Ruth De Jong Q&A: ‘Manchester by the Sea’ production designer
Ruth De Jong was willing to do whatever it took to get the production design just right for the indie drama “Manchester by the Sea.” She even braved a blizzard for it. She explained, “It was the blizzard of 2015 in Boston” when she visited the northeast to research locations. “I don’t know if any of you saw the news, but I think the snow was up to the top of the door.” De Jong was part of a “Meet the Experts” panel presented by Gold Derby at the Landmark Theater in L.A. on Nov. 9 to spotlight great achievements in crafts.
It took De Jong weeks just to be able to leave her hotel, and then the snow made it difficult to even know what color the houses were, but that didn’t stop her from immersing herself in the location to “get to know the people, get to know who makes up the town — the fishermen, shopkeepers, you name it … So as the snow slowly started to melt we kind of paved our way.”
“Manchester by the Sea” tells the story of Lee (Casey Affleck), a despondent handyman who must return to his hometown after his brother Joe’s death to take care of Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). It’s set in the North Shore region of Massachusetts, and that locale “was another character” in the movie. De Jong wanted “to give Casey, [Michelle Williams], [director Kenneth Lonergan] and everybody a backdrop that fit who they were.”
“Manchester” is only De Jong’s fourth feature film as a production designer, but she has previous experience in the art departments for “The Tree of Life” (2011), “The Master” (2012) and “To the Wonder” (2012) and she earned an Art Directors Guild nomination for her work on “Inherent Vice” (2014). Next she’s working on the Showtime revival of the cult hit TV series “Twin Peaks.”