The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Production designer Hannah Beachler speaks on success amongst adversity

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan
Hannah Beachler, the production designer for the 2018 movie Black Panther, gives a talk in Shambaugh Auditorium about her experiences in Hollywood on Saturday, Apr. 29, 2018. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Flyover Fest concluded this past weekend in Iowa City, offering a variety of events to educate and empower the community. One such event provided locals with a chance to hear from a renowned Hollywood production designer about her path to success and work as a woman of color in the film industry.

Hannah Beachler spoke to an audience on April 28 at the Main Library Shambaugh Auditorium, discussing her career in Hollywood working on such films as Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Academy Award winner Moonlight, and Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. The discussion was moderated by filmmaker Sam Kessie, who is working on a master’s degree at the University of Iowa.

Beachler, a self-professed “extroverted introvert,” grew up in the Midwest, living on a farm near Dayton, Ohio, until she went to college. Her father was an architect and her mother an interior designer, which she said caused her to absorb colors and shapes from an early age. She credits spending time with her siblings to providing her with the imaginative capabilities she needs to create her own designs in films.

“We spent all our time making up these worlds in the woods,” Beachler said. “We’d have this mystical world because it was unlimited imagination as a kid and nothing was stopping us. I came back to that when I started working in film, having that sense of imagination.”

Beachler noted that she can recognize when a crew or cast member is a Midwesterner, calling them the hardest working people on the set.

Much of her discussion focused on being a woman of color in Hollywood and the opportunities and obstacles she has faced. During her first few projects, she was one of the few women and people of color on a set, even on major films; she is the first female production designer for the Marvel franchise.

Beachler said she initially attempted to blend in with the men in the industry so she wouldn’t stand out, which caused her to lose her identity along the way. She credits her success to being unmerciful and standing up for herself even in the face of adversity.

“I really put my foot down because if I don’t nip it in the bud, then I’ll never be able to do it,” Beachler said. “And if I don’t do that, then who am I in this industry?”

UI graduate student and discussion attendee Joy Melody Woods said she was inspired by Beachler’s determination, noting her passion and dedication throughout despite adversity.“ I think people could really learn from her work what it means to keep on pushing,” Woods said. “Her story was one of years and years of working and going unnoticed. I think as students, we have this idea that everything will come naturally and immediately, and it doesn’t.”

Flyover Festival focuses on underrepresented and marginalized groups in order to increase self-love and empowerment throughout all communities.

“It really feels like a brand-new event this year,” event producer Simeon Talley said. “For everyone who has bought into this vision for the event, we deeply support everything that you do.”


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