It’s been three years since Dee Rees debuted her critically acclaimed film "Pariah" at the Sundance Film Festival. In the years since, she’s been busy working on a TV biopic of American blues legend Bessie Smith. Queen Latifah will play Smith in the film, which is slated for an early 2015 release.
Lisa Schwarzbaum from the Directors Guild of America spoke with the young director about how she prepared for the project, and Rees talked about her grandparents:
To convey her vision, to HBO executives as well as to her cast and crew, Rees created collaged inspiration boards full of photos (particularly from the 1930s South Carolina portraiture work of Richard Samuel Roberts and from the photo book Juke Joint by contemporary Mississippi photographer Birney Imes) and color swatches to create a visual style she articulates precisely. "The first act is grays, blacks, browns, the color of insecurity," she explains. "In the second act, it’s metallic colors, colors that are almost not from nature, oranges you wouldn’t believe. And then in the third act, the colors are more from nature, like peach, greens, earth tones. I wanted a lot of conflicting textures, looking through things." In fact, Rees can whip out a smartphone showing her combinations. She also kept beautiful old photos of her grandparents and great-grandparents "on my ‘shrine’ during production."