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Editorial: Ava DuVernay Claims You Have To ‘Follow The White Guys’ To Make It In Hollywood

If there’s anything Ava DuVernay knows for sure, it’s how to get ahead in an industry where she’s the minority. “You gotta follow the white guys. Truly. They’ve got this thing wired,” she said during her keynote at the 2015 BlogHer conference. “Too often, we live within their games, so why would you not study what works? Take away the bad stuff — because there’s a lot — and use the savvy interesting stuff and figure out how they can apply. It’s a good one for the ladies.”

According to Essence Magazine, when asked about meeting with Marvel head Kevin Feig for the opportunity to direct Black Panther, the first Marvel movie starring a Black superhero, DuVernay didn’t get excited until she realized the potential cultural impact. “For me, it was a process of trying to figure out, are these people I want to go to bed with? Because it’s really a marriage, and for this, it would be three years. It’d be three years of not doing other things that are important to me. So it was a question of, is this important enough for me to do?”

“At one point, the answer was yes, because I thought there was value in putting that kind of imagery into the culture in a worldwide, huge way in certain way: excitement, action, fun, all those things, and yet still be focused on a Black man as a hero—that would be pretty revolutionary,” she continued. “These Marvel films go everywhere from Shanghai to Uganda, and nothing that I probably will make will reach that many people, so I found value in that. That’s how the conversations continued, because that’s what I was interested in.”

DuVernay also gave advice on going after your career and getting what you want. “Women have been trained in our culture and society to ask for what we want instead of taking what we want,” she says. “We’ve been really indoctrinated with this culture of permission. I think it’s true for women, and I think it’s true for people of color. It’s historic, and it’s unfortunate and has somehow become part of our DNA. But that time has passed.”

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