Using a style she first adopted with The Hurt Locker (2008), director Kathryn Bigelow deployed three or four cameras at a time, keeping them in constant motion around the actors. Bigelow preferred to light the entire set to give the performers more flexibility to move around. She didn't block a scene for the camera by plotting out a series of close-ups and wide shots, instead filming everything in a few takes to keep the emotions as raw as possible. "After two or three takes, I have it," she said.
Filmed in Brockton, Massachusetts in September 2016. A set depicting 1967 Detroit was built at the site of the Liberty Tree, a sycamore planted in 1763 which marked a stop on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, slaves on their way north to freedom were hidden in Edward Bennett's stables during the day so they could travel under the cover of darkness.
This is the third collaboration between director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. The first two were Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and The Hurt Locker (2009). Both Bigelow and Boal won Oscars for The Hurt Locker, including Best Picture.
Portions of this movie were filmed on Ashmont Street in Boston, MA. One of the homes used is the rectory of All Saints Ashmont Episcopal Church just down the street. The church itself served as a staging area for the 1970's era vehicles and was used for filming scenes.
Laz Alonso studied John Conyers' interviews, speeches, and public engagements, but was unable to find much material related to the incident except Conyers' description of the event as a "massacre," as opposed to a riot.
The raid on the "Blind Pig" (Speakeasy) was due to pressure and repeated demands from black Baptist ministers, who hated blind pigs for drawing money to liquor and prostitution that should have gone into collection plates. The ministers urged the white mayor, Jerome Cavanaugh, to shut down the illegal clubs.
Scenes were filmed inside Dedham District Court, in Dorchester, Massachusetts and in Brockton, Massachusetts. In addition, the movie filmed in Detroit during October 2016. The elimination of Michigan's film incentives in 2015 affected the filming locations.