FindsGood

“I didn’t start out thinking that I could ever make films. I started out being a film lover, loving films, and wanting to have a job that put me close to them and close to filmmakers and close to film sets.”

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Quotes by Ava DuVernay

  1. ‘Diversity’ is like, ‘Ugh, I have to do diversity.’ I recognize and celebrate what it is, but that word, to me, is a disconnect.
  2. ‘Queen Sugar’ is a drama about family. It’s something that allows us to be ourselves and see the ways that we interact with our own families.
  3. ‘Selma’ is a story about voice – the voice of a great leader; the voice of a community that triumphs despite turmoil; and the voice of a nation striving to grow into a better society. I hope the film reminds us that all voices are valuable and worthy of being heard.
  4. All black women aren’t sassy, loud, difficult, or subservient. We are, in fact, very complex and very diverse, living very complex and diverse lives. That point cannot be made enough.
  5. All the films I do, I write the scripts, I direct.
  6. All the traditional models for doing things are collapsing; from music to publishing to film, and it’s a wide open door for people who are creative to do what they need to do without having institutions block their art.
  7. Any film that you see that has any progressive spirits that is made by any people of color or a woman is a triumph in and of itself. Whether you agree with it or not. Something that comes with some point of view and some personal perspective from a woman or a person of color is a unicorn.
  8. Art is something that grows and breathes and lives, and it shouldn’t be predicated on the success of box office – but it is. But within that, you have to give people a chance to find their voice, to play, to continue to create.
  9. Art morphs with what’s going on in the world. We say ‘Ferguson’; we don’t say ‘Mike Brown.’ Just like we say ‘Selma,’ not ‘Jimmie Lee Jackson.’ There is something startling about the people in a particular place, a city or a small town, rising up and taking to the streets.
  10. Artists should be free to create what we want. I believe there’s a special value in work that is a reflection of oneself as opposed to interpretation. When I see a film or a TV show about black people not written by someone who’s black, it’s an interpretation of that life.
  11. As a filmmaker, you put the film out there, and you just want it to be okay. You don’t want to let people down; you don’t want to embarrass yourself.
  12. As long as you’re in an environment where the worth of the project isn’t based on the project but what its predecessors did, it’s not truly inclusive.
  13. Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single hour of every single day until you reach your goal.
  14. Creativity is an energy. It’s a precious energy, and it’s something to be protected. A lot of people take for granted that they’re a creative person, but I know from experience, feeling it in myself, it is a magic; it is an energy. And it can’t be taken for granted.
  15. Diversity is not one in the room. Diversity is not two in the room. Diversity is not three in the room. True diversity is half the room.
  16. Especially when we’re dealing with issues of race, culture, identity, and history, the time has passed for the ‘white savior’ holding the black person’s hand through their own history.
  17. Every filmmaker imbues a movie with their own point of view.
  18. Film is a mirror. I want to see more filmmakers. We all want to see ourselves.
  19. Film school was a privilege I could not afford.
  20. Filmmakers need to realize that their job isn’t done when they lock picture. We must see our films through.
  21. For a film to be made is a small miracle. And sometimes it’s a large one.
  22. For female directors, there’s a whole other set of things we have to think about, particularly when we are casting men, because there are some actors who have never been directed by a woman. Crew members, too.
  23. I am honored to be one of this year’s Urbanworld ambassadors for the festival’s 20th anniversary, joining my friend David Oyelowo. I have always had a special relationship with Urbanworld, back to my days as a festival publicist to previewing my earlier films and now as an ambassador.
  24. I didn’t go to film school. I got my education on the set as a niche publicist in the film industry.
  25. I didn’t have to learn Selma to make ‘Selma.’ I didn’t have to research what kind of place this is. The people I love most in the world live in that part of the country.
  26. I didn’t start out thinking that I could ever make films. I started out being a film lover, loving films, and wanting to have a job that put me close to them and close to filmmakers and close to film sets.
  27. I don’t even really see sit-ins and marches as passive. I see them as quite assertive. I see those as emotionally aggressive tactics. I see people putting their lives on the line and being bold and brave.
