We all have to start somewhere and that goes for film directors as well, including “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler. Like most directors, you learn your craft by creating little projects at first, building your confidence, discovering your talent and hopefully honing it to develop your own personal vision.
For Coogler, it all happened literally by chance. He originally went to Saint Mary’s College of California near Oakland to play football, with a goal being to eventually become a doctor. That all changed when he wrote a personal story for a creative writing class about a near tragic event during which his father nearly bled to death in his arms. The piece so impressed his teacher that he suggested Coolger ought to pursue a career in screenwriting.
But when Saint. Mary cancelled its football program, he got a scholarship to attend Sacramento State University to major in finance. But what his creative writing professor told him, stubbornly stuck in his head and he started taking every film class at the school.
After graduation, another professor told him that he ought to apply to the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Coolger said: “It was either go there or play wide receiver. I was short, my prospects weren’t the highest, so I jumped off that cliff and drove to L.A.” And the rest is history, with films such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” on his resume, and the much anticipated “Black Panther” coming.
While at USC, he wrote and directed “Locks” in 2009, which was the first of four shorts he made during his time at the school, and which was eventually screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, winning the Dana and Albert Broccoli Award for Filmmaking Excellence.
In the short, a young man in Oakland, California “wakes with a heavy heart and decides to take a walk through the neighborhood to the local barbershop.”
Though it does have all the signs of a film school student project, it clearly shows his talent and there are hints here and there of what would become his first feature film – “Fruitvale Station.” But who knew at the time that this six-minute effort would eventually lead to “Black Panther” 9 years later?
Check it out and see where it all began.