Ava Miles Biography & Facts
Ava Marie DuVernay (; born August 24, 1972) is an American filmmaker, television producer and former film publicist. She is a recipient of a Primetime Emmy Award, a NAACP Image Award, a BAFTA Film Award and a BAFTA TV Award, as well as a nominee of an Academy Award and Golden Globe.
After making her directoral debut, I Will Follow (2010), DuVernay won the directing award in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first black woman to win the award.For her work on Selma (2014), a biopic about Martin Luther King Jr., DuVernay became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Her other film credits include the Academy Award-nominated Netflix documentary 13th (2016) and the Disney fantasy film A Wrinkle in Time (2018), the latter making her the first African-American woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million.
Her television credits include the OWN drama series Queen Sugar (2016) and two Netflix drama limited series: When They See Us (2019), based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case and Colin in Black & White (2021), based on the teenage years of NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
In 2017, DuVernay was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In 2020, she was elected to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences board of governors as part of the directors branch.
Early life and education
Ava Marie DuVernay was born on August 24, 1972, in Long Beach, California. She was raised by her mother, Darlene (née Sexton), an educator, and her stepfather, Murray Maye. The surname of her biological father, Joseph Marcel DuVernay III, originates with Louisiana Creole ancestry. She grew up in Lynwood, California. She has four siblings.
During her summer vacations, she would travel to the childhood home of her stepfather, which was not far from Selma, Alabama. DuVernay said that these summers influenced the making of Selma, as her father had witnessed the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches.In 1990, DuVernay graduated from Saint Joseph High School in Lakewood. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she was a double BA major in English literature and African-American studies. Ava is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
Despite the acclaim DuVernay has garnered in the film and television industries, she did not pick up a camera until she was 32. DuVernay's first interest was in journalism, a choice influenced by an internship with CBS News. She was assigned to help cover the O.J. Simpson murder trial. DuVernay became disillusioned with journalism, however, and decided to move into public relations, working as a junior publicist at 20th Century Fox, Savoy Pictures, and a few other PR agencies. She opened her own public relations firm, The DuVernay Agency, also known as DVAPR, in 1999.Through DVAPR she provided marketing and PR services to the entertainment and lifestyle industry, working on campaigns for movies and television shows, such as Lumumba, Spy Kids, Shrek 2, The Terminal, Collateral, and Dreamgirls.Other ventures launched by DuVernay include Urban Beauty Collective, a promotional network that began in 2003 and had more than 10,000 African-American beauty salons and barbershops in 16 U.S. cities, expanded to 20 in 2008. They were mailed a free monthly Access Hollywood-style promotion program called UBC-TV, the African-American blog hub Urban Thought Collective in 2008, Urban Eye, a two-minute long weekday celebrity and entertainment news show distributed to radio stations, and HelloBeautiful, a digital platform for millennial women of color.
In 2005, over the Christmas holiday, DuVernay decided to take $6,000 and make her first film, a short called Saturday Night Life. Based on her mother's experiences, the 12-minute film was about an uplifting trip by a struggling single mother (Melissa De Sousa) and her three kids to a local Los Angeles discount grocery store. The film toured the festival circuit and was broadcast on February 6, 2007, as part of Showtime's Black Filmmaker Showcase.DuVernay next explored making documentaries, because they can be done on a smaller budget than fiction films, and she could learn the trade while doing so. In 2007, she directed the short Compton in C Minor, for which she "challenged herself to capture Compton in only two hours and present whatever she found." The following year, she made her feature directorial debut with the alternative hip hop documentary This Is the Life, a history of LA's Good Life Cafe's arts movement, in which she participated as part of the duo Figures of Speech. This is the Life won audience awards at the ReelWorld Film Festival in Toronto, the Los Angeles Pan-African Film Festival, the Hollywood Black Film Festival, and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle.
I Will Follow
In 2011, DuVernay's first narrative feature film, I Will Follow, a drama starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, was released theatrically. DuVernay's aunt Denise Sexton was the inspiration for the film. In an interview, DuVernay talked about how her real life experiences differed from the film: "I was a caregiver for my aunt, Denise Sexton, in the last year and a half of her life. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. She was a fighter and was active in her treatment to the end, which was different than the character in the film who wants to fight in a different way." The film cost DuVernay $50,000 and was made in 14 days. Roger Ebert called it "one of the best films I've seen about coming to terms with the death of a loved one." I Will Follow was an official selection of AFI Fest, Pan-African Film Festival, Urbanworld and Chicago International Film Festival.
It wasn't until after I Will Follow that DuVernay fully left her job in publicity. DuVernay stated: "I knew that as a Black woman in this industry, I wouldn't have people knocking down my door to give me money for my projects, so I was happy to make them on the side while working my day job."
Middle of Nowhere
In the summer of 2011, DuVernay began production on her second narrative feature film, Middle of Nowhere, from a script she had written in 2003 but was unable to finance. The film drew from her own experiences growing up in Compton and Inglewood. The story focuses on the wife of an incarcerated man who is serving a 10-year sentence. She drops out of medical school in order to have more time and emotional energy to give to her incarcerated spouse. The film explores how the families of the incarcerated are also victims of the system and shows how commonly this burden of incarceration falls upon women of color. In an interview with the LA Times, DuVernay touched on her inspiration for the film, "The idea of looking at the victims of incarceration – the mothers, sisters and daughters -- really cam.... Discover the Ava Miles popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Ava Miles books.