The Secret to Ava DuVernay’s Success

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For aspiring entertainers, it’s easy to want to give up the dream when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine. You’re bombarded with images of superstar prodigies, making millions doing what you’re hustling to do and amassing thousands of fans all before they’re even old enough to rent a car. The myth is: once you’re 25, you’re way past your prime. That Oscar? Forget it and find a desk job.

Selma director Ava DuVernay, 42, is here to remind you that life isn’t over just because your younger peers got an early start. After 12 years in publicity, DuVernay quit her day job to be a full-time filmmaker, a passion she discovered later in life after witnessing Michael Mann work on the set of Collateral. At 32, she released her first short film Saturday Night Life. And since then, she hasn’t stopped making movies. Tonight, she repped Selma at the Golden Globes not only in the Best Picture category, but also as the first African-American woman to ever be nominated for Best Director. Although she lost the award to Richard Linklater (Boyhood), her nomination alone is proof that it’s never too late.

Now, how’d she get here? As you’ll see in her own words, it’s all about having the right attitude.

On being an aspiring filmmaker: “I think there’s an expectation of privilege—the stories that we hear of Harvey Weinstein coming in and giving Kevin Smith a three picture deal, of someone coming in, they see your little short, and you’re an overnight sensation. Those days are gone… accept the reality and do it.” (Interview)

On self-assurance: “For me as person who loves movies and thinks that they’re magic, to watch the magic happen, it was a demystifying of the idea that only certain people can do it, and that this was a world being created outside of my reach.” (NPR)

[Photo Credit: Selma (2014)/Entertaintheidea.com]

[Photo Credit: Selma (2014)/Entertaintheidea.com]

On perseverance: “Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single hour of every single day until you reach your goal.” (‘My Mic Sounds Nice’ With Kat Williams)

On opportunity: “All the traditional models for doing things are collapsing; from music to publishing to film, and it’s a wide open door for people who are creative to do what they need to do without having institutions block their art.” (BET)

On representation: “There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a different perspective. It is a reflection as opposed to an interpretation, and I think we get a lot of interpretations about the lives of women that are not coming from women.” (Huffington Post) 

On patience: “For me, it’s a question of the way we pursue our creative dreams. There is something in our culture that says your dream or the thing you’re pursuing has to happen immediately and all at once, and that is destructive to the creative spirit. I just embraced the idea that this was going to be a gradual exploration of the thing I was interested in—making films—and gave myself permission to go slowly. I didn’t beat myself up for the fact that I had a day job. I considered how I could strengthen myself through my day job so that one was feeding the other.” (Jezebel)

On her mission: “As a Black woman filmmaker I feel that’s my job: visibility. And my preference within that job is Black subjectivity. Meaning I’m interested in the lives of Black folk as the subject. Not the predicate, not the tangent.[These stories] deserve to be told. Not as sociology, not as spectacle, not as a singular event that happens every so often, but regularly and purposefully as truth and as art on an ongoing basis, as do the stories of all the women you love.” (Essence)

[Photo Credit: Selma (2014)/Entertaintheidea.com]

[Photo Credit: Selma (2014)/Entertaintheidea.com]

On controlling your own fate: “For me, it is that permission is myth. And that’s not something I knew when I started. I was begging for money, begging for a deal, begging for permission to make a certain film, and always trying to get in and network and angle and figure out who was going to help me.

But the minute I realized that there’s nothing to ask permission for and that I just need to go out and tell my story, then things really changed for me. It’s not cocky, it’s not even confidence. It’s just a knowing that there’s nothing that anyone can give me that I can’t do for myself in regards to my films. And yes, I don’t have $20 million, but if I wasn’t making Selma then I would be making something else that I Iove for whatever I have. So that is a huge thing that I wish I had known maybe six years earlier.” (RogerEbert.com)

Watch Duvernay speak about her personal connection to Selma.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Source: The Secret to Ava DuVernay’s Success

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