#FilmMajorFriday: Why Ava DuVernay is My Greatest Inspiration

Ava DuVernay is everything that Black Girl Magic encompasses. Being a film major, she is my greatest inspiration and really motivates me to pursue a career in film and be on the frontier for bringing more diversity into Hollywood.

DuVernay is a director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor of independent film. She’s most famous for directing Selma (2014), a chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015.

Based in Los Angeles, she is the founder of ARRAY, a community-based distribution collective dedicated to the amplification of films by people of color and women filmmakers. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and is on the board of Film Independent and the Sundance Institute.

What I appreciate most about DuVernay is that she strives to make change for women and people of color in an industry that is dominated by white men. She advocates for the distribution of more films by women and minorities, which is both comforting and inspiring since I’m both a woman and a minority. Not only does ARRAY focus on women and Black filmmakers, but also Latino, Asian, Native American, and Middle Eastern filmmakers and directors.

To me, one of her most notable acts of duty is when she and Ryan Coogler (Director of Fruitvale Station, Creed, and the upcoming Black Panther movie that comes out in 2018!!!), and several others supported a free Oscar-night event in Flint, Michigan to raise money for the Flint Water Crisis while boycotting the Oscars for its lack of diversity in the Academy. The #JUSTICEFORFLINT benefit gave a voice to members of the community who were victims of the choices that people in power made, choices that failed to protect the citizens of Flint. The event raised a total of $100,000.

She has taught me that if my dreams are only for myself, then they’re not big enough, and to include others in my dreams. She has taught me to pay attention to my intention not just in filmmaking, but in all areas of my life. Be grateful, appreciate others, and put others first. Take action in my craft, and that the only thing that matters is my work.

Most importantly, it is imperative that we continue to create spaces like ARRAY that advocate for the distribution of more films by women and minorities. Why? Because all of us should be able to see ourselves. Visual identity and representation matters. It’s important that we allow others to see themselves in all walks of life, beyond the stereotypes that we are subjected to.

Thank you, DuVernay, for all that you do. You are changing lives and inspiring young filmmakers like me more than you are credited for. Keep on climbing, and keep on shining!

 

Published by

Tirrea Billings

Tirrea Billings is a native of Saginaw, Michigan, and is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic with a love for writing and documentary filmmaking. Her life goal is to be the change that the film industry needs: more women and more people of color. She is a keen activist, and writes about issues and social injustice within the Black community. In her spare time, she is a cheer coach, yoga connoisseur, and a believer of supporting organic, locally sourced foods. Motto: Fear the girl with the smell of coffee on her lips, and dresses well on Mondays.

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