing back then. It was really about the jewelry, like the beads, the necklaces, things like that."

To dress Topher Grace as David Duke, Rodgers reviewed archival photos of the Klan Leader, taking note of certain telling details. "I noticed that David Duke, he wore fat ties or stripes," she says. Historical images of such Black Power icons as Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver directly inspired Patrice's look: "At the time, The Women kinda had a uniform that were a part of that movement," Rodgers says.

Actress Laura Harrier says that the costume was vital in helping her feel comfortable as the young intellectual. "I've always wanted to do a movie in the '70's," Harrier says. "I've always loved The Clothes and The Music and Films, and it was really important, too, in finding the character. Once I put on that Afro Wig and had The Black Leather Jacket and had The Glasses, she just kind of dropped into me. It was really instrumental in making Patrice for sure."

Rodgers procured prime vintage fashions for the film, but for the character of Ron, she created certain iconic pieces including his denim walking suit and his period-correct marshmallow shoes. Spike Lee also requested that Rodgers put Washington in a classic pair of Nike Cortez. "I was fortunate enough to meet Ron Stallworth and I asked him what he wore," Rodgers says. "He told me some days he would wear a walking suit. He would wear jewelry here and there that kinda made him feel like he was smooth, so to speak. I would see John David put on his costume and transform. It was real, like we actually had teleported back to the '70s, and that's all I really wanted."

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