Who Is Ava DuVernay?

It’s time to hop on the Ava DuVernay bandwagon before it leaves you in the dust. Thanks to her beautiful film Selma, which focuses on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the 42-year-old filmmaker just made history: DuVernay is now the first African-American woman to ever earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director. An Oscar nomination is sure to follow.

Before Selma hits theaters on Christmas Day, get to know all about this game changer.

DuVernay quit a successful career in publicity to pursue directing full time.
Although she dabbled in journalism, at one point interning for CBS News, while going to school at UCLA (from which she earned a B.A. in English and African American studies), DuVernay immediately went into film publicity after graduation. After briefly working for Savoy Pictures, she created her own company, The DuVernay Agency, in 1999 with the mission to link with African-American audiences. That exposure to film the world, namely projects with Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Clint Eastwood, Raoul Peck, and Gurinder Chadha, is what sparked her to pursue filmmaking. (According to the New York Times, she realized her dream on the set of Collateral.)

“While I was constantly stressed out, I really enjoyed [publicity]. It was that proximity to filmmakers, being on sets and seeing how it was done that demystified the process for me,” DuVernay told Makers. “But when you’re actually watching people that you represent, and that you’re close to make films, you’re like, ’That guy’s a jerk. He’s making this film? I can do this.’ And so that is kind of how it started. And yeah. I just ran with it.”

Her directorial debut was the 2008 documentary This Is the Life.

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