  28. I don’t understand the iPhone. I just don’t get it. Don’t ya’ll have to write serious emails throughout the day? How can you possibly manage detailed missives on a phone with no keys?
  29. I financed and made my own films from the start. My path has been autonomous and independent, so I don’t have any horror stories about glass ceilings and expectations and tense studio meetings.
  30. I intend to be making films until I’m an old lady. So, if God willing I get there, I need to create a paradigm for myself where I can make it regardless of whether or not they still like what I’m making.
  31. I just don’t think there’s a lot of support for the woman’s voice in cinema, and it becomes really difficult to raise that money and start again every time.
  32. I like silence. Aesthetically, I feel strangled by the fast cutting and a wall of sound. And I think showing black people thinking onscreen is radical.
  33. I love community, I love to be around other people. I love to be around other people when everyone’s feeling good and doing their best. Not to just be the only one in the room that’s shining.
  34. I love to see people just being regal in their own skin; it’s just when they know who they are.
  35. I made my first film when I was 35, so I firmly believe that you don’t have to be one thing in life. If you’re doing something, and you have a desire to do something different, give it a try.
  36. I make films about black women and it doesn’t mean that you can’t see them as a black man, doesn’t mean that he can’t see them as a white man or she can’t see them as a white woman.
  37. I never had a desire to be a filmmaker. As a child and a teenager and in college, I was not aware of black women making films.
  38. I really admire Werner Herzog and Spike Lee. They’re amazing documentarians. If you took away all the narratives, they’d just be amazing documentarians.
  39. I spent a whole 12 years helping other people tell their stories as a publicist, so just to be able to go and write and get behind the camera, that’s my thing.
  40. I tell the stories that are of interest to me.
  41. I think I am a little jealous of women who have great girlfriends as adults.
  42. I think any black woman is a queen. It’s just, do you know it? Do you see it in yourself? Do you recognize it, do you abide by that, do you define yourself as that? Based on who we are and what we’ve been through and how we survive and where we stand, we are on kind of sacred ground. We stand on the backs of our ancestors.
  43. I think for female filmmakers a big issue is making their second and third films.
  44. I think good publicists are just like good mommies – always looking out, making sure folks are comfortable and making sure that folks are on time and making sure that folks are getting what they need and know what they need to do.
  45. I think that black people making art, women making art, and certainly black women making art is a disruptive endeavor – and it’s one that I enjoy extremely.
  46. I think that if we really want to break it down, that non-black filmmakers have had many, many years and many, many opportunities to tell many, many stories about themselves, and black filmmakers have not had as many years, as many opportunities, as many films to explore the nuances of our reality.
  47. I think that women definitely have a special bond as friends that is hard to describe to men, and we don’t often see that portrayed narratively.
  48. I usually make films with $2 and a paper clip.
  49. I want more girls to be able to see themselves behind the camera creating images we all enjoy, and I want to call attention to the fact that women directors are here all over the world.
  50. I want to be an old lady, with my cane, shouting, ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’
  51. I was a publicist for other people’s movies.
  52. I wish I could be the black woman Soderbergh, and put the camera on my shoulder and shoot beautifully while I directed.
  53. I’d be absolutely happy to go back and make a smaller picture. I never want my choices to be dictated by budget. That’s one of the reasons why I take so much pride in being able to make films for $2 and a paper clip – because I can always get my hands on $2 and a paper clip. I never have to ask for permission for that.
  54. I’m a big people watcher and a people talker. The beautiful thing about being an artist and a creative person is that you can get an idea from anywhere, and I’m always on the hunt for them.
  55. I’m a filmmaker to my bones.
  56. I’m a prison abolitionist because the prison system as it is set up is just not working. It’s horrible.
  57. I’m interested in seeing artists whom I respect who are very focused on the Black Lives Matter moment, bringing that into storytelling in a way that really amplifies the beauty and the humanity of people of color, and does it without having to wave a big sign that says, ‘This is what we’re doing.’
  58. I’m not signing on to direct ‘Black Panther.’ I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things, and I think they’re fantastic, and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me.
