The year 2018 was the year Black people temporarily traded in the coveted head nod for the Wakanda Forever signal. It was a moment of endearment, a chance for connection, and an unspoken term of social engagement. That phenomenon is credited to “Black Panther,” written and directed by Ryan Coogler.

Coogler is an Oakland, CA, native and American filmmaker. The film director graduated from Sacramento State with a B.S. in business administration/finance in 2007. From there, he would be accepted to USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he made short films and honed his screenwriting skills.

At USC, his skills would lead him to write and direct his breakout film “Fruitvale Station” in 2013. Starring Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station” is a film that depicts the real-life story of Oscar Grant, III.

From that breakout moment, Coogler would go on to make other feature films, including “Creed” and the Marvel hit “Black Panther.”

His work gained him the recognition of his peers with several NAACP nominations and wins. He also came in as the short list No. 6 person of the year for TIME in 2018. And while he has not received an Oscar yet, Coogler was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2016 but turned down the invite because he disagrees with the process of being nominated and winning such awards.

“I don’t buy into this versus that, or ‘this movie wasn’t good enough to make this list,'” Coogler said to the Hollywood Reporter. “I love movies. For me, that’s good enough. If I’m going to be a part of organizations, they’re going to be labor unions, where we’re figuring out how to take care of each other’s families and health insurance. But I know that these things bring exposure.”

Since his breakout movie in 2013, Coogler has been able to amass a net worth of $25 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Although hard work and determination play a part in his success, Ryan Coogler credits his wife as his most significant motivation.

A College Love

Coogler and his wife, Zinzi Evans, met while the two were in college. Although he was a business major, Coogler was an aspiring filmmaker while attending school on a football scholarship.

A Key Investment

According to the Artists In Oakland, Coogler wrote short films that included “Story of a Dollar” and “Eyes Like Mine.”

Producing these short films would ultimately lead to the cinematic work we know Coogler for, but none of this would be possible without the support and investment from Evans.

In an interview with Hot 97, Coogler detailed how his wife believed in him and supported his dream.

“My wife, she was my girl at the time, [and] they had a software where you could write screenplays,” he explained in the radio interview. “I was trying to write in Microsoft Word. It’s impossible because your format gotta be right. I was broke, playing football on the little scholarship money. And my wife scrapped together some cheese and bought me Final Draft, which is the software that you write your movies on. And she got me that.”

The software would benefit the writer, and then his career took off to new heights.

According to a Complex report, Coogler inked a five-year exclusive deal with Disney that includes him developing a Wakanda-based series for their streaming service Disney+.

“Ryan Coogler is a singular storyteller whose vision and range have made him one of the standout filmmakers of his generation,” said Bob Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company, in the CNBC report.

Wakanda Forever

Coogler is also behind the second installment of “Black Panther,” entitled “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

The film is set to premiere in November 2022.