“Like Frank Serpico, Karen Silkwood, and Erin Brockovich, the story of Daniel J. Jones is a tale of someone who discovers an ugly truth in the world and then must decide what to do with it. He is the unlikely hero, burdened with information, who is compelled to stand up against the system.” –Writer/Director Scott Z. Burns
Idealistic staffer Dan J. Jones [Adam Driver] is tasked by his boss, Senator Dianne Feinstein [Annette Bening], to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, created in the aftermath of 9/11.
Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office... Discussing what action to take next...
Set Decorator Rich Devine SDSA points out... “All of the senate offices were kept very muted and sparse. The content of the story was so dense and so difficult, we made a conscious decision to limit the color palette and simplify all the elements to draw the audience more into the discussion and the facts of the story than the intimate details of the world these people inhabit. These are public spaces of powerful people. The offices represent their public personas and highlight the history and attractions of their state.”
“The two large pieces of art in Feinstein’s office reference the existing art in her actual office. Production Designer Ethan Tobman thought they spoke so much to her character and her history that it was important to bring them into the film.”
The SCIF....Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility room the CIA provided for the SSCI’s [US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program...
This is the secure facility the CIA created in 2009 for SSCI aides to review documents, segregated from the CIA’s network.
Senate investigative SCIF within the CIA... The investigation begins. Aides start sorting through 6 million pages of documents.
Devine says, “Dan Jones was given a windowless basement room in which to compile the evidence behind the report. It’s sterile, cold and intimidating. It felt to me like a statement on secrecy. He walks into this room and sets the tone for the investigation. The room’s walls fill as he puts together the stories of each detainee. These form the thread of the story and will eventually form the basis of the monumental report he ultimately, years later, presents to the US Senate.”
The real Daniel Jones unhesitatingly vouches for the authenticity of the set, “I spent many years in that basement in Virginia with other staff that worked on the report, and I can tell you that the actual room was every bit as oppressive as the one you see in the film.”
Burns explains, “In a very real sense, that room becomes Dan’s cell, a place where he has become imprisoned by the complexity of his assignment and his utter dedication to the truth. The idea was to make the space begin slowly closing in on him as his frustration increases.
I have to say, I’m really excited about how well it worked.”
Devine responds with a smile, “Scott wanted piles of paper. Mountains of paper! The set itself is really simple, it’s all about this mountain of evidence. The paperwork is how Dan reconstructed history.”
In early 2010, the CIA secretly removes hundreds of documents from the Committee’s computers at the secure CIA facility. The CIA first denies removing documents, then blames private contractors and the White House, but later apologizes for removing them.
CIA-CTC, Counter Terrorism Center... After THE WASHINGTON POST publishes an article in November 2005 about the existence of a secret, global detention and interrogation program run by the CIA, the CIA Director of National Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, authorizes the destruction of videotapes showing the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques
“To my way of thinking, spaces like these show the massive scale of the federal government and contrast the small spaces that Dan inhabits, a sort of David and Goliath visual,” Devine imparts...
He continues, “Conference rooms in the film work as a formal framework for the unfolding of history. From bland, non-descript rooms where functionaries preform the day-to-day background work of the government, to the grander, more ornate rooms of the real power brokers. As Dan’s investigation gains more and more importance, so too, do the rooms he inhabits...”
White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough’s office...
“President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough...A pragmatist with a difficult job,” says Jon Hamm. “McDonough’s office is a statement on power and privilege,” notes Devine. “Entering a room like this, a visitor is meant to be impressed and intimidated. The history and personal connections are proudly displayed in autographed photos, framed letters and select memorabilia as statements of the resident’s importance and access to even greater power...”
“The Senate Democratic Conference being addressed by McDonough is the first time we see Feinstein directly challenge the administration about the continued misinformation being put forward by the Obama administration about the cancelled Bush interrogation program,” Devine imparts... “These formalized venues were where officials pushed their public agendas while the real work was often done in more private offices and sideline conversations between staff members...”
