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Wednesday
Mar162011

Infrastructure Building! Ava DuVernay Builds Her Own Movie Distribution System

We are going to pause from our coverage of the atrocities in Cleveland, TX to get back on track with our commitment to push Black women to take their destinies and images into their own hands. 

There's a famous proverb that says "Its better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness."  The early years of this blog focussed heavily on calling out those who were engaged in what I call The War On Black Women. A heavy focus was on the Entertainment Industrial Complex that constantly cranks out anti-Black woman propaganda.  We've been successful in  de-funding foolishness and calling out tomfoolery.

However, it dawned on me after a few years that merely railing at folks like Debra Lee and other members of the Regime of Bullets, Booty and Bling that Black women were going to have to figure out how to create their own images because merely complaining about the work of others and extolling them to change places our destiny in the hands of people who've already declared that they don't like us very much... actually they HATE Black women.

We conducted a survey three years ago asking you what kind of movie this audience would make about Black women if they could make the movie of their dreams.

 If You Could Make the Movie of Your Dreams About Black Women, What WOuld it Be About. 

Vote:"Hypothetically"- If We Made A Movie About Black Women-Which Genre?

We then asked you how you would define "success" if Black women were able to start making their own movies.

Poll:Hypothetically Speaking What Would Be Most Important About Making a Film About Black Women

That's why this blog will be shutting down in April so that I (AND YOU) can participate in Script Frenzy. Its a 30-day challenge to produce a 100-page screenplay. I did it last year and "won" by completing my first screenplay.

 Whoo I Did It. I won Script Frenzy

Controlling Our Cultural Destinies -I'm Officially a Television Producer- Script Frenzy

Then last Fall I took my first filmmaking class, purchased a DSLR and went out and made a movie... and I loved it!

The Blogmother Makes a Movie! We're Coming for YOU Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels :)

I can't wait to make my next one! Its a constant source of joy doing the preproduction.

Along the way, I've gone to movie festivals, and been self-teaching, and though I have a great distance to go technically, along the way I have been deconstructing movie industry and strategizing how to get from that survey I gave y'all three years ago to reaching our definition of success.

Which brings me to movie distribution. I figured out that if Black women can write their own stories, ( see Script Frenzy), the evolution of low cost DSLRs and digital editing software makes it possible for Black women to produce their own films. But if Black women make movies in the woods and nobody ever sees them, do they make a sound?  You see even if technology has broken down most technical barriers to "filmmaking," Hollywood still has a stranglehold on distribution. Even Tyler Perry is having to claw himself into international markets which is where most big blockbusters make their profits.  So I figured out that film distribution or getting your films in at the local cineplex so they can be seen next to Big Mama's House IV  was on HUGE barrier. I hadn't quite figured out how to get around "the system," but I was extremely happy when I heard about AFFRM (African American Film Festival Releasing Movement). Its a fancy way of saying how to we move the numerous Black films that frequently appear at Black film festivals only to die a swift death when they can't get into your local cineplex.

In short, Ava DuVernay, has created her own film distribution entity from scratch.  She opened her film, I Will Follow, this weekend in 5 US cities.

I Will Follow - Trailer from AFFRM on Vimeo.

 

She bootstrapped the film herself and she's been using her skills as a publicist to do her own marketing campaign relying heavily on social media, but has also landed coverage in traditional media like the LA Times, CNN and an excellent review by Roger Ebert.

She held a series of dinners at the Sundance Film Festival...

in other words, she built her own infrastructure and she used it to release her film and boy did she ever!

Her per screen average last weekend was $11,000. As a result of her success in those smaller markets, I Will Follow is now being expanded to 22 US markets.  If you happen to be in one of those cities, you should go see it! You can find a list of cities where the film is showing on the AFFRM website

By now if you've been reading this blog, you've figured out that Black women have been left "out there."  The "institutions" within the Black community have a vested interest in making sure that we continue to be marginalized and dehumanized and brainwashed into thinking "suffering" and "struggle" is our lot in life. We're bombarded by a propaganda machine that says we're nothing more than props or prostitutes, Mammies, Madonnas, or Sapphire. If we are going to combat "The Regime" we are going to have to build our own propaganda machine that does the exact opposite and in case you didn't know, movies are a pretty effective propaganda tool. However, the most amazing film in the world about Black women doesn't do much if no one ever gets to see it. The current gatekeepers in the entertainment industry don't appear to be interested in stories about Black women unless the feature a Black man dress like one or feature a bunch of downtrodden Black women who engage in various forms of masochism  for 120 minutes.

So if you really want to see scifi, action adventure and fantasy films featuring Black women, we're going to have to "built our own house" and Ava has shown Black women that it can be done.

Kudos to Ava!

 

This serves as your two-week warning. We go dark in April for Script Frenzy and this year is going to be a dooozy think Lord of the Rings and Star Wars meets afro puffs. These characters have been bouncing around in my hear for like a year I can't wait to put them on paper so they can leave me alone!

