Thank you, Ava DuVernay

Thank you, Ava DuVernay

I want to highlight the artists I admire and reminisce about why they struck my fancy in the first place.

There was a time that Netflix seemed to me to be almost aggressive in its suggestions. I felt like they were imploring me so forcefully to check the things out that they recommended. I have to admit that they never steered me wrong but sometimes I would not watch until I felt I had sufficiently said, “no thanks.” I suppose it was my own little rebellion. One such recommendation was to watch Middle of Nowhere which is a movie written and directed by Ava DuVernay.

When this was recommended, I had no idea who she was. In fact, I didn’t know anything about the pedigree of the film at all. I just started watching it. It didn’t take long. I really think it was within the first five minutes that I was fully hooked. The whole thing was woven together so tightly. It was beautiful, the characters were compelling, the story was engrossing. It hits a real emotional climax that I remember felt like a punch in the gut. It was so powerful.

Then, I stumbled onto a Youtube video of the keynote address she delivered at South By Southwest one year. I hadn’t seen Selma yet. She was already a goddess to me because of Middle of Nowhere. Her keynote address and its wisdom is still something I refer back to. She confessed that she wrote it that morning because she never could seem to decide what to say. It blew my mind that such wisdom and inspiration poured out of her just a few short hours before delivering that incredible speech.

I have purposely decided not to go back and rewatch it. To me, this is not necessarily about her specific words but the spirit of them. It’s about how her words have had such an impact on me that I have continued to resonate with them and digest them in my own way—the mark of a universal and powerful speech.

She spoke about the need to be mindful of where we put our attention. We need to be conscious of our intentions because they will manifest. She talked about how we can unintentionally limit our potential by choosing really specific, focused goals rather than focusing on service.

Prior to Selma she had very clear, quantifiable goals and she achieved them. What should have been satisfying left her feeling like she was missing something. When Selma landed with her, it seemed so unlikely and improbable that her only recourse was to focus on serving the story. It was deeply meaningful to her and because it felt too big she put her head down and dug into serving the story and the movement to the best of her ability. And look what happened! A story beyond her wildest imagination—an Oscar run, incredible audience feedback and reviews, and a gorgeous tribute to our heroes. 

I take her advice and I consider my intentions and my attention. I really aim to serve whatever I’m working on whether it’s a screenplay, a character, work with children. When that’s my goal, I find contentment and peace. When I focus on outcome and results and try to predetermine what success means, I find myself feeling antsy, dissatisfied, and frustrated. Thank you Ava DuVernay for your beautiful work and your beautiful words.