The Future of Black History: Film Director Ava DuVernay

The bold entrepreneur goes from film publicist to the first black woman to win the Best Director award at the Sundance film festival

Filmmaker, history maker: Ava DuVernay (Courtesy of subject)

In a very short time, Ava DuVernay has made an indelible imprint in Hollywood. Beginning her career as a publicist, she gained a notable reputation for executing high-profile campaigns on behalf of films like Scary Movie, Collateral, Dreamgirls and Invictus among others.  The 39-year-old LA native has also established herself as a promising filmmaker with a growing list of film titles that  provide a refreshing look at contemporary urban culture. Alongside her creative endeavors, DuVernay has also shrewdly flexed her business muscle with the creation of African-American Film Releasing Movement (AFFRM),  a grassroots theatrical distribution entity powered by the nation’s leading black film festivals.

Making history as the winner of the “Best Director” prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival—the first for a Black woman—for her second feature Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay is clearly in lift-off mode and ready to transform the way in which business is done in Hollywood.  Gil Robertson of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) recently interviewed DuVernay shortly after her Sundance win for a BlackEnterprise.com exclusive Q&A about her career and her future plans as trailblazing entrepreneur in Hollywood.

Gil Robertson: How does it feel now that you’ve made history as the winner of the Best Director prize for Middle of Nowhere at Sundance?

Ava DuVernay: It’s a lovely, meaningful thing for me personally. I’ll always remember that moment, and it will bring a smile. Beyond that, I simply hope it will spark a bit more interest in the film when it is theatrically released. Looking to the award for anything but a smile and a few curious ticket sales is dangerous, I think. Resting on laurels or patting myself on the back is not going to keep this train moving. And what we do as black filmmakers is indeed a movement. Every single film we make is a movement. We are moving heaven and earth to get our films made and seen. It takes more than most people know. So I just want to stay focused on forward movement, and think of the award with a smile every now and again.

GR: How do you plan to build and expand your career as a director?

AD: You can only build by building, so I just plan to do it. I simply put one foot in front of the other every single day, every day, and trying my best and my hardest. I’ve been doing that for a long while. That’s the only way I know how to build and expand.

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