Reader Comments (20)

Go Ava! I don't live in one of the cities, but maybe it can expand again.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdonnadara

I'm a huge fan of the Pan African Film Festival. I found out about AFFRM and this movie via PAFF emails. I'm so excited about better movies for and about African girls/women in general especially when they're written, directed, produced, promoted, and distributed by us. You might not see it now, but this is going to grow into to something huge! It's time and we can do it. On a side note, I'm not really into sci fi, but I watched a Kenyan short sci fi film called "Pumzi" and realized that I'd be more open to more film genres with a cast that reflects me. Anyway, I'm definitely a supporter!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamaica

Good for her. I am not in the US but will definitely support her film if/when it comes out on DVD and I will be spreading the word about her film company as much as I can.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNia

This is exciting!!! Go, Ava!!!

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermiriam

This looks like a really good flick. At first I thought the cast was largely unknown, but then I saw that it has Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Blair Underwood, and Omari Hardwick. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one if it comes to Atlanta.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Sniper

Ooh! I accept the challenge in April!! It would be interesting to see what the results are. My contribution will be a graphic novel.

It's really exiting right now how film and book production and distribution are shifting in favor of individual creators. So, there is less and less justification for people to merely whine. We have to make what we want to see. Even for non black creators, times are dismal through the traditional channels. BUT now through technology it's possible to obtain amazing leverage. Ava's story is quite inspiring.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I'm going to see this movie this weekend, and I'm very excited. I love how Ava was able to bring her vision to fruition while working with others and institutions that were open to partnering to make it a reality. The CRIC, Entertainment Industrial Complex, and Wealthy, Powerful Black Folks Who Are No Longer Working with "The Little People" are not the only game in town, thankfully.

I think it's very important when manifesting your vision to be open to help in whatever form it comes. It could be a male and/or someone non-black; someone older or younger than you. As you've pointed out time and again, all skin folk ain't your kin folk. Once you start taking steps to make your vision tangible, the universe will put the support that you need in your path.

Thank you for posting this. I've started the process of turning a vision I've long held into a reality. It's not filmmaking, but it will help BW (who are open to it), and eventually black children and adolescents, improve their physical health (and in turn their mental health and quality of life). This was just the inspiration I needed to get up tomorrow and keep building.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMonday's Baby

Good for Ava! She's an inspiration.

Unlike...
Scroll down to "The Scoop." If R. Kelly's (ghostwritten) book makes it to #1, it will be worse than the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" being nominated for an Image Award.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/foster/4339025-417/much-too-soon.html

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCape

Hello Sister...
Thank you for including me, my film I WILL FOLLOW and AFFRM in your brilliant blog.
Warm wishes with all your cinematic endeavors.
The world is waiting to watch your vision - and they don't even know it.
Ever onward,
Ava

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterava

Thanks for stopping by Ava! Keep up the good work.

March 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

The film is not showing in DC (yet), so I may have to make a day trip to Philly one Saturday!

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie

Films like these are like a breath of fresh air...thanks for sharing!

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEliss

@ava

Your film looks good, but your distribution model is brilliant!

You are correct that Black filmmaker need to stop using the same old, same old channels to get a diverse view of ourselves on the big screen. We live in an age where big movie studio execs look no longer look so all knowing and all influential. This would explain why the 2011 box office sales have been down this year:

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_17629659?source=rss

The bottom line is that the studios keep cranking out films that fewer and fewer Americans want to see.

People, especially Black people, are expecting more variety again from film, and your strategy will be a major factor in making that happen.

Good luck in your future efforts.

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Amazing what we can do once we just decide to do it! Yay!! :)

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrevmamaafrika

can't wait to see how your script turns out, Gina. I won't be able to participate because I have a book I'm trying to finish right now but maybe in the future. I Will Follow looks really great. Unfortunately, it isn't playing anywhere near me.

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

WOW is all i can say. this is great

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDantresomi

Awesome.

It's good to see black film / production professionals pull together.

I wish them much success, and you as well Blogmother.

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBetty Chambers

I took a long drive and saw the movie over the weekend. It was really good.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdonnadara

I live in New York and I saw I Will Follow with a friend last weekend. It was a GREAT movie!!! Representatives for the AFFM had a table set up outside of the theatre and gave us some info about their upcoming film festival in September (which I will also be attending). Also, they held a Q&A/open discussion after the film and it was nice to hear everyone's thoughts. After this experience I'm definitely looking forward to seeing future independent releases from new black filmmakers.

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

I saw "I Will Follow" a couple of weekends ago in Atlanta and I loved it! For me, as a fellow female filmmaker it made me proud of both the work and the new avenues Ava has opened up for us all. I recently found myself in an organization that I thought would help me to shoot my first feature. But what happened instead is that I ended up begging somebody else to let me shoot my own film. Now, I know this sounds crazy, but you have to realize that I've shot plenty of short films, wrote and directed for stage and tv and have a degree in film. I think I have enough experience at this point. Once I figured out what I was doing, I slapped myself, picked myself up off the ground and set out on my journey to produce my own film. Yes, I was mad at first, but then realized that no once can do to you what you don't let them. Since I've gotten out of my own and started putting the word out, people that I've known from my past have been coming out of the wood work offering to help and wondering why it took me so long to stop hiding behind everybody else and produce/direct some of the scripts I've written and shared with them over the years. So thank you so much Ava for kicking down some doors to produce I Will Follow. I'm right behind you sister kicking down my own doors to get my film off the ground!

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRegina Partee

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