Michael Shawver ’07

Editing ‘Black Panther’

A panther has taken down the Titanic, and Michael Shawver ’07 is among those responsible.

That’s right. The URI grad co-edited “Black Panther,” the futuristic superhero flick that has surpassed “Titanic” in earnings, making it the third-highest-grossing film in North American history. “Black Panther” is Shawver’s fourth collaboration with superstar director Ryan Coogler.

Shawver said Kristine Cabral’s communication studies classes at the Harrington School laid the foundation for his approach to storytelling. “I learned I could evoke emotion in people. I learned how to find the truth in every moment,” he said. “I use what I learned at URI every day.”

A year after graduation, Shawver enrolled in the University of Southern California and soon thereafter began editing classmate Coogler’s student films. While other student filmmakers were making movies about death or breakups, Coogler was tackling issues of race and society. “I went up to him and said, `You’re making the kind of films I want to make—movies that shift the paradigm. I want to do that,’” Shawver recalled.

After the two collaborated on one of Coogler’s student films, “Fig,” which aired on HBO, Coogler offered Shawver the job of co-editing “Fruitvale Station,” which won 39 awards including Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize. “Creed” was next and earned Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination. And then came “Black Panther.”

Shawver, who’d been studying directing at USC, had to learn much of editing on the job.

“That’s been my career: getting a chance and having to figure it out,” Shawver said. “What I showed [Coogler] is that I was willing to do everything it took for him to achieve his vision.”

It’s not unusual for Coogler to hand Shawver eight hours of film to be whittled down to a three-minute scene. “It’s like putting the puzzle together, but you don’t have the picture on the box,” Shawver said. “But (Coogler) trusts my opinion.

“It’s crazy. I’m the luckiest person in the industry,” Shawver said.