  59. I’ve been to Sundance eight times as a publicist and thought I was very prepared. I mean, who could’ve been more prepared for me? A publicist who’s been there eight times. Getting there as a filmmaker was a completely surreal, different, unexpected experience.
  60. If I can be in a place where my image is encouraging people to see different people behind the camera, and my image and the images I make can help open up a certain world view, I think that’s all a part of a larger spirit of change and progress, and I’m happy to be part of it.
  61. If you walk into a room, and there is no one that’s not like you there, whether it’s a woman or a person of color, anyone that’s different from you, you should be able to say this is a problem. We need allies in that room to say that video, this room, this company, these ideas, this film, this whatever, this is not right – this is not good enough.
  62. If you’re doing something outside of dominant culture, there’s not an easy place for you. You will have to do it yourself.
  63. If your dream is only about you, it’s too small.
  64. If, in 2014, we’re still making ‘white savior movies,’ then it’s just lazy and unfortunate. We’ve grown up as a country, and cinema should be able to reflect what’s true. And what’s true is that black people are the center of their own lives and should tell their own stories from their own perspectives.
  65. In Hollywood, there is one dominant voice. It is a white, male, straight gaze. When I talk about positive portrayals of black people and women, I’m saying complexity. I’m not saying goody-two-shoes, everything’s okay. No. The positive view of me is to see me as I am: the ‘good,’ the ‘bad,’ the gray. That is a positive portrayal.
  66. In documentaries, there’s a truth that unfolds unnaturally, and you get to chronicle it. In narratives, you have to create the situations so that the truth will come out.
  67. It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of color to have less value placed on our worldview.
  68. It’s not enough even to have one black Barbie… because black women are not a monolith.
  69. Many hated ‘Selma.’ Just because my voice and the voice of the people I come from is antithetical to so much of what Hollywood produces. I don’t think what I’m saying is in particular radical or anything; it’s just different from what they want to sell.
  70. My interest as an artist is to illuminate the lives of black folks. I definitely am focused on films that illustrate all that we are and all our nuance and all our complicated beauty and mess, and when you’re telling those stories, you gotta have black actors.
  71. My mother is from Compton, California, but my father is from Hayneville, Alabama, and that’s less than 20 miles from Selma.
  72. My next project is ‘Venus Vs,’ which is a documentary that follows tennis star Venus Williams and her effort to get equal-award pay for women at Wimbledon. Most people don’t realize that Venus fought for years to make sure women and men winners of that tennis championship received the same amount in award money.
  73. Nonviolence is pretty ballsy, pretty advanced weaponry.
  74. Oh gosh, I’m completely allergic to historical dramas. Particularly those around the civil-rights movement. It’s not my favorite thing to watch. So often they feel like medicine. Or not even a history lesson, because I really like history. Just… obligatory.
  75. Oh, Diane Nash deserves her own film. Diane Nash is a freedom fighter who is still alive and kicking. She was one of the leaders of the desegregation of Nashville, basically. She was a student at Fisk University who was one of the founding members of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
  76. One of the reasons why I created the podcast called the ‘The Call-In’ that we do through Array – because as a black artist, every time I sit down with mainstream media, I’m asked about issues of race, identity and culture. No one asked what they ask my white male counterparts, which is: ‘Where do you like to put the camera?’
  77. Oprah Winfrey is a big role model for me from a business capacity and a creative capacity. She is an incredible interviewer who cultivated a certain style by inserting her own personhood into a show on national television at a time when no one was talking about empowerment, spirituality, or our inner lives.
  78. Positive characterizations are complex characterizations. That’s all we need to know. They shouldn’t be saccharine. They shouldn’t feel like medicine.
  79. The best art is realized when you can share the experience of making of it and not just the presentation of it, so that the audience is part of the creation and not just part of the consumption. Then it becomes much more full-bodied and robust.
  80. The consumer is deciding what they want to see and when and how, and filmmakers are more aware and accepting of the fact that success is not predicated on your movie showing in a traditional theater for a certain amount of time.
