Creative Spark: Ava DuVernay

Creative Spark: Ava DuVernay


DuVernay: IT’S INTERESTING
TO TALK TO CREATIVE PEOPLE ABOUT THE WAY THEIR MINDS WORK. SOMETIMES IT SOUNDS
KIND OF FREAKY. WHEN YOU’RE A CREATIVE PERSON AND YOU’RE NURTURING THAT
WITHIN YOURSELF, YOU OPEN YOURSELF UP
TO A LOT OF DISCOVERY THAT COMES
FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES, WHICH IS REALLY WONDERFUL. I MEAN, FOR ME, THE WRITING
PROCESS IS VERY MUCH ABOUT WHEN I HAVE A REALLY, REALLY
GOOD IDEA OF WHAT I’M WRITING. I NEED TO HAVE NOTES, A GOOD
OUTLINE, THOUGHT IT THROUGH, HAVE SOME DIALOGUE, LIKE, REALLY
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT I’M DOING. AND ALL THAT COMES
FROM BEING OUT IN THE WORLD. MY FILMS ARE LOW-BUDGET
INDEPENDENT FILMS, VERY SPECIFICALLY FOCUSED
AROUND COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND PEOPLE OF COLOR
AND FAMILIES OF COLOR AND FINDING THE UNIVERSALITY AND THE SPECIFICITY
OF THOSE STORIES. WHEN YOU’RE MAKING
A LOW-BUDGET FILM, A FILM FOR $50,000 OR $200,000, THERE’S NOWHERE TO HIDE. IT’S JUST — IT’S PEOPLE. USUALLY PEOPLE TALKING
OR NOT TALKING. BUT YOU’RE ON THESE FACES,
YOU’RE ON BEHAVIOR. AND SO YOU REALLY HAVE TO
BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT. AND SO THAT COMES FROM LIVING, BEING A BLACK WOMAN
WALKING AROUND. IT COMES FROM OBSERVING PEOPLE. IT COMES FROM ASKING QUESTIONS. AND SO I FIND THAT, YOU KNOW,
I’VE GOT TO GET OUT, YOU KNOW? AND YOU GOT TO BE AROUND PEOPLE. AND IN LOS ANGELES,
IT’S SUCH A SPRAWL. IT’S SUCH A HUGE PLACE. AND DOWNTOWN, YOU CAN ACTUALLY
RUB SHOULDERS WITH PEOPLE. YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE FACES THAT
ARE NOT BEHIND A CAR WINDOW. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? THE BEST THING
IS WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE AND YOU’RE WONDERING,
“WHAT’S THEIR STORY? “HOW DO THEY FIT TOGETHER?
WHERE THEY CAME FROM? WHERE ARE THEY GOING?
WHAT’S THEIR CONNECTION?” SOMETIMES I’LL EVEN ASK. AND PEOPLE WANT TO TALK,
YOU KNOW? AND IT MAY NOT BE ANYTHING
THAT’S DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE WORK THAT YOU’RE WRITING
THAT DAY, BUT THAT ENERGY FROM PEOPLE,
THAT STUFF IS KIND OF LIKE, YOU KNOW,
SEEDS ON FERTILE GROUND THAT HELPS WITH THE WRITING. FOR EXAMPLE,
ONE OF THESE GREAT PLACES TO KIND OF JUST FIND
A GOOD CORNER IS THIS SPOT CALLED
THE LAST BOOK STORE. IT’S SUCH A GREAT SPACE,
YOU KNOW? THAT DENSITY
THAT I TALK ABOUT — DENSE WITH BOOKS AND PEOPLE,
AND IT’S NOT TOO BUSY. BUT IT’S JUST ENOUGH, THE RIGHT FLOW OF THE ODD
CHARACTER THAT COMES IN AND OUT. YOU KNOW, IT’S PART OF WHAT
I PREFER TO HAVE AROUND ME WHEN I’M WRITING. I’M OUTLINING.
I’M PLAYING WITH DIALOGUE. I’M FIGURING OUT WHAT
THE BEGINNING, MIDDLE,
AND END OF THE SCENE IS. YOU KNOW, IS IT
