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.
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.
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.
John Boyega had the opportunity to meet and acquaint himself with survivor Melvin Dismukes, the real-life person he portrays in the film.
The film had a limited release in Metro-Detroit on July 28, 2017, one day after the 50th anniversary of the riot's end, on July 27, 1967. It was released nationally on August 4.
Anthony Mackie also starred in The Hurt Locker (2008) which was also directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
A concert scene was filmed at the Emerson Majestic Theater in Boston. It's part of Emerson University, which has taught many in the entertainment industry.
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.
Survivor Julie Hysell was on set throughout most of the shoot. Vietnam vet Robert Greene was still alive, but the producers couldn't reach him.
Algee Smith who plays Larry (Reed), a member of the 1960s band The Dramatics, wrote the song "Grow" that appears on the film soundtrack performed by both Smith and Reed.
On July 25, 2017, "Detroit" premiered at The Fox Theater in Detroit, exactly 50 years after the date most of the movie takes place on.
Director Kathryn Bigelow was inspired to unearth this event by the Ferguson (MO) riots (Aug. 2014) where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer.
The majority of the film and all of the Algiers sequences were shot in chronological order.
Hamtramck is located in Wayne County as a city of its own, and is situated entirely within the city limits of Detroit.
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.