It’s no secret Hollywood is one of the toughest places to succeed, particularly for minorities and women. Whether it’s in acting, producing, and especially directing, diverse representation in films and television, in front of and behind the camera, is often nominal.
It can be difficult for a woman to break into the directing ranks as most directors in Hollywood are men. Fortunately, Tinsel town’s resistance and roadblocks for women haven’t stopped the phenomenal breakthrough and ascension of director Ava DuVernay, who is currently directing Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, making her the first black female director and only the third woman ever to helm a $100 million movie.
DuVernay had an untraditional start to her film career. She didn’t go to film school and started as a film publicist, helming the DuVernay Agency, which specialized in movie marketing for African-American audiences. While on the set of the 2004 thriller Collateral, starring Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise, she felt inspired to make her own films.
Her first forays into film making were shorts, such as 2006’s Saturday Night Life and the documentaries This Is the Life (2008), which looked at alternative hip-hop artists, and My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop, which aired on BET in 2010. That same year, with a modest $50,000 budget, DuVernay made her feature film debut as director and screenwriter with the drama I Will Follow, a poignant drama about a woman who is grieving over the loss of her aunt to cancer. The work got DuVernay noticed, with film critic Roger Ebert calling the film, “a universal story about universal emotions.”
In 2011, DuVernay co-founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a group dedicated to supporting the release and distribution of black indie movies. A year later, she made history with her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first African- American woman to win the best director award at the Sundance Film Festival. Her major mainstream breakthrough came with the Academy Award-winning movie “Selma” when DuVernay became the first woman of color to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Although, she wasn’t Nominated for the Best Director Oscar, DuVernay’s status as a major Hollywood player was solidified.
It would be easy to continue with a glowing profile full of superlatives charting DuVernay’s rise. But to get a truer sense of who she is and what matters to her, it’s best to allow her to tell the story in her own words.
Her early film aspirations.
Hiring all female directors and mostly women and minorities to edit the series Queen Sugar on OWN
Thoughts on diversity
Why she chooses the term inclusion or belonging rather than diversity.
Finally, this sums it up.