About The Production
In early 1997, shortly after Jonathan Demme had agreed to direct
"Beloved," he and producer Edward Saxon began to assemble
their team of behind-the-scenes personnel. Longtime collaborator
Kristi Zea ("Philadelphia," "The Silence of the
Lambs," and "Married to the Mob") signed on as
production designer and also served as film's second unit director.
According to Zea, their first priority was to secure a location
that would work for the film's time frame, which ranges from 1855
Their search took them to eight states before they discovered
the ideal spot 45 minutes south of Philadelphia, in Maryland.
The Fair Hill Natural Resource, a wooded area of more than 5,000
acres that had once served as hunting grounds for the wealthy
Dupont family, was where they built Sethe's Bluestone Road house.
Zea looked to historical research and the novel for its design,
saying, "A lot of clues are in the book for the look and
feeling of the house."
The early challenges in finding a location were quickly forgotten,
says Demme. "Once you do find the spot, it's inevitably going
to be an extraordinary, breathtaking place to work. It's been
arduous finding the right places, and then it's a source of great
joy to actually be there filming." Principal photography
began on June 25, 1997.
The commitment to detail was evidenced in every facet of the production.
While filming, the filmmakers faced a particular challenge in
mounting the flashback scenes that are interspersed throughout
Demme, director of photography Tak Fujimoto, and production designer
Kristi Zea explored several possibilities using different kinds
of film stock. Fujimoto is one of Demme's most frequent collaborators,
having shot eight films for the director.
For the 1855 flashback scenes, Fujimoto used a reversal film stock
originally created by Kodak for news reporting's quick turnaround
needs. "To our eye today, it's a very grainy stock, but it
had the quality we were looking for," says Fujimoto. "The
colors are very saturated, but we overexposed the film to wash
it out, and added a sepia tone to give an older look to it."
For the 1865 scenes, Fujimoto used a regular film stock which
was digitally de-saturated during post-production.
Fujimoto describes his approach to the film's lighting design.
"I rely a lot on the production design. Early on, they had
decided on the main house's design, where the ceilings are very,
very low, so all the lighting was dictated by the physical nature
of the set. All the lighting was very low to the ground and shadowy.
The wardrobe department helped out a lot by keeping the clothes
in darker, warmer earth tones."
All the painstaking detail work served to inspire the director
and actors. For actor Thandie Newton, it felt that "all the
departments involved just seemed to have a perfect understanding,
and the attention to detail on every level. I felt I was in the
midst of great artists, and it's not every day that you feel that
on a film set."
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