Straight outta Compton and Lynnwood CA, ground-breaking director Ava DuVernay‘s roots to Selma runs deep like the waters of Montgomery, Alabama.
Summers spent in Hayneville influenced DuVernay’s Selma, as she relived experiences through the accounts witnessed at the historic Selma march by her father as young boy. After graduating with a B.A. from the University of California, with a double major in English and African-American Studies, DuVernay discovered a passion for journalism and pursued an internship with CBS News. While interning at one of the biggest broadcasting networks, DuVernay was assigned to cover the trial of the century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. This experience would ultimately lead to the budding journalist reconsidering a career in editorial media and entering the world of publicity.
Post graduation, DuVernay transitioned into her role as a publicist for FOX, Savoy Pictures, and a few other PR agencies before betting on herself and forming her own firm, The DuVernay Agency. In 1999 The DuVernay Agency underwent a bit of rebranding and became DVA Media + Marketing, providing award-winning strategy and execution for over 100 film and project by top directors such as Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood.
In 2008, DuVernay embarked on a new journey with a small budget as she made her directorial debut with the documentary This Is the Life, a history of LA’s Good Life Cafe’s arts movement. Three years later, her aunt Denise Sexton became the inspiration and subject behind DuVernay’s first narrative feature film, I Will Follow, starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield. The debut film would be made over a two week period, then released theatrically, receiving critically acclaimed honors from Roger Ebert who called it: “One of the best films I’ve seen about coming to terms with the death of a loved one.”
As an official selection of AFI Fest, Pan-African Film Festival, Urbanworld and Chicago International Film Festival, I Will Follow awarded DuVernay the confidence and recognition to begin production of her follow-up feature film, Middle Of Nowhere. The film would go on to be acquired by AFFRM and Participant Media at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, awarding DuVernay with the honor of becoming the first African-American Woman to receive the festival’s Best Director Award and the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award.
2014 is accredited as the “Year of Ava.” With a $20 million budget and Plan B Entertainment production, DuVernay released the historic and Academy Award nominated Selma. A moving, emotional and justified feature film based on Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon B. Johnson and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march. Selma went on to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song by the Academy Awards. Although Selma would not take home the Best Picture Award, the movie would be awarded for Best Original Song “Glory” by Grammy award-winning artists Common and John Legend.
In 2015, Mattel chose DuVernay as one out of six “Sheroes” honored in a collection series with Barbie. “The Ava DuVernay Doll” sold out in minutes, making DuVernay the first African-American female director with her own “sheroes” figure.
HERSource honors Ava DuVernay during Women’s History Month for directing her future, and becoming the first African-American to receive the Sundance Film Festival’s Best Director Award. We also recognize the efforts she partakes in educating young girls of color and inspiring film industry lovers globally.
Film, Television, & Other Accomplishments:
- In 2010 DuVernay began AFFRM (the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement) her own company to distribute films made by or focusing on black people.
- In 2013, ESPN commissioned DuVernay to produce and direct Venus Vs.,
- In 2013, DuVernay partnered with Miu Miu as part of their Women’s Tales film series.
- In 2013, she announced development on a narrative feature film entitled Part of the Sky set in Compton.
- In August 2013, DuVernay released a second short film through Vimeo entitled Say Yes.
- In September 2013, DuVernay started a podcast series called The Call-In, a series of phone conversations recorded by African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (“AFFRM”) of Black filmmakers of feature narrative and documentary work
- On March 14, 2015, DuVernay gave a keynote speech at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.
- In 2015 DuVernay executive produced and directed the CBS civil rights crime drama pilot For Justice starring Anika Noni Rose. It was not picked up for distribution.
- DuVernay directed episode 3.08 of Scandal which was called “Vermont is For Lovers, Too“.
- In 2015, it was announced that DuVernay would be writing, producing, and directing her next project, a fictional account which will focus on the “social and environmental” aspects of Hurricane Katrina while including a love story and a murder mystery. David Oyelowo, from Selma, will be part of the project.
- In 2015, known as AFFRM- the company rebranded itself under the name ARRAY, promising a new focus on women filmmakers as well.
- On February 8, 2016, it was reported that Ava DuVernay was confirmed to direct the remake the novel A Wrinkle in Time.
- March 2016, Ava DuVernay is set to direct ‘The Battle Of Versailles’ Movie with HBO Films