Ava DuVernay—the first Black woman director with a film nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award—takes you behind the scenes of her new feature film, “ORIGIN.” She shares how to identify, develop, and execute your vision to achieve extraordinary goals and direct the life you want.
Ava DuVernay switched careers at 32 and is now a virtuoso in the film world. She was the first Black woman director with a film nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, and her newest feature, “ORIGIN,” received a 9-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. Now, she takes viewers behind the scenes to share how to identify, develop, and execute your vision to reach your goals—and direct the life you want.
Ava DuVernay is a recipient of a Primetime Emmy Award, an NAACP Image Award, a BAFTA Film Award and a BAFTA TV Award, and a nominee for an Academy Award and Golden Globe. Ava made her directorial debut with the 2010 American independent drama film, I Will Follow. Her other works include Middle of Nowhere, Selma (2014), 13th (2016), When They See Us (2019), Colin in Black & White (2021), and Origin, based on the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
In Ava‘s words:
- We are the directors of our lives; we call for action every morning. You decide what you are doing and where you are going. What we are told works is not always what can work and it is undoubtedly what should work.
- You can be a force in what you want but you have to do the foundational work. If you have a vision, act on it. Whatever you define as success is a muscle that you have to build.
- What is the vision I want to achieve?
- How do I get there?
- What are the resources that I need?
- Who do I need on my team?
Part One: Vision
- Vision is simply knowing your destination. You have to be able to visualize through your vision as much as you can.
Part Two: Prep
- Preparation helps in succeeding in an environment where speed is essential. You have to get your mind ready by becoming immersed in the project. Soft Prep is the initial phase of idea exploration and creative development. It is everything you need to do to get prepared. It is a period where you nourish the idea so that it can go out to build muscles. For Ava, as a director, it is the dreaming phase, reading the book, watching other movies, etc. The soft prep phase could also encompass meditating, reading articles or listening to a podcast.
- Hard Prep involves putting the infrastructure in place to bring the project to life. Tech Scout – On-site visit to assess and plan technical aspects of a location. In the hard prep stage, you test ideas and evaluate opportunities, risks, and tradeoffs while creating detailed plans, strategies, and timelines.
- Moving into the doing: You will never be 100% ready, but if you’ve done your prep well when the moment arrives, you deliver. It is never going to be perfect, but you are going to do it anyway.
Part 3: Build
- Build your team with intention, disrupt hierarchies, make space for other voices and empower your crew. Ava’s hiring metrics: Can you do the job? Are you pleasant to be around? And Are you honest?
Part Four: Direct
- Direct Leadership: Be clear and direct with people. Don’t lie, pretend or perform. Learn how to become more comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” You don’t have to have all the resources to figure out what you want to do. Find collaborators willing to teach and share their expertise.
- Get to know your team members, their roles, and their impact on the project. Connect with as many people as possible. Lead with empathy: Empathy, kindness, curiosity, and creativity start with the leader.
Part 5: Adapt
- As a leader, you must master Problem-solving, organization, time management, and juggling multiple situations. Embrace the pivot: Supplement your optimal circumstances with contingency plans. You don’t need everything to be perfect to take action. Creativity happens within limits. Tap into readily available resources to overcome obstacles.
Part 6: Refine
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