As we count down to the 2017 Academy Awards, we're taking a look at some of this year's biggest nominees. Beyond entertaining audiences, these films told amazing stories, supported local economies, surfaced critical conversations about diversity and inclusion, and highlighted new technology and innovation on the vanguard of filmmaking. Explore each of these films and the insightful interviews that tell the story behind the stories.

Discover how these Academy Award nominees told amazing stories and supported local economies while bringing to the surface critical conversations about diversity, inclusion, and more.

Moonlight

FILMED IN: FLORIDA

Moonlight

FILMED IN: FLORIDA

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” Moonlight is a one of its kind coming-of-age film that takes you on the journey of Chiron, a young black man in Miami, yearning to understand his sexuality and identity.

The film carries viewers to new territory, drawing them deeper into Chrion’s story through creative and thoughtful casting, editing and sound. Barry Jenkins, who directed three actors portraying Chrion through three periods of his life, masterfully captures the bold storyline and complex characters, all while forcing an important conversation on diversity in film.

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Three Best Picture nominees

were created by directors who also wrote or co-wrote the movie’s script: Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, and Moonlight.

Source: hollywoodreporter.com

Hell or High Water

FILMED IN: NEW MEXICO AND TEXAS

Hell or High Water

FILMED IN: NEW MEXICO AND TEXAS

Exploring the extreme lengths two brothers take to protect their family’s home, Hell or High Water hits the mark in highlighting the weight of financial stress in America.

The captivating thriller tells the story of Toby and Tanner Howard, who resort to robbing banks to protect their mother’s ranch from foreclosure. Taylor Sheridan wrote the remarkable original screenplay, drawing from his own personal experience in dealing with the pressure to financially support one’s family. Director David Mackenzie brought realism to the project by relying on local talent; the film employed nearly 1,000 crew members and background talent workers from New Mexico.

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La La Land

FILMED IN: CALIFORNIA

La La Land

FILMED IN: CALIFORNIA

It was about trying to use real locations, use a lot of real spaces, then try to dress them up and make them feel a little more magical.” —Director Damien Chazelle

La La Land, a contemporary musical that follows the love story between a jazz musician and an aspiring actress, beautifully lights up the wonder of old Hollywood. It was only fitting that the entire movie was filmed in Los Angeles, taking viewers to classic landmarks and locations like the Griffith Observatory, Hermosa Beach, and Grand Central Market — not to mention a relatable traffic jam at the 110-105 freeway interchange.

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Manchester by the Sea

FILMED IN: MASSACHUSETTS

Manchester by the Sea

FILMED IN: MASSACHUSETTS

With haunting insights and stunning performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea plumbs the depths of human tragedy in an elegant, penetrating fashion.

Directing his own script, Lonergan contemplates the long shadow of mistakes we make in our past and finds a bitter humor in how life forces us to confront the consequences. Filmed on location on the water and in a few cluttered homes of Manchester-by-the-Sea, the Massachusetts town is a deeply-felt presence in the lives of the characters.

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1,900

The number of demos composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle worked on before deciding on La La Land’s theme.

Source: latimes.com

Hidden Figures

FILMED IN: GEORGIA

Hidden Figures

FILMED IN: GEORGIA

In this previously untold true story, Hidden Figures puts a spotlight on the vital contribution of three brilliant African-American women behind NASA’s successful launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, one of America’s greatest, historic accomplishments.

This inspiring film delivers on a range of critical topics: highlighting unsung heroes, confronting historic racism, and encouraging girls and women to join STEM industries. While the story is set in Hampton, Virginia, much of it was filmed in Georgia, a state that generated more than $7 billion last year from its film and television industry.

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The first time

a black woman is nominated in the Film Editing category: Joi McMillan for Moonlight.

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Arrival

FILMED IN: CANADA

Arrival

FILMED IN: CANADA

In shining a light on our humanity by introducing us to a starkly foreign visitor, director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer surprised viewers with Arrival, the year’s most complex and challenging sci-fi film.

To make good on the promise of this alien civilization, the production team created a new language. Though we are accustomed to seeing faraway worlds brought to life with CGI, Arrival employed the technology to bring radical change and a new civilization to our own world.

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$131 billion

Value of sales generated by the film and television industry and contributed to the overall U.S. economy.

Source: mpaa.org

Fences

FILMED IN: PENNSYLVANIA

Fences

FILMED IN: PENNSYLVANIA

Taking August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play “Fences” from stage to screen was a tall order. 

Director and star Denzel Washington went to Wilson’s hometown of Pittsburgh and recreated the 1950s while channeling the simmering bitterness of the frustrated would-be baseball star at the film’s core. The film did more than garner critical acclaim for performances by Washington and co-star Viola Davis, both of whom are Oscar nominees for their performances. With more than 900 local workers the film brought nearly $10 million to the local economy.

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$41 billion

The annual contribution of the film and television industry to 345,000 businesses across the country.

Source: mpaa.org

Hacksaw Ridge

FILMED IN: AUSTRALIA

Hacksaw Ridge

FILMED IN: AUSTRALIA

Set against the battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest of World War II, Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a brave corporal whose fierce devotion to his faith drove him to save 75 men without firing a single shot despite being under heavy fire.

Transforming Australia into Doss’s hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, as well as war-torn Japan, wasn’t an easy task, but production designer Barry Robison plunged deep into archives from the period and tapped his creativity to produce a realistic setting without resorting to overuse of CGI and other effects.

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Dev Patel

becomes only the third Indian actor to be nominated in any acting category.

Source: vanityfair.com

Lion

FILMED IN: AUSTRALIA AND INDIA

Lion

FILMED IN: AUSTRALIA AND INDIA

How would you reclaim a past that was thousands of miles and dozens of years away?

Lion reveals the true story of Saroo Brierley, a five year-old boy lost on a train in India and seemingly separated from his family forever. Eventually, he is adopted by a couple who raise him across the equator, in Australia. Determined to understand his roots, Brierley, brought to life by the talented Dev Patel, embarks on a journey to find his biological family and first home in India using technology to place his deep memory of landmarks from his former home. This touching film is one of four Best Picture nominees bringing diverse and inclusive storylines to the fore, along with Fences, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight.

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$121 billion

Value of wages the film and television is responsible for in the U.S.

Source: mpaa.org