Ohio Native Nominated For Oscar In Production Design For 'Black Panther'

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An Ohio native who designed the “Black Panther" movie set is a nominee in the 91st Academy Awards ceremony that takes place Sunday in Los Angeles.

Production designer Hannah Beachler describes her nomination for Best Production Design, her first ever, as “amazing.” She's also the first African-American nominated for an Oscar in production design.

“It was just one of those things where you don’t really think it can happen to you, but when it does it’s other-worldly,” Beachler says.

Beachler credits her previous movie work with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler for getting her this job. They had collaborated on "Fruitvale Station" in 2013 and "Creed" in 2015. Beachler also worked on "Moonlight," and Beyoncé's "Lemonade" film.

Beachler says her vision for “Black Panther” was to create a fictional country in Africa that did not experience colonization, and was in control of its own resources.

“We wanted to show a relationship between technology and nature, tradition and culture, family and spirituality and all of those things that come from a lot of the different cultures on the continent,” Beachler says.

Beacher says she had a large budget to create the sets, but it wasn’t unlimited.

“Warrior Falls, which I think people see the most in marketing and advertising, we built quite a bit of that, from the ground to the top of the set was 40 feet," she says. "It was 10 feet off the ground… it had practical tunnels and caves in it and about 150,000 gallons of water running through it.” 

The movie has earned more than $1.3 billion at the box office in the U.S. and abroad. Beachler says that’s an important marker and it breaks down stereotypes.

“I think that it proves that black film travels,” Beachler says. “It proved that it sells overseas. It proved that a predominately-black cast can lead a movie. And that people across the board are interested in the stories of black filmmakers.”

Beachler grew up in Centerville during the 1970-80s, and attended University of Cincinnati and Wright State University. She says she followed her father’s advice to keep going forward and maintain a hard work ethic.

“Because I had a good support system and I allowed myself to take risks in that I came outside of my comfort zone to travel and pursue my career outside of the state," Beachler says. "It paid off."

As a black woman, Beachler says it's more difficult to achieve her goals in the film industry. Many times, she was the only black person on a production design team. She says mentors are important to establish a connection inside the filmmaking industry.

“Follow your dreams, no matter where they take you, and keep your eyes open for the people that are there to support you,” Beachler says.

Beachler is currently working in Cincinnati on her next film production, which she expects will come out later this year. Copyright 2019 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.

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