This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the oft unsung yet always vital contributions of those working below the line. Join NYWIFT blog contributors Kathryn O’Kane and Mellini Kantayya as they celebrate a few of the many women in history and making history—“Below the Line: A Cut Above.”
By Mellini Kantayya
Hannah Beachler became the first female film production designer in Marvel history when she was enlisted to work on Black Panther. She then made Oscar history with that film when she became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Production Design.
Production design seems like a natural career choice for the daughter of an interior decorator and architect, but Beachler initially planned to pursue fashion design, graduating with a degree from the University of Ohio. Later, she went to film school with her sights on becoming a director. Beachler’s career then took a new trajectory when she helped a classmate on the set of a Lifetime project. She said, “That was it…I was like yeah, I want to do this forever.”
Beachler adeptly traverses worlds past and future, real and imagined. As director Ryan Coogler said, “Hannah is an incredible storyteller. She takes true ownership of the characters and themes of a story and breathes life into the sets in service of them.” In addition to the afrofuturistic Wakanda in Black Panther, she has created wide-ranging mises-en-scéne—from the modern day Bay Area Rapid Transit system in Fruitvale Station to the jazz clubs of the fifties and sixties in Miles Ahead. She’s also worked on such notable projects as Beyoncé’s concept album Lemonade, Creed, and Moonlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Hannah Beachler shared inspirational words of wisdom in her Oscar acceptance speech: “I give this strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to 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.’”
NYWIFT member and graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology Nikia Nelson has been working in the fashion and entertainment industries for several years. She started her career working in magazine publishing in the fashion and photo departments. She was able to parlay her experience into working as a stylist & costume designer for fashion, film, and television. Nikia recently worked as Assistant Costume Designer for the Amazon series The Horror of Dolores Roach. Based on the hit Spotify podcast series of the same name, The Horror of Dolores Roach is a contemporary Sweeney Todd-inspired urban legend of love, betrayal, weed, cannibalism, and survival of the fittest. The series will premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.READ MORE
Throughout the coming weeks, NYWIFT will sit down with members of the film and television community for a look at how the global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the industry, particularly those who work in the indie and art house world. Our first conversation is with NYWIFT Member Isabella Olaguera, a 1st AD who is organizing an initiative to help feed freelancers who are struggling. She shares her insight into how life has come to a halt with so many productions on hold.READ MORE
Production Women: It’s time for more women behind the lens. From lighting to sound to stunts, costumes, sets, and beyond, learn about the many career...READ MORE