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‘Selma’ Director Ava DuVernay’s Advice for Hollywood: ‘Follow the White Guys’

Selma director Ava DuVernay offered some guidance for those trying to break into the Hollywood entertainment industry while speaking in New York this week: “Follow the white guys. Truly. They’ve got this thing wired.”

DuVernay was the keynote speaker at this year’s BlogHer conference in New York, where she discussed her career, her upcoming projects, how women can get ahead in Hollywood and a lot more in a wide-ranging discussion, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Of following the “white guys,” DuVernay said: “Too often, we live within their games, so why would you not study what works? Take away the bad stuff – because there’s a lot – and use the savvy interesting stuff and figure out how they can apply. It’s a good one for the ladies.”

Women have been trained in our culture and society to ask for what we want instead of taking what we want. We’ve been really indoctrinated with this culture of permission. I think it’s true for women, and I think it’s true for people of color. It’s historic, and it’s unfortunate and has somehow become part of our DNA. But that time has passed.

DuVernay also addressed her decision to pass on directing Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther film. The Selma director would have become the first African-American woman to direct a Marvel superhero film.

DuVernay said she passed on the project because “for me, it was a process of trying to figure out, are these people I want to go to bed with?”

“At one point, the answer was yes, because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery and culture in a worldwide, huge way that they do in a certain way: flying, exciting action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a black man as a hero — that would be pretty revolutionary,” she continued. “These films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. That’s how the conversations continued, because that’s what I was interested in. But everyone’s interested in different things.”

“This is my art. This is what will live on after I’m gone,” the director explained. “So it’s important to me that [I] be true to who I was in this moment. And if there’s too much compromise, it really wasn’t going to be an Ava DuVernay film.”

The director also discussed the advent of virtual reality filmmaking – “It will the future of storytelling” – and said she heeded Oprah Winfrey’s advice to “diversify.”

“I’ve been in a lot of rooms lately, and all these fancy people who are really killing it, no one has all her eggs in one basket,” she said.

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