DuVernay, whose path to the director’s chair followed a nontraditional path, said she started in the business doing something completely different before she decided to try her hands at directing.
The self-taught motion picture director told Martin, “What I was doing as a publicist made good money. It was a cool job, but there was a desire that was put in my heart and I think that when we have those desires they are definitely gifts to us and they’re gifts from above and if you can pursue it, you should.”
DuVernay has only been directing for five years and never went to film school. She explained to Martin that she learned her craft from watching DVD commentaries, Q&As and reading books. Her study has obviously paid off because DuVernay has been nominated for Best Director honors by the Golden Globes and is the first African American woman to receive a nomination in that category.
According to reports, “Selma” was made for $20 million, which is a budget that she is not used to. DuVernay who is used to producing film projects with a much small budget said she was accustomed to making movies with “$2 and a paperclip and a gum wrapper.”
“That’s the spirit of Black folk, making something out of nothing, making beauty where there is not beauty and finding it, finding the joy in doing it.”
She told Martin, “$20 million for someone like me is definitely huge. $20 million to other film makers wasn’t enough, but also I won’t be coy, I had never worked with that amount of money. So for me to image that $20 million wasn’t enough to tell a story, I could not fathom why that would be the case.”
DuVernay also shared her desire to tell the story of the women of the Civil Rights movement who were “relegated to the margins” in history books.
Women like Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hammer, Diane Nash and others were a “centrifugal force to everything that happened during the Civil Rights movement. It is criminal that they have been left out of so many major texts and major creative illustrations of the time,” said DuVernay.
She continued, “It felt like righting a wrong in some way, women were there, I’m a woman filmmaker, there’s no way I’m making this film without the ability to make sure that we in our rightful place.”
Watch Martin and “Selma” director, Ava DuVernay discuss the critically acclaimed film, how the movie relates to present day struggles for justice and recount major Civil Rights icons, Rep. John Lewis and C.T. Vivian visiting the set of the movie in the video clip above.
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