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Kathryn Bigelow movie Detroit filmed in Boston

Kathryn Bigelow filmed her 1960s-set movie Detroit in Boston, using Massachusetts' incentive support.   


Kathryn Bigelow shot her feature Detroit largely on location in Boston where the economics could be made to work using Massachusetts’ filming incentive support.

The movie is set during the Detroit rebellion of 1967 when the city was torn up over five days of rioting that resulted in nearly 50 deaths. 

Detroit specifically focuses on an event that took place during the riots when a brutal police investigation followed reports of gunshots at the Algiers Motel near a National Guard staging post.

Bigelow and her production team wanted to use Detroit locations for the shoot and spent a lot of time scouting in the city. However, the cancellation of Michigan’s filming incentive support programme meant the producers had to look elsewhere.

For more on filming in Massachusetts and for local contacts see our production guide

“I think we did pretty well,” says Jeremy Hindle, the film’s production designer, of the Boston locations used to double for Detroit over the course of nearly two months.

“We travelled the whole city of Boston from Lawrence [in the north] down to Brocton [in the south]. It was complicated because there were so many moving pieces. We couldn’t find everything we wanted in one particular place. So we’d take part of one street and part of another and combine them.”

The building used as the Algiers Motel was extensively re-dressed to recreate the 1967 setting.

Detroit“The main motel was a good find but we had to restyle everything, build a pool and another wall and have a giant neon sign custom built,” Hindle says of the story's main location.

“We changed every door, every knob [and] every sign. Creating a period look is complicated. A lot of it involves altering or hiding things you don’t normally think about like street signs, fire alarms, parking meters - it’s just endless.” 

In the end Bigelow and her team supplemented the Boston shoot with about a week of filming in Detroit to establish the city as the story’s setting.

Since Michigan’s filming incentive came to an end, Transformers: The Last Knight has been the only big-budget Hollywood feature to shoot there, but that was only possible because of a prior agreement made with authorities while the incentive was still active.

Massachusetts is not a US production hub but does have a 25% tax credit and offers enough resources to have attracted recent films like Peter Berg’s Patriots Day and Paul Feig’s all-female version of Ghostbusters. The state will also get a national profile boost hosting TV series Castle Rock, which is inspired by stories from Stephen King.

Images: Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures


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