It’s no secret, award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay is a champion for women in Hollywood. After beginning her career as a publicist, DuVernay stepped behind the camera to tell narratives we rarely see on screen. After becoming the first Black woman to take home the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay went on to garner critical acclaim for Selma, her biopic on Martin Luther King, Jr. Her next feature, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, also makes her the first woman of color to direct a film with a $100 million budget. Last year, DuVernay once again changed the business with the debut of her family drama, Queen Sugar.
The series, which took home a NAACP Image Award and is currently in Emmy contention for best drama, has a slate of all-female directors and an extremely inclusive crew. While DuVernay was at the forefront of the trend of giving women directors a chance, some still question her decision.
“If Game of Thrones Can have three seasons of all male directors, why can’t we have three seasons of all women directors?” she said during a recent press event in Los Angeles about Queen Sugar’s upcoming season. “If they can do it, why can’t we do it?
“We only do it because we can and we want to. You only say, ‘We will not have women’s voice here, we will only center the man’s perspective’ in terms of the creators of the show because we can and we want to,” she explained. “So on the other side of things, we’re going to center women because we can and we want to.
DuVernay added, “We’re at a network owned by a woman so it makes it easy.”
Though she’s attempting to bring parity to the business through her efforts to hire women directors, that isn’t the only reason DuVernay is so passionate about giving them a chance. She’s on a mission to change Hollywood, and she wants other women–who made up “just 7 percent of all directors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in 2016″–to win.
“I started out looking for women who had at least directed one film. A great majority of our women from the first season had at least one film under their belt. Can you believe that these women had directed a film that played at film festivals around the world and couldn’t get hired in Hollywood for one episode of television?” she told the crowd of journalists.
DuVernay’s choice to employ women directors for her show, which has since been adopted by the likes of Ryan Murphy, is already having an impact. According to the director, all of the women tapped to direct episodes in the first season of Queen Sugar are now “heavily booked.”
“I got a call from a really well-known television show just last week asking, ‘We had someone drop out as a director. Can you refer us to one of your season one directors?’ I got on the phone and none of the season one directors are available,” she said.
Now, that’s real power.