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Hillbilly Elegy

In late 2018, I was approached by Ron Howard to design Hillbilly Elegy, based on the novel about growing up in the Rust Belt with Appalachian roots. Ron had heard that I was born and raised in a small, former steel town in West Virginia, very similar to Middletown, Ohio, where the book is based. Not only did I jump at the opportunity to work with Ron, but I felt a moral obligation to accurately visually depict the beauty and complication of what it was and is to grow up in this part of America, a place that in recent years, due to shifting politics and the opioid crisis, has become the epicenter of American contradiction. 

Because of my own personal reticence about how to aesthetically portray this world so familiar to me and so often misconstrued, I was drawn to the stunning Rust Belt photographs of Niko Kallianiotis, whose works of bold color do not lean in to the misfortune of a people who have fallen on hard times but rather celebrate the poetically beautiful and politically ironic atmosphere of their environs. Kallianiotis's photographs helped me create an authentically layered and textured visual contribution to the film. 

Set Decorators Society of America nomination for Best Set Decoration

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