McDonough’s briefing/White House statement, reverse shot...
“I love the claustrophobia of the shot. It’s like Jones is being suffocated. I would love to say we planned it, but I honestly don’t know. It may have been just a happy accident. The room is long and narrow and that forced the back row tighter. I think Scott just made a decision to embrace it...”
At a public hearing of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Mark Udall [Scott Shepherd] discloses the existence of the documents that Dan had been concerned would remain hidden. He had found a legal way to reach sunlight.
“Sets of this scale were a real challenge on this project,” Devine notes. “We were working under a very limited budget and on a very tight schedule. We made a conscious decision to embrace our limits and create a stark look for the film and really focus on the narrative. I was lucky to have both a brilliant crew and an amazing production team. I can’t imagine pulling this off without all of them.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein reveals the status of the report and the CIA’s interference. She and Senator John McCain write legislation designed to prevent any future use of torture or detainee abuse. The legislation passed in the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
On November 25, 2015, the McCain-Feinstein amendment was signed into law by President Obama, banning the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”...
THE REPORT...a riveting thriller based on actual events... Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones [Adam Driver] is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein [Annette Bening] to lead an investigation of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones’ relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation’s top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public. –Amazon Studios
“Spending years in a windowless room, Jones learns that it is not only the buildings that collapsed that dreadful day; they were followed by a kind of moral collapse that afflicted our leaders and the CIA,” says Writer-Director Scott Z. Burns.
“Going back to George Washington, the prohibitions against torture are inherent in our country’s identity — and yet we were quick to abandon the moral high ground...”*
“...We have laws and ideals not for the days when life is easy, but for the days when we see our world shattered by terror and cruelty. The wisdom in those laws is there to guide us when we are blinded by rage and grief, but instead America and our leaders moved toward what Dick Cheney readily admitted was the “dark side.” The psychiatrist James Gilligan once said: “Violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.” And it is this ill-fated attempt by the CIA under Bush and Cheney that Jones chronicles in the 6,700 pages of the full Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report.”*
“The truth is not always welcomed by history — or by politics — and Jones finds that the American government would have preferred to keep this grim story hidden rather than confront it and inspect its lessons. And so, THE REPORT is not just the story of brutal and ineffective policies that were pursued and then lied about, it is also the story of one public servant — a Senate staffer — who worked for years to expose the truth to the world...”*
The first-time director/longtime writer/producer, mentored by friend and associate Steven Soderbergh, wisely reached out to Production Designer Ethan Tobman and Set Decorator Rich Devine SDSA to bring about compelling, accurate sets to establish historic credibility and visual acuity. This was truth-telling, and the sets must reflect that, yet at the same time convey mood and atmosphere.
See the photo gallery above for key Washington DC sets, and how they helped the story unfold.
Devine gives us an insider look at the insider look!
[Editor’s note: The visceral scenes of torture are strongly depicted in the film. We are not revealing them here. See the film. Definitely see the film.]
Tobman, Devine and their teams had steep challenges of budget and time, but adapted to the requirements and limitations, and more than met the director’s mandate.
Devine notes, “I honestly didn’t think we would be able to pull it off. Anyone with a lick of sanity would have turned it down flat. The scope of the story was enormous and the budget was anything but.”
“Without Ethan's clear vision, a dedicated and experienced crew and a solid backing from our production team, it never would have happened. I was extremely lucky to have such talented assistants and a truly amazing team of dressers. We all laughed a lot, bitched a lot, drank too much shitty coffee and somehow got it done. We are so very lucky to have such an amazing bunch of suppliers, prop houses, florists and artisans in this city.** So many of them pulled small miracles to help us make this happen.”
“We were all very proud of the project and I, for one, was happy to be part of it.”
*Excerpted from “Writer-Director’s Statement” Amazon Studios “Final Credits”
** Devine would like to especially acknowledge the SDSA Business members with whom he worked on this project:
Arenson Prop Centre
AMCO/American Screen and Window
Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals
Bridge Furniture & Props