Adam Stone and Chad Keith are no strangers to working with Loving director, Jeff Nichols, having worked with him on several projects including this year’s Midnight Special. I caught up with both to find out how they tackled a period piece, and what they knew about the Loving v. Virginia case before going into the film.
Stone discusses how it was important that the film have a very real and authentic ambience, and how they wanted the audience to feel the golden sunlight and smell the scents in kitchen to help Nichols achieve a genuine atmosphere in his film.
Read what they had to say below:
Tell us about conceiving the Loving look:
Chad Keith: Jeff created this incredible script. We were shooting Midnight Special and had a Christmas break for two weeks, and Jeff told me to read this script. I read it and it was wild that this was his new script. This film about a couple in Virginia. I wanted to start researching it, but as we were in the middle of Midnight Special that was a bad idea.
Awards Daily: Did either of you know about the story beforehand, because that’s what I’m finding, is that not many people were aware of them, even though their case was so significant?
Chad: Jeff didn’t either know either. It was a new idea. Scorsese had contacted him and asked him to tell the story, and he gladly accepted to do it.
AD: It’s such a relevant and timely story.
Adam Stone : I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was young but had no idea about the Loving case. When Jeff told me he had accepted this offer to write the script, I felt stupid that I didn’t know the story. I got off the phone and started Googling everything related to them, and I was blown away, but that’s how it happened.
AD: It’s a period piece. What did you have to do on your end for this?
Chad: This is the first period piece that I ever took on, and from the beginning, one of the first things Jeff asked me was whether I thought we could pull it off. I was certain we could.
We were lucky to have the archive footage to help lead our way, we’d reference them but not rely on them heavily, and it was a great starting point. I started researching way before we started prepping which films to watch for research or what photography to check out. I watched The Color Purple which is a great film. I hadn’t seen it in ages, and when I watched it I was looking at the detail, but I decided I didn’t want to watch anything else for reference. I had decided to stop watching anything after that because none of this is how I want to make my film. We’re making our own film.
AD: What was the experience like in putting it all together? Like, in finding the house and putting that together?
Chad: It was fun because it was a struggle to find existing locations that were shootable, but when we tracked them down, Adam and I had spent a lot of time scouting. Once you find the perfect location, you have to gut it, and start from scratch, and that experience is fun.
AD: I spoke to a production designer recently and everything we see on screen is deliberate.
Chad: I’m pretty adamant about not putting anything that doesn’t need to be there on the screen. If it doesn’t make sense that the characters would have used it, then to me it makes no sense for it to be there.
AD: In terms of the team, what do you look for when you’re hiring your team?
Adam: We’re lucky. They’re our friends, we don’t need to look.
AD: That makes it easy.
Adam: They’re all amazing people. We have this weird filmmaking family that might split up for a while, but we reform the band and go from film to film.
Chad: My operator is one of my best friends, if he does something I don’t like, he’ll get over it in a few days.
AD: So, what can we expect on Loving?
Adam: Authenticity when it comes to production design and where we put the camera to shoot the elements of the movie. There’s a stateliness. We shot anamorphic 35 and hopefully, you feel the golden light and that feeling puts the viewer in the South, they get to feel and smell stuff while you’re in the kitchen that Chad put together, to us shooting in a pine forest with a tobacco field behind us. Jeff strives for simplicity and authenticity.
AD: Does budget play a role in how you work? What would stay the same when it comes to your work?
Chad: I created a budget in the beginning for two different levels of film, so when we started I wasn’t sure what level it would be at. Jeff and I talked about that after the film. There was nothing I would have done differently. The budget to me was at a good point. You always want an extra painter, but there’s only so many people you want or need around because you want to keep it simple.
AD: What about your work, do you have a favorite experience to date?
Chad: In the film, my favorite scene was when Grey Vilett was in the kitchen and talking to Mildred’s character. Talking to her on the sidebar, and the scene that goes after. Grey is on the floor of the TV room, and Richard has let his guard down, lying on her lap, and you see how relaxed he is.
Adam: Just working on Jeff movies in general, it was like a family, there’s nothing like it.
AD: And that’s such a memorable image because it’s a beautiful moment. How has working with Jeff changed?
Chad: I jumped in on Take Shelter, Jeff keeps writing crazier and wilder things on the page that he has to make happen. The budget levels keep changing and getting higher.
Loving is on general release