The 2009 film The Road only had a budget of $20 million, which means capturing the bleak, post-apocalyptic world of the story took some creativity in finding locations that naturally depicted that atmosphere. While Mark Forker, the director of special effects for the film, would handle sky replacement and digitally removing greenery from scenes, filmmakers took advantage of days with bad weather to portray the post-apocalyptic environment without effects. Director John Hillcoat preferred this, favoring real locations to shoot in, saying "We didn't want to go the CGI world." as he wanted to be faithful to the spirit of the book the film is based on.
For that, filming was first done in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area in late February 2008 for 8 weeks. In regards to the choice of using Pittsburgh as a practical location, Hillcoat had this to say:
"It's a beautiful place in fall with the colors changing, but in winter, it can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal."
Filming then continued on to northwestern Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Oregon. Pennsylvania was where most of filming took place due to its abundance of locations that looked abandoned or decayed. This included coalfields, dunes, and run-down parts of Pittsburgh and neighboring boroughs. Filming was also done at the 1892 amusement resort (Conneaut Lake Park) after one of the park's buildings (the Dreamland Ballroom) just happened to be destroyed in a fire in February 2008 (When filming began). In addition, the beaches of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania were also used along with scenes being shot in parts of New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina along with scenes shot on Mount St. Helens in Washington. Finally, the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, a stretch of abandoned roadway between Hustontown and Breezewood, Pennsylvania, was used for much of the production.
The result is a beautifully horrific depiction of what Hillcoat described as "a world in severe trauma". One that haunted the viewers and left the desired impact. Stay tuned!