‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Studied Film at Sac State

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SACRAMENTO -- Marvel Studios' latest film in its sprawling, interconnected movie universe, "Black Panther," is out.

Its director, Ryan Coogler grew up in Northern California and graduated from Sacramento State.

“It’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s colorful, the effects are fantastic, I think he did a wonderful job," CSUS film studies professor Steve Buss said.

Coogler, 31, is one of Buss' most successful students.

"He had a very hard work ethic," he said.

Buss says Coogler originally came to Sac State to play football after the program ended at his first school, St. Mary's in Berkeley.

“I got to Sacramento State it was a good choice for me, it was a really exciting time. I just remember the energy around campus and being in a new place," Coogler said in a 2015 video produced by the school.

Buss says Coogler's experience with sports showed him the importance of working as a team while making films.

Coogler graduated with a business degree, but Buss says he took many film production classes. After graduating from Sac State, he would go on to study film at the University of Southern California.

“I would have a limit of eight minutes that they couldn’t go past (for short films) and he’d go a little bit past eights minutes all the time and I’d be like, 'Nah, it’s good I’m not going to take it away from him,'” Buss said.

Back then, Coogler would discuss his idea for what would become his first feature, "Fruitvale Station," about the 2009 death of Oscar Grant at the hands of a BART police officer.

Buss says Coogler experienced similar racial profiling when he was a student.

"Ryan looked quite a bit different back then. If I remember, he had dreadlocks," Buss said. "The Oscar (Grant) story wasn't an abstraction to him. It was a reality."

Coogler later directed the "Rocky" installment "Creed" which, like his debut, was critically acclaimed.

Buss says Coogler's third film, Marvel's "Black Panther," is by far the biggest project he's taken on.

Having seen the film at a special screening of Wednesday night with Coogler and his family in Oakland, Buss believes the film will showcase his talents in a way that will only lead to future success.

“It’s his third film, it has the work of someone that’s been around a lot longer and has worked on a lot more tentpole kind of films,” he said.

Buss is hopeful that Coogler's success, along with the success of films like "Lady Bird" and "The 15:17 to Paris," will attract more filmmakers to Sac State.

"We aren't a name yet," Buss said. "We need more Ryans."