Name: Ava DuVernay
Where is she from? Long Beach, California
What does she do? Disruptive African American Female Filmmaker and Director
How is she living civil?
From poet to production assistant to public relations to filmmaker and director, this polymathic matron is changing the facet of media through her everyday work. Ava DuVernay, responsible for the direction of the Oscar award winning film Selma, the eye-opening documentary 13th, and the Oprah Winfrey Network hit original series Queen Sugar is contributing to the way that we perceive and understand others and the world around us. Whether it’s radio, television, or film, we tend to rely on the media to not only entertain us but keep us up to date, informed, inspired and aware. DuVernay provides truth through her work and serves as a vital piece to the distorted and often misunderstood puzzle called African American history and culture.
BE OPEN AND DON’T FEAR EXPLORING YOUR OPTIONS.
Ava DuVernay took her first official step into the media and entertainment industry with her internship at CBS News where she was assigned to help cover the historical O.J. Simpson murder trial. During her time with CBS she got an insight into what goes on at major news networks and became disenchanted with journalism which resulted in her changing her initial career direction as a journalist. That change in direction led her into the corporate public relations field and eventually the birth of The DuVernay Agency, her very own PR agency which served as her career for many years leading up to her switch to filmmaking full time. DuVernay has never been afraid of her path rerouting, she prides herself on career and self-exploration. Believing that we should not hold on to anything that is not nourishing to our mind, body, and soul no matter what it is. This unique perspective on life has led her to be one of the most prosperous and groundbreaking filmmakers of our time.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE, SO FIND YOUR TRIBE.
Ava’s creative and polymathic spirit are heavily influenced by her mother and what she calls her “tribe”. It takes a village to raise a child, an age-old testament that holds value even in today’s modern world. DuVernay’s explorational way of going through life comes from her mother who had her at the tender age of 18-years-old. She watched her mother weave through life with possibility and a youthful sense of wonder. A woman who constantly searched for true liberation and satisfaction not externally but internally. Ava’s mother’s presence and wisdom made an everlasting impact on her life and the way that she handles her work, reminding us of the importance of being a present figure in our “villages”. It is true that the people around us shape who we are, who we are going to be, and where we are going to go.
Ava also attributes the blossoming of her artistry to a time back in the 90’s when she was a student at UCLA hanging out at The Good Life Cafe spitting poetry. During this time Ava was surrounded by other creatives, artists, and like-minded individuals for the first time and this new environment sparked something new within her. Finding your tribe as a creative is vital to your success, creative energy is contagious so be sure to surround yourself with people who positively feed into you and keep you motivated.
BE INTENTIONAL, BE PROACTIVE, JUST BE.
Ava’s time at The Good Life Cafe inspired one of her first films, This Is The Life: How The West Was One a documentary about the Good Life Café Hip-Hop open-mic nights in South Central Los Angeles that gave birth to a whole movement in the LA Hip-Hop scene. She started making films on her own outside of the industry, telling better stories about communities and families of color that were naturally activated and influenced by her surroundings. Her motto is to #stayshooting and that is exactly what she has done since 2008, her works of art include: My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop, I Will Follow, Middle Of Nowhere, The Door, and the recent epic apple music commercial starring Taraji P. Henson, Mary J. Blidge, and Kerry Washington. If she is not shooting a film she is shooting a commercial, television show, or another work of art, no matter what it is she is steadily shooting and maintaining that creative momentum to keep the muscle working.
Ava is now the first female African-American director to be nominated for a Golden Globe, the director behind the Oscar Award winning film Selma which is a first for a black female director, and the first black woman to direct a $100 million dollar film movie (A Wrinkle In Time). The coolest part about all of this is she did her first feature film at the age of 38! It is never too late to start and produce the god-given purpose that is within you. She encourages artists to:
- Find a creative process that works for you.
- Pay attention to your intent.
- Don’t ask or wait for permission, just create and the industry will start looking for you. (Insecure’s Issa Rae is a living testament of this gem)
- Find meaning and art in your everyday life.
- When you find yourself creatively blocked just “be” and take a break to gain inspiration from where you least expected it to come from.
“It did not happen to you, it happened for you and you need to figure out what to do with it.” – Oprah Winfrey
PUTTING OTHERS FIRST AND LEADING FROM BEHIND.
What we admire most about Ava DuVernay is her ability to put others first and lead from behind. Working as a publicist for the likes of Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Clint Eastwood, Raoul Peck, and Gurinder Chadha did not only push her to be a filmmaker full time but she also became very familiar with the film industry and the lack of opportunities for African-Americans and women. She makes it her mission to provide a platform for minorities and females working in film and television, behind and in front of the camera. In 2011, DuVernay founded ARRAY an independent film distribution and resource collective compromised of arts advocacy organizations, maverick volunteers, and rebel member donors worldwide. Their work is dedicated to amplifying independent films by people of color and women. Their goal is to make sure viewers nationwide, not just cinephiles, have access to the movies and they get in front of bigger audiences.
“It’s paramount to me and the people who are like me that their films get seen.” – Ava DuVernay
Her work for others doesn’t stop there, Ava Duvernay hired a slew of talented women to direct one of her latest projects Queen Sugar for OWN.
Ava DuVernay is a pioneer in media who is making history and paving the way for future creatives to tell better stories about truth. We love Ava’s work because it is a true reflection of us, it’s rebellious, it’s raw, it’s genuine and it can help change negative and false perspectives that surround the African American reality. Ava shares information that people may not be aware of in her work and is a catalyst to the betterment of humanity. We cannot wait to see more from her and future filmmakers who are now inspired by her, keep #LIVINGCIVIL and propelling others to do the same!
African American Female FilmmakerAva Du'Vernaydirectorliving civil series