Hot off of Beyonce’s mini-movie music video “Lemonade” and Barry Jenkins’ awards-contender “Moonlight,” and now diving into Ryan Coogler’s third feature, Marvel’s “Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler seems to be Hollywood’s production designer of the moment.
Her big break came with Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” — a 2013 fact-based drama centered on the death of a young black man, Oscar Grant, at the hands of police officers. It made a big splash at Sundance and took home multiple indie film prizes, including best first feature at the Spirit Awards.
Before “Fruitvale,” Beachler had worked on some horror films, TV, and commercials, but it was the movie, she says, that changed the trajectory of her career.
“I got a piece of advice a few years ago,” says Beachler, who grew up in Centerville, Ohio, studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati, and attended Wright State University for film. “Basically, it said to only work on stories and scripts you connect with and have a feeling for, a visceral reaction to. I think it was [“Hidden Figures” production designer] Wynn Thomas who said that to me. It really resonated with me and I took it to heart.”
About a month later, Beachler signed with the agency Dattner Dispoto; “Fruitvale” was the first script they gave her. After that, Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead” came up, and by what she calls “a twist of fate,” she was hired for the project. Not long after that, Coogler came calling again and asked her to work on the “Rocky” spinoff “Creed.”
“Hannah is an incredible storyteller,” says Coogler. “She takes true ownership of the characters and themes of a story and breathes life into the sets in service of them.”
Beachler never expected she’d do a boxing movie, but when the time came, she saw the excitement in the work and immersed herself in that world.
Before “Fruitvale,” Beachler had been a production designer for about three years; prior to that, she worked as a set decorator. “Meeting Ryan and designing ‘Station’ truly changed me as a person,” Beachler says. “At the end of the day,” she explains, “it’s about wanting to experience different worlds, different people, understanding different parts of life through different perspectives — always learning about the world and getting to experience really cool stuff along the way. I always wonder, ‘What can I experience next? What can I create next?’” keep reading