When Hannah Beachler won the Oscar for Best Production Design for her work on the set of Marvel’s Black Panther she made history. Although her work was shared with Jay Hart she became the first Black woman to even be nominated for an Academy Award in that category and she also became the first Black woman to actually win it. But, it’s what she said when she began her acceptance speech that stole the night.
The first words to come through her lips were, “New Orleans, ya heard me?”
It was the perfect moment and opportunity to let the world know the quality of talent in Louisiana. Over the past decade New Orleans and Atlanta have shared the nickname “Hollywood South” due to the number of films and television shows being filmed in the markets. However, for New Orleans, seldom are locals given the opportunity to be part of the production and strategy teams for these shows. Many of the shows cast locals as extras, chefs, makeup artists, and stage help but there haven’t been many opportunities for local directors, costume designers and set designers to play major roles in the bigger productions. The heavier responsibilites are usually flown in from other places and rightfully so because the Producers have credible work relations with their own personnel.
Although Hannah Beachler was born in Ohio and actually attended two Ohio Universities, after college, like so many people aspiring to make it in the film industry, she followed the opportunities to New Orleans. It was in New Orleans that her dreams became true. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther’s director, took a chance on Beachler with two prior films: Fruitvale Station and Creed. Bleacher also worked on Beyonce’s Lemonade Short Film which was also filmed in New Orleans. She has been a mentor and a vocal piece of the New Orleans film industry since joining the community.
So, when Beachler chanted, “New Orleans, ya heard me?” she was bascially putting the world on notice. The talent and ambitious spirit of culture in New Orleans is almost always overlooked. She was claiming not only a victory for herself but for all the stylists, make-up artists, visual professionals, set designers, costume designers, and tech crews who are right here in Louisiana working on tons of movies every year and go unnoticed in comparison to films being produced in California and New York. What New Orleans offers the world is the extension of a culture that provides an abundance of art and pride that is no longer going unnoticed.
Many people still believe, Black Panther, was filmed in Africa. They’d be shocked to learn most of it was filmed in Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Mr. Perry is also a native of New Orleans. A city that has been long known for it’s music and culinary impact on the world has slowing been making a huge impact on the film industry. Beachler understood her win was hers to claim but she selflessly shared the moment with her people, the city she loves, and the culture it has to offer the world.