Director’s Chair Introduction: Ava DuVernay

by Tony Cogan · March 5, 2018 · Uncategorized · No Comments

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Deadline: 31st March 2018

Hello everyone and welcome to the announcement of this months featured director for Director’s Chair. For this month, to celebrate the release of A Wrinkle in Time, I thought now was the time for Ava DuVernay to be highlighted for Director’s Chair.

Now DuVernay started out her career in the film industry on the marketing side, working for a few studios before opening her own PR company in 2002, which saw her work on PR campaigns for a wide variety of films including Spider-Man 2, Spy Kids, Collateral, The Terminal and Dreamgirls. Whilst doing this job, she started gaining experience in directing through short films and documentaries, the smaller budgets for these allowing her to gain the experience she needed without breaking the bank. From there she moved into narrative films with I Will Follow, made for $50,000 and shot in 14 days, earning rave reviews and playing at AFI Fest. Following that, she made Middle of Nowhere, a project she had wanted to make since 2003 but could only get funding for in 2011, with the film making DuVernay the first African-American woman to win Best Director: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival. From there, she made the film that gave her more mainstream recognition, Selma, focusing on Martin Luther King and his role in organising the march at Selma in 1965. Selma was the first time I had heard of DuVernay and it is an excellent introduction to her, showcasing her skills as a director, with it being a major deal when Selma was snubbed at the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Director, helping to generate the Oscars So White hashtag (for me, DuVernay definitely deserved to be nominated for Best Director over Bennett Miller and Morten Tyldum). Following on from Selma, DuVernay made the excellent documentary 13th for Netflix, pretty much in secret, which focused on mass incarceration in the United States and showing how it is a modern form of slavery. Now, DuVernay is stepping into the blockbuster world with A Wrinkle in Time, making her the first woman of colour to direct a film with a budget over £100 million. Now I haven’t read the book the film is based on so I can’t really comment on it as an adaptation, but the trailers make the film look great and the visual aesthetic DuVernay is bringing to the film based on the trailers is gorgeous.

Outside of her films, DuVernay has been a highly influential figure in promoting women and people of colour in the film industry. In her role as the showrunner for Queen Sugar, she insisted that every director hired for the show be female and in 2010, after failing to secure distribution for I Will Follow, created the distribution company ARRAY to showcase the films of women and people of colour, with this company gaining the support of such prominent figures as Jessica Chastain, Ryan Coogler, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, Julie Dash and John Singleton.

As a reminder, you can send me any pieces you’ve done on any of the films of Ava DuVernay, if you want a reminder as to what films you can cover, DuVernay’s filmography is below.

  • This Is The Life
  • I Will Follow
  • Middle of Nowhere
  • Selma
  • 13th
  • A Wrinkle in Time

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to receiving your posts.

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