While Jordan Peele produced the movie, it was Nia DaCosta who co-wrote and directed the film. Here is everything you need to know about her.
Everyone is obsessing over the new trailer for Jordan Peele’s Candyman. While Peele has been receiving acclaim for producing the horror movie, New York University Tisch School of the Arts graduate Nia DaCosta co-wrote and directed the film.
Originally from Brooklyn, the rising talent already has one feature film under her belt, 2018’s Little Woods. In a profile with IndieWire, she admits she attended Tisch partially because Martin Scorsese is a graduate. During her career, DaCosta worked as a TV production assistant which allowed her to brush shoulders with Scorsese in addition to fellow filmmakers Steve McQueen and Steven Soderbergh.
If you’re interested in learning more about this budding director — who is well on her way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most coveted directors — check out our list of things worth knowing about Nia DaCosta.
1. Her first full-length feature film Little Woods, a western received critical acclaim after it premiered in 2017.
Starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, the movie tells the story of two estranged sisters in a rural city stuck in a bind desperate for a solution. In an interview with Vulture, she shared, “I found this boom town in Northwest North Dakota, Williston by accident,” she said. “Just by trying to find the best place for this story in relation to the topics it was about. Everything about the place and the fact that it was a boom town added a whole other layer to the story.”
Nia’s script for Little Woods was one of 12 projects chosen for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab. It was later shot in 2017 and premiered at Sundance that same year where it was well-received, the movie was later acquired by Neon.
2. DaCosta shot Little Woods with “half the budget” she wanted to work with.
Hollywood is known for the looming disparities that affect women in the film industry, especially when it comes to funding. DaCosta spoke a bit about the systemic issues previously at length last year. During an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she expressed that she was forced to work with “very scarce resources.” She also shared: “It’s very difficult for a woman to just pop up in the studio system. But I think the same systemic issues that affect how much work women get to make is also inside the indie space. While there are more women working, we definitely get less money.”
3. Growing up she loved creepy movies, Candyman was one of them.
DaCosta had an affinity for horror movies from a very young age. In her Vulture feature, she also expanded on her horror film obsession by sharing that Candyman was one movie that used to scare the shit out of her. “I remember it aligning so well with me being in middle school, although it came out a few years before I was in middle school,” she said. “In the bathroom, people would either say ‘Bloody Mary’ or ‘Candyman.’” She also explained that she felt that the movie was great because it featured a black antagonist in a white space. (Even though, she acknowledges, as she got older she realized that was problematic.)
4. She pitched to be the director of Jordan Peele’s Candyman and got the job.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan Peele watched Little Woods and responded positively to it, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This was after the film garnered positive views at Sundance. When Candyman came into the picture, she “pitched on it and got the job,” she also noted that the process was “wonderfully straightforward” thanks to her agent. The 2020 film stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tony Todd, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, and more.
5. She looks to focus on “complicated women with agency” in her work.
Little Woods was an exemplary example of DaCosta’s willingness to tell a complicated story about women. In an interview with Jezebel she spoke in detail about the unique space she takes up as a black female filmmaker. “I think there are a lot of narratives that get imposed on female filmmakers and also filmmakers of color,” she expressed. “I know that I personally get asked ‘oh do you want to read this script about this black person or this script about [the] oppression of black people?’” She goes on to say that rather than it feeling like a double-edged sword, it feels like a two-sided coin to be a black filmmaker.
Candyman will hit theaters on June 12, 2020.
Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she covers culture, music, and fashion. You can see what's on her mind @robyn_mowatt.