NEW ORLEANS (NewsNation Now) — Imagine the task of designing a fictional country out of a comic book — that’s exactly what Hannah Beachler did when she brought the world of “Wakanda” to life in the Black Panther film.
“I’m a unicorn in the industry. I’m a dark-skinned black woman, that does not exist as a production designer anywhere in the world, at this level that I work,” Beachler said.
Beachler became the first woman to be nominated for and win an Academy Award for Best Production Design. She’s worked on projects ranging from Black Panther, for which she won the Oscar, to Moonlight to Beyoncé’s visual album title Lemonade. But what does the job of a production designer entail?
“I sit down with the director and we talk about the mood, and the look, and the colors that we’re going to use to portray whatever type of psychology,” Beachler explained.
Beachler started at the bottom of the film business after moving to New Orleans. Attracted by state tax credits, there’s a thriving movie and TV production business in Louisiana and Beachler took whatever job came along and no task was beneath her.
“Someone said I need you to clean the bathroom I’d built shelves in there. I went out, spent my own money, and bought brooms and things and they walked in and they’re like ‘I just asked you to clean the bathroom, Beachler laughingly explained. “But I got another job, I got another job.”
It was that hustle and perseverance at every turn that continued to elevate Beachler from building sets to painting until one day she decided she had enough experience and had learned enough to declare herself a production designer.
“Nobody else knew that but I woke up that day and decided, and I went forward with that in my head; now I’m a production designer,” Beachler said.
Beachler also said that the responsibility to have more people of color in production roles rests with the movie business.
“As hard as the movie industry works to keep minorities out, they will have to work as hard to include. Because it’s not charity and often times inclusion is looked at as ‘well it’s charity.’ No, it’s inclusion because I deserve to be here,” Beachler explained.
But make no mistake, hard work is required to get hired.
“It’s a fine line; you can’t be a bother but you can’t be afraid. So, you need to find that sort of ‘where’s the pocket of how I get in,'” Beachler said.
Production for Black Panther 2 is underway, which will keep Beachler busy through the next year, but one thing is certain, if she has any say in the matter, you’ll continue to see the work of Hannah Beachler for years to come.
“I feed on the challenge because I am such that if you put it before me and say maybe you can’t do it, I say maybe I can,” Beachler said.