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Ava DuVernay’s Array teams with Google for $500,000 filmmaker grant

The filmmaker’s arts and social impact collective is working with the search giant to create more “equitable moviemaking.”

Ava DuVernay’s Array teams with Google for $500,000 filmmaker grant
[Photo: Courtesy Ava DuVernay]

Ava DuVernay’s arts and social impact collective Array has continually made good on its mission to amplify the careers of underserved creatives and crew members in film and TV, with a number of initiatives across its various production, distribution, and nonprofit arms.

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Now Array is extending its reach even further with the help of Google.

Announced today, June 2, Array is partnering with Google Assistant to offer a $500,000 grant to an emerging filmmaker.

The Array + Google Feature Film Grant, which is specifically geared toward creatives from historically underrepresented communities, is intended to cover the production costs of a filmmaker’s first feature and will be staffed through Array Crew, the collective’s database for hiring below-the-line workers.

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“Our nonprofit organization Array Alliance has had a strong relationship with Google for a couple of years through various initiatives,” DuVernay says. “This partnership came about pretty organically as both teams discussed the furthering and fostering of equitable moviemaking.”

The recipient of the grant will be selected by an advisory committee within the independent filmmaking community, including Gabrielle Glore, festival director and head of programming at Urbanworld; Francis Cullado, executive director of Visual Communications Media; Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of IllumiNative; María Raquel Bozzi, senior director of education and international initiatives at Film Independent; and Smriti Kiran, artistic director of the Mumbai Film Festival.

“It was important because we truly believe in collaboration and the community model at Array,” DuVernay says of opting for an outside committee instead of an internal selection process. “We truly believe in the idea that ‘together we are strong.’ It felt natural to align with a five-member advisory committee, folks with heavy film festival and inclusive advocacy roots, to help identify our grantee. People with their fingers on the pulse of emerging creatives.”

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The grant is part of Google Assistant’s commitment to amplifying marginalized voices. Last year, Google Assistant partnered with filmmaker Paul Feig’s female-focused director incubator Powderkeg: Fuse, and this year with screenplay platform the Black List for a storytelling fellowship.

“Google is committed to making diversity, equity, and inclusion part of everything we do,” says Elle Roth Brunet, Google Assistant’s entertainment partnerships lead and producer of the project. “We know that equity is linked to opportunity, so it is our hope that by providing opportunities to historically underrepresented groups in the industry, we can work with our partners to make strides towards equality in entertainment.”

That said, big tech’s involvement with efforts surrounding inclusion and diversity have been met with skepticism regarding their sincerity and long-term dedication to racial and social equity. And DuVernay acknowledges the issue. “I’m highly suspicious of big companies talking the talk and not walking the walk,” she says. “Array has been approached by many companies. Checks are everywhere these days, to be honest. Our intention is always to be highly selective about who we hold hands with. And to make sure that those checks are being written toward efforts that will actually move a needle, not just pay lip service.

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“The bottom line is that any company that pledges to make inclusive changes needs to be held accountable by the larger community and show results,” DuVernay continues. “There is no room, time, [or] appetite for false promises. Array holds our partners accountable, and we’ve seen and felt a sustained desire for change from the team at Google over an extended period of time. So we’re interested in working with them as they lean into the things that they’ve said they believe in.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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