Black Panther has taken the world by storm and become a cultural phenomenon. With incredible writing, acting, and execution, it is universally acclaimed and has been record-breaking at the box office. The talent in front of the camera has garnered much attention, but the creators behind the movie are what truly made Black Panther what it is. Let’s take a look at who they are and how they got their starts:
Ryan Coogler: Director
Ryan Coogler is only 31 and has only directed 3 movies so far, yet he’s already currently one of the most successful directors in Hollywood. As film director, Coogler is in charge of a film’s artistic and dramatic aspects while visualizing the script by guiding cast and crew. He has key control over decisions such as cast and production design. All of Coogler’s films have been critically acclaimed. He attended Sacramento State for college on a football scholarship, and majored in finance. After graduating Sacramento State, Coogler enrolled USC School of Cinematic Arts. While a student at USC, Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer in Oakland. This event inspired Coogler to make a film about Grant’s last day. He received mentorship through Forest Whitaker’s production company, and from various other groups was able to receive funding for his film and help on developing a script. In general, Coogler’s work is known for centering on marginalized cultures and characters, such as black people. When he isn’t directing movies, he spends his free time working as a counselor for incarcerated youth in San Francisco.
Hannah Beachler: Production Designer
Hannah Beachler is a long-time colleague of Coogler, and first collaborated with him on his first film Fruitvale Station. She’s a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she studied fashion design. She helped bring Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade to life, in addition to the Afrofuturist design seen in Black Panther. In order to develop this design, she spent time in multiple countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda. Her journeys inspired her work; for example, the Wakandan buildings and cityscape are inspired by the architecture of existing peoples.
Ruth E. Carter: Costume Designer
In comparison to the younger Coogler and Beachler, Ruth Carter has enjoyed a 30 year film career and has worked in more than 40 films. She first began her career as an intern for the Santa Fe Opera, and later worked in film, with one of her most successful being the 1992 film Malcolm X. Like Beachler, Carter drew her inspiration from several African tribes, most notably the Maasai, an ethnic group found in both southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Her research resulted in the varying costumes found in Black Panther—like the tribes of Africa, each design or uniform helps to distinguish the tribes of Wakanda.
Rachel Morrison: Cinematography
Like Hannah Beachler, Rachel Morrison has been working with Ryan Coogler since the production of Fruitvale Station. She’s the first woman to have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Morrison is a graduate of New York University, where she double majored in film and photography and had a concentration in cinematography. After NYU, she enrolled in the AFI Conservatory’s graduate cinematography program; later, she began her career through television work. A cinematography is in charge of the camera and light crews, and is responsible for making decisions in regards to light and imaging. Morrison said that lighting was the biggest challenge for Black Panther, and they used several LED light fixtures throughout filming.