$100 Million Woman: Ava DuVernay Makes History

Selma director Ava DuVernay wrote her name in the history books back in 2012 when she became the first Black woman to be named Best Director at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. Now, she’s doing it again.

According to the Women in Hollywood blog, DuVernay will be the first Black woman–and third woman overall–to direct a film with a budget over $100 million when she begins working on Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. 

Melissa Silverstein writes:

Ava DuVernay will be the first African American woman to helm a live-action feature with a budget over $100 million. Only two other women have directed live-action films with a budget in this range. Kathryn Bigelow was the first in 2002 with “K-19: The Widowmaker.” Patty Jenkins will be the second with next year’s “Wonder Woman.” And now Ava DuVernay will be the third. And she’ll be the first woman of color.

DuVernay has worked her way up from directing extremely low-budget films to a studio tentpole. Her feature debut, 2011’s “I Will Follow,” was made for $50,000 and her 2012 follow-up, “Middle Of Nowhere,” had a budget of $200,000. Oscar-nominated biopic “Selma” was a big step up budget-wise: the 2014 film’s budget was $20 million. And now DuVernay has crossed the $100 million mark — and only five years following the release of her first indie feature. She’s done that on authenticity and talent. This is a normal path for male directors, but one rarely accessible to women.

While big budget films are nothing new in Hollywood, typically women, and especially Black women, aren’t given such resources for their projects.

Folks loved Selma, which garnered award season buzz, however, DuVernay made that film on a tiny $20 million budget. And though films like Think Like a Man and Straight Out of Compton were box office hits, both were shot for relatively small amounts–$12 million and $28 million, respectively.

When it comes to figuring out how Hollywood places values on projects and talent, money talks. So the fact that DuVernay has crossed into the far too exclusive club of women filmmakers trusted with big budget films, is a huge deal. 

Salute, Ava! Keep making us proud.