NFTS students were treated to a special preview of highly anticipated and acclaimed “subversive” superhero movie from Marvel Studios, Black Panther followed by a masterclass with the film’s Executive Producer and Marvel Studios Vice President of Development and Production, Nate Moore.
Widely praised by critics, Black Panther is described as “a superhero with purpose” by Variety; “an African extravaganza that packs a muscular intensity and challenges as much as it exhilarates” by Empire and a “subversive and uproarious action-adventure, in which African stereotypes are upended and history is rewritten” in The Guardian.
Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, a young African prince who takes on the mantle of King and super hero, and the centuries’ old legacy that comes with it. The groundbreaking character made its first appearance in “Fantastic Four Vol. 1” Issue 52, published in 1966 and was soon firmly established as a fan favourite, crossing racial and cultural lines. The imagery of a regal African King and his super hero alter ego continued to resonate with fans over the years and in 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe welcomed T’Challa/Black Panther and introduced him to its fan base in Captain America: Civil War.
The session was hosted by journalist, Dan Jolin who began the Q&A by asking Nate what his role as Executive Producer entailed. Nate explained: “My job is to make sure the film is good from soup to nuts (from beginning to end). It’s very hands-on from selecting the director (Ryan Coogler) and writer (Joe Robert Cole) to helping hire in the production heads. If you don’t have a great crew, it’s hard to execute the vision and this movie was particularly complicated due to the detail required for the costumes and production design. We had to ride the balance between what makes a great individual movie whilst keeping to true to the Marvel universe.”
On Marvel’s recent tendency to select directors who haven’t worked on big VFX movies before like Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) and The Russo brothers (Captain America: Civil War; Avengers: Infinity War), Nate said: “The tech stuff can be taught. What matters is that the director can get a performance. We look for someone who is most germane to the story in question. It’s also better sometimes to find people who haven’t done a movie like this before so you get something unique. We want filmmakers who push us as that’s when you get cool ideas.”
Nate continued: “Our approach is that the content is based on super heroes but the film can be any genre. We were going for ‘The Godfather meets James Bond’ with Black Panther whereas Spiderman: Homecoming was made in the high school genre. Audiences want something different now, which means we can push the envelope but still build on the Marvel tapestry.”
Dan asked Nate if Marvel felt a sense of responsibility in making a movie that represents such a milestone in mainstream filmmaking. Nate responded: “The truth is that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make the movie as good as possible so we didn’t get much time to think about the wider context of the movie. It was only at the end of the shooting day that we had time to think that this could be something really special. It had to work so it would enable other movies to be made like it; we had to blaze a trail.”
A self-proclaimed “genuine comic nerd”, Nate felt a personal connection to many of the Marvel characters and the Black Panther character particularly ‘spoke to him’: “As a black kid seeing someone like you helps you feel acknowledged. The comics were ahead of their time in addressing issues like refugees. It’s because it’s part of the source material that Black Panther rings true. The challenge was to make the narrative propulsive and work as a piece of entertainment in its own right while addressing the social issues without forcing it.”
Nate was clear on the direction Marvel is travelling with regards to diversity: “We are absolutely looking to be as diverse as possible in front and behind the camera. Black Panther is part of a wider initiative to be more inclusive. Different is good. Ryan made sure that the crew was pretty much 50/50 male and female and I hope it’s something Hollywood takes a cue from.”
If you would like to attend masterclasses like these, why not find out about our courses at an upcoming open day - www.nfts.co.uk/opendays