Lillian Byrne Heyward ’07, who earned her BFA in Graphic Design at MECA, designed the billboards for the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a 2017 crime drama that was written, directed, and produced by Martin McDonagh. It stars Frances McDormand as a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder. Actors Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, and Peter Dinklage appear in supporting roles. The movie has grossed $159 million worldwide.

At the 90th Academy Awards, the movie was nominated for seven awards and won Best Actress (McDormand) and Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell). At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, it won Best Motion Picture for Drama, Best Actress for McDormand, Best Supporting Actor for Rockwell), and Best Screenplay. It won three SAG Awards, including Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and five BAFTA Film Awards, including Best Film and Outstanding British Film. The move has garnered 67 awards in all and appear on over 80 top ten lists.

Heyward, a South Carolina resident, designed the billboards, which are a key part of the movie’s plot about a mother who, angered by the rape and murder of her teenage daughter, rents three abandoned billboards near her home in Ebbing, Missouri, and posts on them: “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “STILL NO ARRESTS?”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” The billboards upset the townspeople, but she stays firm about keeping the billboards up. In a recent profile published by South Carolina’s Island Packet, Heyward said, ” ‘If I do my job right you don’t know I did my job. Just because you don’t notice something, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. As much as the actors bring the characters to life, the art department brings the visuals to life.’ ”

Heyward researched and designed graphics for other parts of the movie as well, including a mural, background posters, police logos, and more. Heyward has owned a sign company and worked as a graphic artist on many other films, including Gifted, Death Sentence, and The Notebook.

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures