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Ava DuVernay shares the perks of being a red-hot director in Hollywood

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s success over the past three years has made her something that many in Hollywood can only dream to be— in demand.  

The Compton-native burst onto the scene with 2014’s “Selma,” and followed that success with an Academy Award Best Director nomination for her documentary 13th”. Her next film, “A Wrinkle in Time,” has a budget of $100 million, making her the first black female director to take on such an expensive project.

During a panel at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, DuVernay discussed how her success at Netflix and beyond has brought more attention from big studios. Case in point, she didn’t go to Disney about directing “A Wrinkle in Time,” they came to her.

“That pitch was them pitching me, actually. Which was very nice and different,” she said.

Her initial reaction was to turn them down, however, after some nudging from her management team, DuVernay took the meeting with Disney and accepted the job. 

“To have a studio invite me in, to ask me to be the shepherd of this property and put my spin on it, which was different from the book, is something that needs to be called out. So I applaud them,” she said.

DuVernay came from humble beginnings and never attended film school. Her first feature film, “I Will Follow,” had a tiny budget of  $50,000. “Selma” was made for $20 million and her Netflix documentary 13th” cost just $1 million. With the $100 million budget of “Wrinkle in Time,” DuVernay revealed that she finally had to opportunity to expand her creativity in a way that was previously inaccessible for many women and people of color.

“Just little things that the filmmakers like to do, that the guys get to do,” she said. “Like, I just carried three cranes all of the time. Just in case I say, ‘Put up a crane, it’s a crane shot.’ It’s fantastic.”

DuVernay also made it a priority to build an inclusive crew and cast around the project, something that can be hard to find in Hollywood studios.” I said to all of my department heads, don’t bring me a bunch of white men. I mean, just don’t do it.”

Instead, she encouraged her team to seek out a talented and diverse staff.

“I expect you to do a good job for me, I expect you to do a good job for the studio, but I also expect you to bring me people on your crew and in your department that don’t just look like you,” DuVernay said, recounting the conversation.

Ava DuVernay is calling the shots, on set and in her career, making one thing abundantly clear. She may have started from the bottom, but there are no limits to how high she can soar.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bjonescooper

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