Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Black History Month Future Legends: Production Designer Hannah Beachler
To continue the coverage for the Black History Month series, i thought it’d be fitting to introduce you to the Production Designer responsible for visuals on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”, Ms. Hannah Beachler.
Just this past weekend, she was awarded at the 21st Annual Art Directors Excellence in Production Design Awards, for her works with the “Lemonade” music video, a derivative of Beyoncé’s Grammy winning album.
Born to an interior designer and architect, Hannah knew a creative career was impending. Initially she thought she would find herself working amidst the fashion industry; however, fate lead her to production design. After assisting some friends with music videos, she returned to school to study film, in pursuit of becoming a director. It was her involvement in a Lifetime project that gave way to her “aha moment.” She tells Refinery29, “I did the production design for this really tiny horrible show and I was like yeah, I want to do this forever.”
While working her way up to production designer, Hannah worked as a set dresser; doing the grunt work behind the scenes to ensure the set was up to par. This paved the way to her premier as the production designer for Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station. Beachler reveals to Refinery29, “Fruitvale was the movie that really set me on the trajectory of my career. That was when people really started to notice me and my work.” From there, she went on to work on visuals for the Rocky spinoff Creed, Oscar nominated Moonlight, and more.
Hannah is the only high-level woman of color working as a production designer in Hollywood, an accolade she grapples with. As she recalls to Refinery29, “A couple of years ago, the thought hit me, like, I can’t be the only female of color working at this level. That can’t possibly be right! But talking to friends of mine and just being on sets, I haven’t seen women like me in this kind of position.” Though she does not hold the film industry completely accountable for this shortfall, she continues to tell Refinery29, “I think it’s a combination of films not hiring enough people of color, and people not knowing that this is even an option as a career path. I’m hoping that maybe I change some minds on the Hollywood side, and also maybe introduce aspiring professionals to this idea as an option. Like hey, everyone! In case you didn’t know, there’s a really great craft in production design!”
As it pertains to Moonlight and “Lemonade“, Beachler believes that culturally invoking productions of that magnitude should be told from the perspective of those who are directly affected; so not to compromise the authenticity of such works. She explains to Refinery29, “I do believe that the people experiencing the story need to be the ones to tell the story. I worked with Kahlil Joseph on Lemonade, and though it was all Beyoncé’s vision, I think it was important that there were two African-Americans behind the camera making sure that representation was strong. I was very proud of that.”
If you’re wondering what’s next, Hannah is currently working on the comic book inspired Black Panther, set to release in 2018.
To follow her career, visit her website at www.hannahbeachler.com
Thoughts on this visionary? And others you’d like to see featured?