I went everywhere in South Africa, not just Cape Town and Joberg. I flew into Cape Town with my assistant and the location scout and we scouted from Cape Town all the way north past Lesotho and then back up the coast to Ladysmith. It was like two weeks. In thirty days I was in 26 airports and 17 hotels! And at one point they actually did put us on private planes.
When we were flying in, the pilot was like, We gotta go it’s gonna get dark! I’m thinking, What’s the big deal about it getting dark? Well, here’s what the big deal was. We’re flying in as it’s getting dark and I see people holding up cell phones and I realize we’re literally landing on what’s comparable to a driveway. And there are animals everywhere. People were holding up cellphones so he knew where the end of the runway was! And I was like, Okay, so that’s crazy.
As far as the budget goes, I handled it the same way that I would have handled any budget. It’s a lot more people but you either know how to manage people or you don’t. That wasn’t really different. It was really the mental challenge, the length and the level of sets that we were doing. I knew what the expectations were. The biggest challenge was being scared to death the whole time that I’m not doing honor to the cultures that we were representing or to the people of Africa. And you just had to be like, Okay, they’re gonna love it or they’re going to hate it. This is what came out of me. And I gotta stand by my work. The high level of research we did was so that we did get it right. We needed to make it feel real.
How did that compare to a movie like Moonlight?
HB: Moonlight was such a small, beautiful little story about one person in three chapters. A tight little story in one little city. For something like Moonlight you don’t want people to notice the design so much. If it’s standing out then you did not do your job. And the same with Creed, even though that was bigger, about $35 million at that point and my first studio project. That was the first time I was doing big builds and augmentations and had a much bigger crew. It was very helpful to have Creed before Panther. It prepared me to go in and speak to Marvel to even get the job. It was a coup that I got that job and part of it was Ryan Coogler [Creed and Black Panther director]. He’s the one that went to bat to get me the opportunity to walk in the door.
That’s very important for every professional to remember, it’s not necessarily getting someone a job, it’s getting them in the door. And that’s exactly what Ryan did for me because we already had a working relationship. And he’s a very loyal person. You see that he has had most of the same key crew since Fruitvale Station. And it’ll be that way for Ryan. I would never not want to work with him! I’m always scared when he’s around other designers because I’m like, No, he’s mine!
So that was a big reason I got in the door. I knew I had to go in there and get the job because I couldn’t have Ryan say my name to the likes of [producers] Kevin Feige or Victoria Alonzo and then not come in and represent exactly why he mentioned my name! Every single time you have to up your game. I knew I had to bring it. That was challenging.