  81. The studios aren’t lining up to make films about black protagonists, black people being autonomous and independent.
  82. The way that we’re consuming what we watch. Netflix, binge-watching, destination agnostic were not terms. It was about networks, times, dates. Even with feature films, you had to see it this way, in this capacity, at this time. All that has changed. Now it’s really about the story. It’s a gift that I became a storyteller at this time.
  83. There can be a progression to the dream; there can be steps to it. When you dissect any successful person’s story, it’s really rare that it was all or nothing. It’s steps, and I just try to remind myself of that in terms of the things that I want; it’s like, everything is a step, leading you to where you need to go.
  84. There was a time when I was knocking on doors and concerned with being recognized in dominant culture. I’ve found a space where the terrain is different, where I’m embraced by people like me, and where I’m building new ways of doing things, as opposed to trying to insert myself in a place that might not be welcoming.
  85. There’s a belonging problem in Hollywood. Who dictates who belongs? The very body who dictates that looks all one way.
  86. There’s a big difference between the independent film world and the Hollywood film world, and I don’t know that I understood that until I got into certain rooms, and people’s faces go blank when you talk about Sundance.
  87. There’s been no major motion picture released by a studio, no independent motion picture, in theaters, with King at the center, in the 50 years since these events happened, when we have biopics on all kinds of ridiculous people. And nothing on King? No cinematic representation that’s meaningful and centered.
  88. There’s really no precedent for someone like me gaining clout in the space that I’m in – a black woman directing films in Hollywood.
  89. There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a reflection as opposed to an interpretation.
  90. To win Best Director at Sundance was beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. It’s still an incredible feeling to know I won. But as happy as I am about winning, I also know many other women of color have directed amazing films over the years that were equally deserving and didn’t win.
  91. Today, when you look at social media, you see that the narrative can be overtaken by people just from Twitter and Instagram. I know when Ferguson was going down those first few nights, I was watching feeds on the ground on Twitter, not CNN.
  92. We know there needs to be diversity in storytellers telling their own stories. I think there’s a beautiful forward movement in that direction with McQueen telling ’12 Years A Slave,’ with Coogler telling ‘Fruitvale,’ and with Daniels telling ‘The Butler.’
  93. We’re told that independent film lovers… folks that are used to watching art house films, won’t come out and see a film with black people in it – I’ve been told that in rooms, big rooms, studio rooms, and I know that’s not true.
  94. When I was out promoting ‘Selma,’ I became aware of so many other films that ought to be getting distribution. And this is a problem I can do something about because of my experience.
  95. When I’m marketing a film, whether its mine or someone else’s, I work with a great deal of strategy and elbow grease until the job is done.
  96. When we say there’s a dearth of women directors, it’s not that there’s a lack of women who direct: it’s a lack of opportunities and access for women to direct and be supported in that.
  97. When we’re talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.
  98. Why do we always have to see black people in hindsight? Why are the Hollywood movies always historical? What about the contemporary image of black people?
  99. With the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of the focus is on the protest and dissent. I’m hoping to dismantle the public notion – for folks outside of the community – of what Black Lives Matter means. It’s really about saying that black lives matter: that humanity is the same when you go inside people’s homes.
  100. Women have been trained in our culture and society to ask for what we want instead of taking what we want. We’ve been really indoctrinated with this culture of permission. I think it’s true for women, and I think it’s true for people of color. It’s historic, and it’s unfortunate and has somehow become part of our DNA. But that time has passed.
  101. You could make the most beautiful film, and that weekend it’s raining too hard on the East Coast, and no one goes out. Artists should have a chance to do it again. That’s the challenge: Women artists don’t get a second chance. People-of-color artists don’t get a second chance. You’re put in director’s jail, and that’s a wrap.
  102. You gotta follow the white guys. Truly. They’ve got this thing wired. Too often, we live within their games, so why would you not study what works? Take away the bad stuff – because there’s a lot – and use the savvy interesting stuff and figure out how they can apply. It’s a good one for the ladies.
  103. You know, often films that are deemed positive, nobody wants to see them.
  104. You see women struggling to keep it all together while a loved one is in jail. But we don’t hear about them or their struggles in a way that resonates with others. Their stories are so compelling. It’s as if they are in their own little world and no one else sees them.