Women Living True to their Spirit – Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is an award-winning writer, producer, director and distributor of independent film. This is Ava’s second career – she was previously a publicist. She is fiercely committed to amplifying stories of women and people of colour, and in just 9 short years of her career as a filmmaker she has given the world A Wrinkle in Time, When They See Us, Queen Sugar, 13TH, Selma, Scandal and many more.

On Getting Started:

Nine years ago, Ava DuVernay was a publicist. Today she is a breakout director, but the transition wasn’t easy.

Being female, a woman of colour and lacking industry experience, Ava found herself facing a dynamic of rejection. After being dismissed time and again, she stopped seeking access and permission. Ava withdrew herself from the loop and tried a different approach. She built her own company. In 2010, Ava launched a tiny distribution company of just two people, called ARRAY – a film collective dedicated to the amplification of images by people of color and women directors of all kinds.

“I picked up a camera for the first time at the age of 32…..I continued working a full-time job while directing my first 5 feature length projects. It’s never too late to pursue your purpose.”

On Living true to her Spirit:

What Ava has achieved (and continues to achieve) is completely new, innovative, disruptive and unique. It’s the kind of innovation and uniqueness that can only come from looking at things in a whole new way – seeing things with different eyes. Your own eyes. This is what each of us are able to do when we are connected to our uniqueness – when we are living true to our spirit – which is unique as a finger print and can unlock whole new worlds for us, should we let it point the way.

In economic terms this unique landscape is referred to as a Blue Ocean – an untapped market of new customers found by people like Ava who have brought forward their unique perspectives. Blue oceans are fresh markets ripe for growth and profits. Red oceans, by contrast, represent saturated markets where products / services fight to win customers and market share.

A recent Harvard Business Review article outlined how Ava DuVernay found a Blue ocean in Hollywood:

“New markets are found when someone stands in a spot that gives them a point of view distinctly their own. It is from this point, this centering spot of onlyness, that blue ocean markets are first spotted. It’s how Steve Jobs of Apple Computer found a blue ocean in the tech industry by centering design. It’s how Kara Goldin of Hint Water found one in the soda industry by centering health. And it’s how Ava DuVernay found a blue ocean in the film and TV industry by centering her work on people of color. But conquering blue oceans takes more than just believing that they are there. New boats have to be built, crews have work together, and currents found to build momentum and growth. DuVernay provides an excellent example of how to do all three.”

On the Spirit of Womankind:

Ava DuVernay is committed to amplifying female voices. For her OWN series, Queen Sugar – a family drama that champions female voices, Ava had a female in the directors chair for every single episode. It aired 29 episodes over two seasons. When male directors complained about discrimination she said “I invite you to tell whoever is feeling discriminated against to sue me so that I can sue every studio that has left women out…..”

When asked why she assembles an all female directing staff, Ava answers “Because we can. Because we can create spaces that nourish in our own image, in the same way that our male counterparts have created in their own image for over a century.”

On Self-Care:

In a recent interview with Inc magazine Ava says this about self-care and I couldn’t agree with her more. Every.Little.Bit.Counts.

“As solopreneurs and entrepreneurs, we naturally think that radical is the answer to everything, including self-care. Want to feel better? You don’t have to go on a long solo retreat or do some intense fasting. Maybe you just need to put on a new pair of socks. Tony Robbins says that our lives can often dramatically improve if we just change our habits by a milli-meter. Think about the little thing you can change today to make yourself feel better.”

To learn more about Ava’s powerful work, visit avaduvernay.com

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