By Daniel Paiz
Ryan Coogler always has interesting insight on his work, and tonight’s livesteam Q&A (at the Sie Film Center in Denver for this fan) with the Black Panther director did not disappoint.
The Q&A streamed across the country after over a dozen film houses viewed the blockbuster Marvel film, which upon its opening weekend had the fifth-best opening weekend of all time.
In case you still haven’t seen the film, you can go here for a quick spoilers-free review; for the rest of us who have, let’s jump into Coogler’s answers.
Filmmaking is a team sport
Coogler spoke about the filmmaking process, and he discussed how important the team around you is:
“Filmmaking is a team sport, you want people around you who have skin in the game. Having emotional ties to the material is important.”
Coogler also discussed the process of preparing to shoot this film, which required a trip to Africa.
This helped to prepare not only Coogler, but also cinematographer Rachel Morrison and composer Ludwig Göransson (who moved to Senegal but more on that later), who also both made trips.
Coogler enhanced his narrative lens with this trip, as it gave the director a new reference point for tackling the tension between African and African-American identity.
Biggest issues Coogler faced
Another question Coogler devoted time to was the biggest issues he faced putting together this film. Those issues were
- Stamina—”The amount of time you’re working on a film was the biggest challenge. You have 14, 16-hour work days.”
- Articulating ideas to a lot of people—“You have 20-30 professionals, some who have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive, and you don’t want to waste their time.”
- Working with so many actors—”You wanna feel like everyone has your support.”
Another topic that quickly sprang up was about how Killmonger was written:
“Killmonger and T’Challa were really complex. We wanted them to be opposite sides of a coin.”
Disney’s impact, and the role of comic books
Another surprise to this fan was Disney’s role in Black Panther. Coogler said something I didn’t expect to hear:
“Disney was completely supportive, in the script stage and when we showed them the final cut.”
Perhaps Disney really didn’t have any qualms with some of Killmonger’s character, but it’s still surprising to hear.
Comic books of course were brought up, because without them this film does not exist. There were some name drops that were expected, but one that wasn’t:
“We had Ta-Nehisi Coates come in, and we had so many of his panels on the wall (on the Coates and Stelfreeze run); he signed all of them. The scene of T’Challa and the rhino came from McGregor’s run…also the scene of Killmonger throwing T’Challa off of Warrior Falls is from a McGregor run.”
Believe it or not the end of the Q&A was the crescendo of the night.
Afrofuturism and meeting Ludwig
Afrofuturism is “A genre that’s like a concept. The more I learned about it the more I felt like you need a PhD for all of that.”
The goal was to also reach a balance between new and old, to “figure out how to make things hi-tech without losing the cultural significance.”
The power of tradition and ritual were driving factors in striving to reach that balance Coogler mentions above. The value in those traits are what help to enhance everything in the film, from characters to the plot itself.
Ludwig Göransson absolutely understood such sentiments.
Göransson, upon learning he would be working on the music in this film, moved to Senegal to immerse himself in the continent and to start working with musicians in the area.
The fellow USC Film School alum is “very sharp musically-almost unnervingly so.” Göransson recorded some music in Senegal, and when he returned to the US engaged in “a lot of experimentation.”
Luckily for us this resulted in a richly layered musical score that molded a really good movie into a great one.
Unfortunately, after another question or two the moderator informed us the end of the night had come.
We as an audience made our ways to the exit, wondering what Ryan Coogler might be working on next.