The career of a director is really about two things – finding a way to tell stories the audience wants to see and doing it in a way that earns money for film studios. Their entire career is about finding a balance between those two huge responsibilities and you just need to look at the box office list on a movie weekend to realize it is an art that very few people have perfected. So when a student who just graduated from the USC Film School makes a movie with $900,000 and it grosses $17 million at the box office, studios begin to pay attention. One of those studios was Marvel Studios. The student? Ryan Coogler.
Black directors are not exactly the most common sights in Hollywood. The entertainment industry has pretty much been dominated by Caucasian males for decades but thankfully the landscape is changing now.
Ryan, who was born to Ira Coogler and Joselyn Coogler on the 23rd of May, 1986, wanted to pursue a career in sports like your typical black student and he was well on his way too. He ran track and played football and after a successful high school football career at Saint Mary’s College High School, he earned a scholarship to Saint Mary’s College of California. Before the football program at Saint Mary’s was shut down and Ryan Coogler transferred to Sacramento State University, he got an advice from one of his Saint Mary’s college teachers to pursue screenwriting. It was an advice that would end up changing his life and putting him on the path to becoming a Cinema legend.
Ryan Coogler did not behave like your quintessential ego-driven football player and took the advice to heart. When he moved to Sacramento, he started taking film classes, combining the lessons with an already rigorous college schedule as a football player.
Eventually, his love for filmmaking won and after graduation from Sacramento, Ryan Coogler packed his bags and headed up to the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Ryan was born and raised in Oakland, California, where he schooled for the first few years of his life. After his parents relocated to Richmond, California, he attended Saint Mary’s College High School. After graduation, he attended Saint Mary’s College on a scholarship. He finished his formal education at Sacramento State before taking classes at USC School of Cinematic Arts to kickstart his film career.
His exemplary filmmaking record started from USC where he directed four short films and 3 of them either won or were nominated for an award.
When it comes to directing and storytelling, it is really about the director having a vision, executing it and hoping the audience connects with that vision. It is not a process that has a 100% success rate and anything over 50% is considered a good director. Ryan Coogler so far has directed 7 projects and he has an 85% success rate.
After graduation from USC, Ryan Coogler had to show the industry that his USC feat was not a fluke. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station was his opportunity to establish that his USC record wasn’t the accomplishments of a man who only thrived in an academic environment. The director made Fruitvale Station, a movie about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant who had been shot dead by the Police, in 2009.
The film hit the screens for the first time at Sundance Film Festival and just as he did at USC, Ryan Coogler went home with awards for the film. The film went on the road to Cannes Film Festival and left with the Best First Film award. The film’s success among industry insiders prompted The Weinstein Company to buy its distribution rights and put the director on the road to commercial success. The film made $17 million at the box office. It was made with a budget of $900,000.
Ryan Coogler’s follow up work after Fruitvale Station was Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky Balboa franchise. It was another success for Ryan whose direction helped his cast to multiple awards during the awards season. The film was another box office success.
After helming two successful films, Ryan Coogler had the attention of major film studios and one of them was Marvel Studios, the producers of the pop culture behemoth, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In what was months of wooing and negotiation, Ryan finally agreed to direct Black Panther for the studio. When the film came out in 2018, it was released to critical acclaim and box office demolition. The film became a global phenomenon and elevated Ryan to the realm of superstar film directors. It was just his third feature film. Ryan is signed on to direct the film’s sequel.
Outside of directing, Ryan has followed in his father’s footsteps by working as a counselor with San Francisco youths at the juvenile facility.
Ryan speaks highly of his wife, Zinzi Evans, who he married in 2016. The couple had been dating since high school and Ryan credits her for pushing him to where he is. Although there isn’t a lot of information on Zinzi, she’s also involved in the filmmaking process, having served as an assistant director and producer on several projects.
Why Ryan Coogler Made Black Panther?
Ryan’s initial reluctance to make Black Panther resulted in a lot of wooing by Marvel Studios; eventually, he agreed and made the film. During interviews, Ryan had spoken of the desire to portray what it meant to be African. It was a decision that took Ryan to the African continent to explore the very definition of what being African meant in order to come up with the best results.
Ryan Coogler may have started his career making films with a modest $900k but after his successes with Creed and Black Panther which he made with a $200 million budget, the director’s net worth has received a significant increase. He’s currently estimated to be worth $12 million. With his next films including a sequel to Creed and Black Panther, his net worth is bound to climb even higher in the next few years.