'Where the Crawdads Sing' Director Olivia Newman on Bringing Kya's World to Life On Screen

From Kya’s shack to the abundance of wildlife.

"Where The Crawdads Sing" Olivia Newman
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Olivia Newman read Where the Crawdads Sing in two days.

"Like so many readers, I was just completely absorbed in Kya's story," the director recently told Southern Living.

Newman, who helmed the movie adaptation alongside producers Reese Witherspoon and Lauren Neudstadter, admitted to feeling "enormous responsibility" to Delia Owens' beloved book. Her dedication to the storyline is perhaps most evident in the meticulous recreation of Kya's shack.

"It was really important to us that we get Kya's shack right," Newman said. "In the book it's nestled in the woods on this lagoon. It's so remote that it's easier for her to get places by boat."

But with remoteness come production challenges.

"We looked at a lot of locations. Ultimately, we found a spot in the North Shore [of New Orleans] that had an incredible lagoon with hanging moss and cypress trees," she said.

Newman recalled how "all of our breath sort of caught" when they discovered Otis House in Mandeville, Louisiana. Ultimately, that's where they built Kya's house.

It was important to Newman that they were able to film both the interiors and exteriors of Kya's house without cuts, but she also didn't want to fake it on a soundstage. So, the production crew created Kya's house from scratch, bringing in greenery to block out any signs of civilization.

From the crumbling linoleum to the antiques that belonged to Kya's mom, every detail in the shack was thought out to make it feel accurate and lived in.

"We designed it so it felt like an old fishing cabin that had been expanded just a little, but you could still tell that its roots were a tiny fishing cabin," Newman said, who described the end result as "magical."

Fans of the book can also appreciate the movie's commitment to showcasing the birds and other wild animals that played such a pivotal role in Kya's lonely life.

Newman said there was a second camera crew dedicated to getting wildlife footage while filming took place on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain from April to July 2021. She joked that you could "cut an entire documentary" from the B-roll they ended up with.

"I wanted to put all of it into the movie," she said with a laugh. 'I had to ask myself, 'Do we really need four shots of birds in this scene?'"

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