Before Ava DuVernay directed Selma, she spent nearly 15 years as a film marketer and publicist. She grew up in the Los Angeles area and graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a degree in African-American Studies and English. After working in the film marketing business, DuVernay opened her own firm in 1999. After a few years and several high-profile clients, she began writing her own movie that became her second feature, 2012's Middle of Nowhere (her first feature was 2011's ultra-low-budget I Will Follow). Middle of Nowhere earned DuVernay a best director award at the Sundance Film Festival (it costarred David Oyelowo, who would later play Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma). Her other directing credits include the 2009 documentary This Is the Life, an ESPN documentary on Venus Williams (Venus Vs.), and an episode of the TV series Scandal in 2013.