A Wright State and Centerville graduate has made Oscar history.
Hannah Beachler, a 2005 Wright State University graduate, is the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award in the category for Best Production Design for her work in creating Wakanda in Marvel’s “Black Panther.” She won the Oscar along with Jay Hart for set decoration.
She was honored tonight during the live broadcast of the 91st annual Academy Awards.
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“I stand here stronger than I was yesterday,” Beachler said during her acceptance speech. “I stand here with agency and self-worth because of (Black Panther director) Ryan Coogler — who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. I stand here because of this man who offered me a different perspective of life. Who offered me a safe space. Who is patient and gave me air, humanity, and brotherhood. Thank you, Ryan, I love you.”
“I give this strength to all of those who come next. To keep going and never give up, and when you think it’s impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.’”
In her speech, Beachler tearfully thanked her friend and mentor Carol Trevino, a Wilberforce resident and Wright State graduate who died in 2007 while working on the set of a movie in New Orleans.
A scholarship fund Beachler established for local film students in 2018 also is named in honor of the memory of Trevino.
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Beachler and Hart won the Critics Choice Award in the Best Production Design on Jan. 13.
Beachler and Ruth E. Carter (costume design) both were honored for their work on “Black Panther.” They became the first African-American women to win Oscars in their categories, and the first to win in a non-acting category since Irene Cara in 1984, who won for best original song, “Flashdance...What A Feeling,” which she co-wrote.
“Black Panther” has seven total nominations including Best Picture, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, Original Song, Production Design and Costume Design.
“Black Panther” won the Oscar for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design and Best Original Score.
BEACHLER’S WORK ON ‘BLACK PANTHER’
Beachler and Hart created the fictional world of Wakanda, the fictional setting of “Black Panther.”
Beachler managed a reported $30 million budget for “Black Panther” and was the first woman to work for Marvel as a production designer.
Beachler told the New York Times after her nomination that research has been key to success of all of her film projects, including “Black Panther.” That meant studying the ancient ruins of Mpumalanga in South Africa and bringing elements of its design into Wakanda.
The choice of colors you’ll see in a film is just one of Beachler’s responsibilities. She has a hand in designing the movie’s overall look and transporting theater audiences to the environment.
Beachler explained her role best during a visit with Wright State students last year.
“Production design is what everything else bounces off of — it’s architecture, it’s color palette and it’s everything in the room,” Beachler said. “I’m the first one hired after the director and first one on the job after the director. I work with producers, cinematographer, costume design and visual effects.”
This Oscar win makes Beachler the third person with Miami Valley roots in recent years recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Oakwood-raised actress Allison Janney earned the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role last year at the 90th annual Academy Awards for “I, Tonya.” Springfield native John Legend won the 2015 Oscar for Best Original Song for “Glory”.
Before that, Yellow Springs filmmaker Julia Reichert earned three Oscar nominations: Best Short Documentary (2010) for “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” Best Documentary Feature (1984) for “Seeing Red” and Best Documentary Feature (1978) for “Union Maids.”
BEFORE ‘BLACK PANTHER’
In addition to “Black Panther,” Beachler has received mega praise for her work on “Fruitvale Station” “Moonlight,” “Miles Ahead,” “Creed” and Beyonce’s “Lemonade.”
Beachler went to great lengths to build her career and had more than a few setbacks and rejections along the way, starting with her studies at Wright State.
“I was a single mom. I worked two jobs, and I went to school full time. If it weren’t for help from others, I would not have been able to so that,” she told us during a recent podcast interview. “I was a commuter student. There was a lot of that at Wright State, where people have families and they are going back to school and you need all the help you can get, especially nowadays.”
After college, she still had a tough road to success.
For 2013 critically acclaimed independent film “Fruitville Station” — her first job with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler — Beachler told us she drove alone from New Orleans to work on the film in California. Beachler took a pet-sitting job for a place to stay.
STRONG CONNECTIONS TO DAYTON
Beachler still has strong ties to Dayton.
Her father, the late Mark Beachler of Mark Beachler & Associates, lived in Kettering while her mother, Marsha, resides in Centerville.
Her sisters are also still in the area. She has given several talks at Wright State and the Neon movie theater in downtown Dayton, offering encouragement to local students, filmmakers and film fans.
Last summer, Hannah Beachler announced that she would establish a scholarship fund for Wright State University and Dayton-area high school students interested in careers in communications, media, film and entertainment fields.
In September 2018, Beachler was inducted into the Dayton Walk of Fame along with a class that included Oscar-nominated filmmaker Julia Reichert, one of Beachler’s professors at Wright State.
Beachler also was named the WSU Alumni Association’s “2018 Alumna of the Year.”
Beachler grew up in Centerville and studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati before attending Wright State’s Motion Picture Program.
ANOTHER LOCAL CONNECTION
“A Star Is Born,” another film with multiple Oscar nominations, has connections to the Miami Valley.
Bradley Cooper screened the film at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs in October.
The movie features Yellow Springs resident and Cooper’s real-life pal Dave Chappelle, who was also there and participated in a question-and-answer session with Cooper after the screening.
In the film Chappelle plays a character called Noodles, an old friend of Cooper’s character. Chappelle’s daughter Sanaa, also has a role in the film.
“I can’t wait for everyone to see this movie, man,” Chappelle told the Yellow Springs audience. “This movie is real powerful. People don’t know what it’s like to be in entertainment or step on a big stage. This movie really does capture the content of it. It’s gut wrenching up there.”
“A Star is Born” has been nominated for Best Picture, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, and Original Song.
It won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Cooper, which they performed together during the program.