Ava DuVernay Goes Deep as Keynote Speaker at South by Southwest (‘Oscars were just a room in L.A.’)


Filmmaker Ava DuVernay went deep in her keynote address at South by Southwest. The Selma director spoke of “living in the moment” and “being grateful” for what she has to the audience at the annual festival in Austin, Texas.

Though Selma was nominated for a best picture Oscar, DuVernay didn’t allow that to twist her head; at one point she referred to the Oscars as “just a room with a lot of nice people  dressed up.”

The director, who is now working on two TV shows, made time to speak at SXSW; and told the audience she is working on a series for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, as well as a network series called For Justice – which she described as a procedural featuring a Justice Department civil rights investigator played by Anika Noni Rose.

DuVernay said she’d suffered a difficult week, but managed to turn it into something positive because she was prompted by a certain somebody to get into the habit of writing down five things she is grateful for each week.

“A certain woman whose initials are O.W. got me into the habit of doing that,” she told the audience. DuVernay mentioned “the intention of our attention” and the importance of a broader sense of purpose.

“When you win awards and the light is on you, I hate to tell you, it’s not enough,” she said, adding “if your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”

The director admits that it was not until she made Selma that she truly felt that feeling. Unlike with her first two films, I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay said when she started Selma, she was not consumed with some filmmaker concern.

Serve this story” was her primary thinking and ultimate goal while doing the film. It is what enabled her to put ego aside and give up her writing credit for Selma in order to get the movie made, she said.

As for winning and or not winning awards, DuVernay said, “The Oscars were just a room in L.A., It’s not anything but a big room with very nice people dressed up. It’s very cool. But my work’s worth is not about what happens in, [or] around that room.”

DuVernay gets her fulfillment from those who tell her how “Selma” touched their lives.

At the end of the day, the filmmaker told the audience: “There are dreams out there that bigger than you even know how to dream, so don’t limit the dream with the small stuff.” 

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