Ava DuVernay offers heartfelt advice to up-and-coming filmmakers

AFI FEST 2010 Presented By Audi - Portraits - Day 4Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman to win the “Best Director” prize for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Read what she has to say.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?

It was a gradual evolution. I never thought I’d be a filmmaker. I just loved film as a fan, as an enthusiast, as an admirer. The fact that I now get to make films is constantly incredible to me.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
You have to master hard work. If you like to take it easy, directing isn’t for you. It is as mentally, physically, emotionally draining as it is mentally, physically and emotionally empowering.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
Success to me is people watching whatever I’ve made. Not how they feel about it. Not how or where they watch – online, on cable, in the theaters, on DVD, doesn’t matter. Just that someone took the time, took hard-earned money, to see a story I’m telling. That’s beautiful to me.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field?
I’m lucky to have wonderful peers – amazing black filmmakers making heartfelt work. I like Victoria Mahoney, Tina Mabry, Tanya Hamilton, Leila Djansi, Dee Rees, Nefertite Nguvu, Shola Lynch, Yoruba Richen. Dynamic black women directors. I like Andrew Dosonmu, Storm Saulter, Neil Drumming, Ryan Coogler, Matt Cherry, Dennis Dortch, Rodney Evans, Patrik Ian Polk, Barry Jenkins, Pete Chatmon, Rashaad Green, Sheldon Candis, Terence Nance, Charles Murray. Strong black producers like my producers Paul Garnes and Tilane Jones, or the great Nekisa Cooper, Nikki Love, Angela Tucker, Datari Turner and others. Good people making good films.

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
A big role. I’m very connected. Maybe overly so!

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
My Blackberry, hands down. It is an extension of my arm at this point.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
I like to travel around the world, but when I’m abroad I want to explore. So I don’t really relax because I;m trying to learn and experience everything. To relax, we drive up to Santa Barbara and just disconnect and truly get some relaxation in. Gotta recharge to succeed. It’s a must.

Munson Steed
Munson Steed

Founder and publisher of rolling out's parent company Steed Media Group.

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