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How Director Ava DuVernay Challenges The Conventions Of TV And Hollywood

Selma director Ava DuVernay looks to embrace diversity and complexity in the portrayal of her characters.

How Director Ava DuVernay Challenges The Conventions Of TV And Hollywood

Ava DuVernay is looking to tell stories that feature characters who are both multicultural and multifaceted.

[Photo: Samantha Casolari]

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Selma director Ava DuVernay is tackling TV with the upcoming drama Queen Sugar. "I’m a filmmaker to my bones. But this is the golden age of television again. There’s television happening now that is jaw-dropping, stunning, and it’s changing our culture. You can’t not want to be a part of that if you’re a storyteller. For me, it’s looking at [Queen Sugar] as a 13-hour movie, because every episode is going to be very cinematic and beautiful and dope."

Embrace Diversity—and Complexity

Multiculturalism is about more than just inclusiveness: It’s about depicting people realistically. "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."

Failure Shouldn't Be Fatal

Success is unpredictable, and sometimes projects don’t connect. But what happens next? "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. Whereas I can give a list a mile long of people who are not of color or women who get the opportunity: ‘Do you want to make another bomb? Here’s more money.’ [Laughs] 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."

Read More: Lessons Of Leadership From Fast Company's Innovation Festival

Related: Selma Director Ava DuVernay Speaks About Lack Of Diversity In Hollywood

A version of this article appeared in the February 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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