After several introductions, they ultimately found a family who agreed to let Granik observe their daily existence, watching them hunt squirrels, chop wood, cook potatoes (with a scoop of lard in the skillet, sliced by hand over the stove, peels on), pick banjos at bluegrass gatherings and care for their animals. Granik shot video and took photographs, which helped "augment the skeleton" of the script and inform the overall film, Granik explained.In 2006, the Riverfront Times profiled author Woodrell for the feature story "Hillbilly Noir".
The family and their neighbors became what Granik refers to as "life models," or "a model that you can ask questions, see different details -- a certain way they wear their coat or a way they walk their dog. Anything about how they perform their daily tasks. Just being able to ask someone 'I know this sounds weird but can I roll a little video as you talk to your horses?'"
Granik, who first started working on "Winter's Bone" in 2006, ultimately shot the film in 2009 entirely on location in Missouri. They cast locals in supporting roles and used them as dialect coaches. The costume department exchanged Carhartt jackets and plaid flannels with residents, to make sure the garments were stained with the dirt, soot and work of the local land.