Words: Venetia Faye
The Hollywood entertainment industry provides us with some of the most ground-breaking content and is rightly distributed worldwide through multi-million dollar companies. As great as Hollwood is for its talent; some argue that the lack of diversity is still a problem amongst people of colour and fellow minorities. The push for for inclusion and recognition for people of colour is a move in the right direction; with TV shows like Insecure and Atlanta being commissioned, we are witnessing a resurgence in black television.
But there is still a long way to go, with a male dominated industry in terms of directing and producing, women directors are not being given the chance to bring their stories to life. According to a San Diego University study; In 2016, women made up a underwhelming 17% of all directors, writers, producers and editors. Down by 2% in comparison to 2015. But one pioneer who is defying these odds is Ava DuVernay.
Portrait by Todd Cole for The Gentle Woman.
Born in Long Beach California in 1972, Ava is the director behind, Selma, the 13th Documentary and TV series Queen Sugar; amongst many others. The UCLA graduate made her directional debut with the highly acclaimed hip hop documentary ‘This Is The Life’, Ava DuVernay knew she “just wanted to make films”. Before Ava’s career in filmmaking, she worked as a marketer and publicist for a number of years, sharing her talents with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. Ava’s story is a prime example of why it is never too late to pursue your dream. Making her first film at 35 years old and not going to film school, Ava “got her education on set as a niche publicist in the film industry”. In an interview with the New York Times, she explained that
Ava DuVernay and Oprah. Portrait by Miller Mobley for The Hollywood Reporter.
“ Film school was a privilege I could not afford”.
To some upcoming filmmakers Ava’s relatability is unmatched, which is one of the reason she is such an inspiration to aspiring creatives in the industry.
With Ava’s next film ’A Wrinkle In Time’ being one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2018, it is clear that she is setting a very high standard in the film industry. Along with having a star studded cast, including Oprah Winfrey and Chris Pine; Ava has expressed her uncertainty on how the audience will receive her vision of a young girl of colour saving the world; which is at the very core of the films plot. When talking to Vanity Fair, Ava explained that “She is hopping planets and flying and saving the world. Saving the world from darkness, and in the film darkness is defined as the darkness within us.” Ava’s inclusion of Storm Reid who plays heroine Meg Murry, is a great way to highlight the need for equal opportunity casting and in regards to this film, bringing change in terms of the original characters; as the book, by Madeleine L’Engle, was originally about a white family.
Photo by Amanda Demme
Ava DuVernay’s role in this the industry is so important, being the first black woman nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, aspiring filmmakers can look at Ava’s work and feel fuelled. With such a pivotal moment in black history being made, Ava’s position in Hollywood is solidified. Investing in her community is also one of the reasons why she is a really essential part of the uplifting of people of colour and women.
Ava’s film distribution company ‘ARRAY’, which she founded in 2010, was created to support African-American and women filmmakers through releasing their films and giving them a festival platform to make their dreams a reality. In an interview with Essence, Ava pointed out that “As a black woman filmmaker, I feel it is my job.. these stories deserve to be told”. DuVernay’s ability to be a beacon for reinforcing representation and a new age in Hollywood is something that is truly admirable.
Link to University Study Here
Follow AVA DuVernay on Instagram @ava
Words: Venetia Faye