Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith) in Columbia Pictures' 'Where the Crawdads Sing.'

These locals were a part of bringing ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ to life

As a runaway hit that spent more than 150 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list, Delia Owens’ 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing practically begged for a film adaptation from the moment Reese Witherspoon deemed it worthy of her Hello Sunshine Book Club, placating the hearts of fans who couldn’t wait to see the headstrong Kya and her North Carolina marshes come to life. But if you watched the movie’s first trailer and thought that North Carolina looked suspiciously like south Louisiana, you’d be right. Filmed largely in our state along the bayous of Houma and the outskirts of New Orleans, the adaptation—which hits theaters July 15—didn’t just use Louisiana’s beauty as a backdrop, but employed local talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

“I had only vaguely heard of the book when I was auditioning, but I knew that my daughter owned the book, and that my wife had read it. Once I officially became involved, I realized what a big deal it was,” says Baton Rouge-based actor Joe Chrest, who plays the coroner Dr. Cone in the film. Perhaps best known as Mike Wheeler’s fatigued father in Stranger Things, Chrest has long delivered memorable characters in big-name projects like The Hunger Games, 21 Jump Street and Looking for Alaska, not to mention his upcoming role in Flowers of the Killer Moon alongside Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. But to be able to film Crawdads in Louisiana was a special treat.

“The great thing about Louisiana is that there are so many diverse locations for filming, and it was nice to see some of the familiar faces I’ve worked with before,” says Chrest. “For Crawdads, it was especially huge to learn that I was going to work directly with David Strathairn, who plays the lead attorney. I’ve been studying his work since I first got started as an actor.”

Actors weren’t the only people making Crawdads come to life. Visual effects supervisor Kolby Kember was also on set, working with director Olivia Newman to make sure shots could accommodate the movie magic he would help create in post-production. With the help of his team at Crafty Apes, which has offices in Baton Rouge’s Celtic Studios (along with Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere), he worked on the film from its early script stages to the finished product, multiplying crowds, extending sets, and even computer-animating birds who would always be ready for their closeup.

“There are definitely a lot of big effects-driven moments in the film, and it was cool to work with all the chief creatives to help them come up with the best look and designs for each shot,” Kember says. “It’s always fulfilling to watch these films with my team and see the results of all our hard work.”