Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar, is about to make her feature directorial debut. Morrison made waves with her work as a DP on films like Dope and Fruitvale Station before landing an Oscar nomination for her work on Dee Rees’ underrated 2017 Netflix drama Mudbound. She subsequently reteamed with Ryan Coogler to shoot Marvel’s excellent Black Panther (which, by no coincidence, is the best-shot Marvel movie to date) and now she’s looking to direct her first feature film.
Per Variety, Morrison will helm Flint Strong for Universal Pictures, which boasts a screenplay by Oscar-winning Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk filmmaker Barry Jenkins. The film is based on the 2015 boxing documentary T-REX and follows a 17-year-old Flint, Michigan native who became the first woman in history to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing at the 2012 London Olympics.
Jenkins wrote the screenplay with an eye to direct, but eventually stepped back to a producer role as he’s now gearing up to helm the Amazon TV series adaptation The Underground Railroad. Universal then subsequently signed Morrison to direct, with Michael De Luca, Elishia Holmes, and Jenkins producing.
This won’t be Morrison’s first time directing, as she previously helmed episodes of the TV shows Quantinco and American Crime, as well as the pilot for the Starz series Hightown. As a cinematographer, Morrison most recently wrapped the civil rights drama Against All Enemies, and when I spoke to her in 2017 for Mudbound, she spoke a bit about moving into directing while maintaining her love for being a DP:
“For me I just like new challenges. Directing came up kind of out of the blue to the same extent that Black Panther came out of the blue… I was very fortunate that I was pulled out of nowhere to go and direct some television for [John Ridley], and for me at the time it was just exciting to try something different. I was shooting all sorts of smaller indie movies, I wasn’t getting calls from big studios at the time—not that studios are the be-all, end-all, but that was the clear point of growth for me so I just felt like I was putting out the same fires, and I got the chance to direct something different. Now I’ve been able to put out some new fires by doing bigger movies, by doing period movies, by doing something a little bit different. I definitely think I’ll direct again. I love shooting so that’s something I never wanna give up entirely. I think there’s this assumption that everybody would rather be a director, and I don’t know that that’s the case for me so we’ll see.”
And now Morrison’s about to direct a boxing movie for Universal Pictures, with a script by an Oscar-winning screenwriter. I can’t wait to see what she does with this, and I’ll be very curious to see if she pulls a Steven Soderbergh and serves as her own DP.