Ava DuVernay is best known as the director of Selma, her film account of the historic 1965 voting rights campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As #BlogHer15 drew to a close, founder and editor of Women and Hollywood Melissa Silverstein sat down with Ava in a fireside chat. On the agenda: the intersection of race, gender, art and history.
Ava’s keynote opened with a very cool video quoting some of the best actors out there discussing Ava as a director. I had to admire someone in Hollywood with the good sense to make a film trailer for herself, complete with the movie-trailer-voice guy. I kind of want one. No, screw it — I just aspire to be like her. A woman described as driven, confident and calming — a hard combination to pull off. And judging from the standing ovation Ava got as she walked onstage, I’m not the only one.
Ava is interested in stories, particularly the stories of black people’s lives. “Women have been trained to ask for what we want instead of taking it. We’ve been indoctrinated in a culture of permission. It’s true for women, and it’s true for people of color. But that time has passed,” she said.
“I’m really interested in illuminating the magnificence of the lives of black people.” The relevance of Selma joined the current national conversation about race — Ava noted that Selma had been in the editing room when Mike Brown was killed and #Ferguson unfolded on our televisions and across our social media.
Speaking of social media, Ava uses Facebook like a journal and considers her presence on social media to be a conversation that she’s having rather than a promotional tool. Ava compared her project African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement to the attendees of #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us blogging and creating online. Though AFFRM had previously put out only films by black filmmakers, Ava continuously reiterated her commitment to exposing the voices of all people of color and plans to expand into other diverse films (follow @affrm on Twitter).
On success in her career, Ava said: “No one has all her eggs in one basket. Diversify, but stay true to your interests. If you really look at the people you admire, they don’t all do one thing. It’s OK to do more than one thing as it relates to the blog, as it relates to your own business. You don’t have to choose.”
Ava closed with saying she has noticed her male colleagues dabbling with virtual reality cameras. “If they have it over in the corner, then I want to do it,” she said.
And we look forward to seeing what Ava does next.
To follow the #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us Storify of the social media response to the keynote, click here.