MOVING THE FILM FORWARD? REALLY TRYING TO PIN DOWN
THOSE BIG QUESTIONS. I CONSIDER MOVIE-WATCHING
PEOPLE-WATCHING BECAUSE YOU’RE WATCHING PEOPLE. YOU’RE WATCHING BEHAVIOR. ACTORS KIND OF MIMIC
HUMAN BEHAVIOR. WE’RE HERE
AT THE DOWNTOWN INDEPENDENT, WHICH IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE
PLACES TO BE INSPIRED. IT’S A GREAT ONE-HOUSE
MOVIE THEATER IN DOWNTOWN L.A. I REALLY LOVE IT HERE. I LOVE COMING DOWN AND WATCHING
OTHER PEOPLE’S FILMS. I LOVE COMING HERE
AND WATCHING MY OWN FILMS. WHEREVER I FIND MYSELF, THESE
SPACES THAT INSPIRE, YOU KNOW, IT LEADS TO SPARKING
OF MY IMAGINATION. I DEFINITELY AM RECOGNIZING
WHEN I’M BEING HIT AND INSPIRED AND THEN MAKING SURE
THAT I’M LOGGING THAT OR DOCUMENTING THAT IN SOME WAY. I TAKE PICTURES A LOT. AND THEN, YEAH,
I TAKE A LOT OF NOTES. AND I FIND THAT I USED TO JUST
SCRIBBLE ON SCRAPS OF PAPER. BUT NOW MORE AND MORE
I RELY ON THE PHONE. I’LL PUT IN THE SUBJECT HEADER,
“XO.” I DON’T KNOW.
THAT’S MY CODE. HUGS AND KISSES TO MYSELF
OF INSPIRATION. IT’S SO CORNY. AND SO WHENEVER I’M READY
TO SIT DOWN OR I NEED TO PULL IN
SOMETHING THAT I’VE SEEN, I JUST SEARCH “XO,”
AND EVERYTHING COMES UP, WHETHER IT’S A PICTURE
OR A THOUGHT. A LOT OF MY DIRECTOR’S WORK IS HAPPENING DURING
THE SCREENWRITING PROCESS. QUESTIONS ABOUT CHARACTER AND BEING ABLE TO ANSWER
THOSE QUESTIONS FOR ACTORS — A LOT OF THAT STUFF
I’M ANSWERING FOR MYSELF AS I’M COLLECTING MY MATERIAL
TO WRITE. I HAVE A SPECIAL EXERCISE THAT
I HOLD VERY CLOSE TO MY HEART FOR WHEN I AM IN A ROUGH PATCH. IT’S CALLED PROCRASTINATION. I WILL PUT IT OFF
UNTIL SOMETHING ELSE STRIKES ME. I WISH I HAD A MAGIC TALISMAN
TO PULL ME BACK INTO THE SPACE. I JUST DON’T. YOU KNOW, GOT TO BE
IN THE RIGHT HEAD SPACE, OR ELSE YOU’RE JUST FORCING IT AND IT JUST NEVER
COMES OUT RIGHT. I KNOW THERE WERE TIMES WHEN,
YOU KNOW, I WASN’T WORKING IN A CREATIVE
WAY THAT I FELT VERY UNHAPPY, THAT I WASN’T LIVING
MY BEST LIFE. AND SO, FOR ME, TO BE CREATING,
TO BE AROUND CREATIVE PEOPLE IS SOMETHING
THAT’S REALLY NECESSARY FOR MY OWN PERSONAL HAPPINESS. AND I’M JUST, YOU KNOW,
REALLY FORTUNATE THAT I GET THE OPPORTUNITY
TO DO IT BECAUSE EVERYONE THAT NEEDS THAT DOESN’T GET THE OPPORTUNITY
TO DO IT. AND I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE
FOR A LONG TIME, SO I’M HAPPY
TO BE IN THIS PLACE.

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21 Replies to “Creative Spark: Ava DuVernay”

  1. I really like her and the emphasis on allowing yourself to be engulfed in the world around you.. gathering stories from real people and shaping them into something new 🙂

  2. Anyone else noticing the difference between her outside creative and interactive process, and their own lonely dark bedroom without a view?

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