Abilene Cultural Affairs Council to honor movie production designer

March 1, 2020Sidney Levesque, Marketing Director for the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council

On Saturday, March 28, the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council will be shining the limelight on Nelson Coates and his career in the movie industry at a fundraising event called “In the Heights of Hollywood with Nelson Coates.” The event will benefit the council’s HeARTS for the ARTs grant program.

Nelson has worked on nearly 50 movies in numerous countries and four continents, including with non-English speaking crews. His experience includes designing for in-camera physical effects such as pyrotechnics, explosions, collapses and complex moving sets. He has spent much of the last year working on the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash musical “In the Heights,” which tells the story of characters in the largely Hispanic-American neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York.

Nelson worked with the same “In the Heights” director, Jon M. Chu, on the 2018 romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians.” For bringing to life Singapore wealth with decadent mansions and luxurious sets, Nelson won an Art Directors Guild award for Best Production Design. The most famous scene in the movie is the wedding that was supposed to look like it cost $40 million. For this scene, Nelson got creative with palm leaves, tall artificial grass, velvet seats to imitate moss, a flower-lined water aisle with hidden water jets and hand-crafted faux butterflies and fireflies.

“We’re rubbing two dimes together to make millions,” Coates told Harper’s Bazaar. “You go through the book, and it’s like, ‘Okay, well, that chapter alone is more money than we have to make the movie!’ It’s about capturing the ambiance of wealth.”

Nelson is president of the 2,300-member Art Directors Guild. He has been a member of the guild since 1996. His film credits include “Flight,” “Runaway Jury,” “The Proposal,” “Hot Pursuit” and “The Secret in Their Eyes.” He received an Emmy nomination for his work on Stephen King’s “The Stand” and worked on the ABC series “October Road.”

The ACAC event honoring Nelson will pay homage to his movies. Prosperity Bank will be transformed for an elegant dinner inspired by “In the Heights” with jerk chicken and pork, coconut rice pilaf and shrimp, jicama and mango salad. “Crazy Rich Desserts” is the theme of the reception on the Paramount Theatre stage that night.

Nelson will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and sharing movie clips and stories about his career. He graduated from Abilene High School and from Abilene Christian University, where his brother, Neal, teaches and his parents, Ed and Jane, once taught as well.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the HeARTS for the ARTS program which awards grants to local arts groups that enhance the lives of children and underserved populations.

Tickets are $125 for dinner and the Paramount award presentation and dessert reception or $20 for the Paramount portion only.


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