Ava DuVernay Becomes First African American Woman to Direct a $100 Million Film

     August 3, 2016

A major Hollywood milestone has been met, and it’s been a long time coming. After Selma, filmmaker Ava DuVernay became mighty high in demand, fielding interest from a variety of projects as wide-ranging as Marvel’s Black Panther to an original sci-fi tale from the mind of Colin Trevorrow. Eventually she landed on an adaptation of A Wrinkle of Time at Disney as her next project, and as the film’s pre-production continues, we’ve now learned that it marks a genuinely new piece of history: DuVernay has become the first African American woman to ever direct a film with a budget over $100 million.

Indeed, the Madeline L’Engle adaptation—written by Frozen‘s Jennifer Lee and starring Oprah Winfrey—recently received a tax incentive to shoot in California, and with the filing came the revelation that the budget for the fantasy film exceeds $100 million. Women in Hollywood blogger Melissa Silverstein made the find, which is somewhat surprising and yet also not. Women are already a minority in the filmmaking world, and those women that do get the chance to direct rarely get handed the reigns to major studio investments. In fact, only two other women have ever directed a live-action film with a budget over $100 million. Kathryn Bigelow was the first with the 2002 submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker, and Patty Jenkins was the second with the upcoming DC Comics adaptation Wonder Woman. With DuVernay, that makes three in total, and yet increasingly $100 million plus studio films are becoming the norm.


Image via Paramount Pictures

DuVernay took to Twitter to thank Disney for the opportunity and also express her dismay at the fact that it took this long, but given that the only three female directors to helm films of this scale happened within the last 15 years, hopefully we’re in the midst of a tide change.

Representation has been increasing, albeit incrementally, in the last few years, with female filmmakers churning out some of the best pieces of storytelling around—just look at AMC’s swell miniseries The Night Manager, which was directed by Susanne Bier or the horror hit The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent. And in the animation world, Jennifer Yuh Nelson helmed Kung Fu Panda 2 and co-directed Kung Fu Panda 3 while Jennifer Lee co-directed Frozen. Diversifying the filmmakers that are creating content is important because it allows different voices, different stories, and different points of view to reach the masses. In a day and age where major blockbusters feel like the same movie over and over and over again, perhaps bringing women into the fold—you know, half the world’s population—can bring a different perspective and, thus, a refreshing take on a genre that’s getting worn out.

And with any luck, DuVernay will be the first of many women and women of color directing major studio films. In fact, an announcement for the director of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel is imminent, and Marvel has expressed its intention to set a woman in the director’s chair for what will be the studio’s first female-led superhero movie. It’s about damn time.




Image via Amazon

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