×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ava DuVernay Talks ‘Lip Service’ of Diversity Programs: ‘Once They Do That First Year, Then What?’

Ava DuVernay is done with diversity panels.

“I’ve done them, I’ve tried,” the writer, producer, director and distributor said at a discussion with “Queen Sugar” author Natalie Baszile at the Writers Guild Foundation Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, Calif. “We all know the issues, we’ve done the awareness-raising for five years, now the challenge is: now what are you going to do?”

DuVernay, who prefers the term “inclusion” over “diversity,” pointed out that what she does is take action on her productions by hiring women and “woke white men.” And it makes a difference. After all, out of 234 shows studied by Color of Change for a report on inclusion in writers’ rooms, “Queen Sugar” stood out as a positive exception when it came to staffing African-American writers.

However, DuVernay pointed out that inclusion doesn’t just stop at one race, and therefore, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“There’s a beautiful burst of shows created by women and people of color but there’s not enough Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native-American creators yet,” she said. “A lot of it is lip service. I’m really critical of diversity programs around studios. Are you staffing them? Once they do that first year, then what?”

She compared that limited action to Harvey Weinstein being stripped of his Hollywood organization memberships, saying, “Is that all?”

DuVernay, who worked as a film publicist before turning to filmmaking in her early 30s (“I didn’t pick up a camera until I was 32 years old,” she shared.) worked with various studios for years on movies she says “they didn’t know how to sell, like black movies, Latino movies and anything focused on women or kids.”

“I took a page from Spike Lee’s book: to be diverse categorically — documentary, narrative, commercials — so if they don’t like my movies anymore, I’ll go make docs, or TV or commercials. Or distribute films that other people make. Or I’ll write. You can’t hit a moving target. It’s a really specific strategy. I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket,” she said.

But she also noted that everyone has to “embrace what works for you” individually. She recounted a recent conversation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which they discussed the “black, red and green phases” every person educated about African-American history goes through in their creative process to explain: “When you first read everything the first time and everything is black — if it ain’t black, it ain’t right. Then the red phase: you get deeper into it and realize you’re dealing with systems that are generations old, and you’re angry. Then the green phase: you become at peace but you stay on the edge. You embrace a future, you stay healthy so you can grow.”

DuVernay shared that Coates said he stays in the red phase and works from a place of rage, which is similar to James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston’s processes. But no matter from what phase you write, DuVernay noted it is most important to continue to do the work and keep exploring to find the “sweet spot” and tell stories.

“There’s a lot of pain around not being let into certain doors [but] you can make your own door,” she said.

More TV

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Expands Suit Against Agencies With New Fraud Allegations

    The Writers Guild of America has bulked up its lawsuit with additional fraud allegations against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. The WGA amended its suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court with the claim that CAA, WME, UTA and ICM partners have engaged “constructive fraud” by allegedly placing their own interests ahead of their clients [...]

  • Jason Mitchell

    Jason Mitchell Dropped From 'The Chi' Season 3, Netflix Film

    Jason Mitchell is being dropped from a number of his current and upcoming projects. Variety has confirmed that the up and coming actor will not return for “The Chi’s” already announced third season, with Season 2 of the show currently airing on Showtime. In addition, Mitchell will no longer be starring in the Netflix film “Desperados,” in [...]

  • Maisie Williams

    TV News Roundup: Maisie Williams to Guest Judge 'RuPaul's Drag Race UK'

    In today’s roundup, Maisie Williams will guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” and “Drunk History” will return with eight new episodes to Comedy Central.  DATES Comedy Central‘s “Drunk History” will return with eight new episodes beginning with “Derek Waters’ Believe It or Not” Tuesday, June 18 at 10 p.m. The series premiere of “Alternatino [...]

  • Lisa Kudrow

    Lisa Kudrow Joins Lee Daniels-Whitney Cummings Comedy Pilot 'Good People' at Amazon

    Lisa Kudrow has signed on to star in and executive produce the comedy pilot “Good People” currently in the works at Amazon, Variety has learned. The half-hour project hails from writers and executive producers Whitney Cummings and Lee Daniels, with Cummings also set to star. It centers on three generations of women working in the [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Series Finale: Much

    'Game of Thrones' Series Finale: A Lot of 'Love' Despite Much-Criticized Ending

    Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched “The Iron Throne,” the series finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” aka season 8, episode 6. Bran Stark may have a perpetual poker face, but “Game of Thrones” fans certainly had a lot of feelings about him Sunday night. The stony faced character was the No. 1 [...]

  • Naomi Watts Game of Thrones

    Everything We Know About the 'Game of Thrones' Prequels (So Far)

    Prequels are coming. Fans looking for their next fix after “Game of Thrones,” rest assured, plans are already in the works to cash in on George R.R. Martin’s expansive fantasy universe. HBO has been tight-lipped about details, but at least one prequel series has already been ordered with four others in development. Ancient History The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content