Quora

How Were the Sets and Costumes Designed in The Witch?

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch

A24

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Answer by Robert Eggers, director, The Witch; Sundance Film Festival directing award, U.S. dramatic category:

Years of research went into understanding the everyday life of an English settler in early New England. In the writing process, I wanted to understand the agricultural traditions from England and how they would have changed coming to North America. I worked with museums and historians and consulted somewhat with people in the living history community.

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Craig Lathrop, the production designer, showed up to his first interview with in-depth research that matched the kind of work that I was doing, and it was clear that this could be a great collaboration. Craig accompanied me on a research trip to Massachusetts, and he knew more than our guides about the houses we were visiting.

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Craig was fanatically uncompromising about the creation of the sets for the film, which were often closer to real structures than sets. Everything that appears on camera is made out of the correct building materials that a Puritan family would have used, and authentic techniques and tools were used wherever necessary. While we used modern technology like chainsaws and drywall screws to complete the set in a timely, cost-effective, responsible way, it was essential to have, for instance, hand-riven oak clapboards to sheath the structures, reed-thatched roofs, and hand-forged nails to make the world believable, among many other period materials.

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Linda Muir was our incredibly talented costume designer. I really knew what I wanted before she came on board, but she brought my vision to a new level with her huge imagination, knowledge, and attention to detail. Linda did piles of research herself and worked with my references. She also came on a research trip with me to Massachusetts.

Linda used Stuart Peachey’s massive 30-volume Clothes of the Common People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England as her Bible. It is the most stunningly exhaustive reference available. The garments themselves were made from incredible wools and linens that Linda found to match historically accurate samples sent from Stuart. All visible seams on all the clothing, even on the inside of the garments, were hand-stitched. They were made as clothing, not costumes.

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We were trying to keep color restrained, muted, gloomy, dower, and horrible. We also wanted them to look like the archetypal Puritan family in the archetypal Puritan New England farm.

Linda also gave two great interviews if you want to read more.

What were the important choices you made in the set and costume design of The Witch? originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

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