R. Christopher White, Oscar Nominee for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Courtesy Photo)

The 95th Oscars are around the corner, and all eyes are on the five nominations received by “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” R. Christopher White, a master guru of visual effects, is nominated for the third time and is a man whose work you probably already know, but don’t realize it. Let’s put a face with the name so the next time you’re sitting in a theater and marveling at the phenomenal visual effects, ask yourself, is this the work of Christopher White?

White’s 2023 nomination for Best Achievement in Visual Effects for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”  is no surprise to those who know his work. White is considered one of the greats in visual effects. You may have seen his Oscar-nominated work in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (Oscar nominee 2012), “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Oscar nominee 2013), and now “Wakanda Forever,” a film he’s incredibly proud of, and rightfully so.

The impact of Black Panther on the Black community is not lost on White. “After the first “Black Panther” film, White said he was in awe of the film’s visual effects, and when the opportunity to work on the second film presented itself, “I jumped at the chance to be a part of this film because it is so meaningful to our community and me,” he said.

“This Oscar nomination means so much to me because it is about the community. I think about my first graphics job at my church, Ebenezer AME in Fort Washington, MD, and the pride they feel now that I’m an Oscar nominee for ‘Wakanda Forever.’” White laughs as he recounts how church members say, “You know he did his first graphics here.”

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White, a 25-year visual effects veteran, attributes his success to his father, who “programmed computers by day” and crafted wood into art pieces at night. “It isn’t by accident that my chosen profession is visual effects, a mixture of computer science and art.”

In “Wakanda Forever,” White and the Weta team created the realistic, menacing water scenes of the Mayan-influenced underwater city of Talokan. “We wanted this very realistic murky water that made you feel uneasy.”

Underwater City of Talokan created by visual effects team of Christopher White and Weta FX (Courtesy Photo)

Mission accomplished as White loved the research that went into the fictional history but provided crucial guidance for their designs. “I love that visual effects forces you to learn new things that you would never do in your day-to-day life, like studying the movement of water for four years.”

Known for his artistry and attention to detail, White found a like-minded partner in “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler.

“Ryan was wonderful to work with. I pitched shots and sequences to Ryan that ended up in the film. We could create the emotional impact needed for the film intersected with the design, and Ryan gave us the freedom to do that.”

A graduate of Syracuse University, White’s college ambition was to create “weather graphics” for newsrooms. White tried to get an internship with “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’ visual effects house, Industrial Light and Magic, and was turned down four times.

“I was upset at the initial denials, but I remained persistent, and when I finally got the internship, I knew I had found my purpose. My first outing as a visual effect professional creating code for digital tornadoes for the movie ‘Twister.’”

Persistence is a word that White talks about as he mentors and encourages students interested in a career in visual effects. White is intentional when speaking with students, especially students of color who may have a “creative side and the technical bug like me.” “The possibility of a visual effects career is real, and I try to demystify the field. It doesn’t have to be a pipe dream; you can achieve it, and I am living proof of that.”

White and his visual firm Weta FX will compete against itself at the 95th Oscars. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” will compete against two other Weta FX projects; “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “The Batman.” Watch the 95th Oscars on Sunday, March 12, on ABC.