LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ryan Coogler is back on the University of Southern California campus for the first time since becoming one of the country’s most promising young filmmakers, and he heads straight to the camera-rental center where he worked as a student. He runs into a former classmate, who high-fives and congratulates him, then asks for a photo. Coogler sheepishly obliges.
“This is inspiring, right here!” the younger man says as he snaps an iPhone shot of himself and Coogler. “Thank you, bro!” Coogler gives the student his email address, then looks for his old boss, the equipment manager, who tells the 27-year-old filmmaker that he’s set a new standard for success at USC’s film school, which counts Ron Howard and George Lucas as alumni.
There’s no doubt he has. Coogler’s ”Fruitvale Station” — his first dramatic feature and first project since graduating with a master’s degree in 2011 — won both jury and audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival, where the Weinstein Co. outbid a dozen studios to distribute it. Originally called simply “Fruitvale,” the film opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and around the nation later this month. Oscar buzz has already begun.