At SXSW , ‘Selma’ Director Ava Duvernay says, ‘Give Your Attention to Your Intention’

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Selma director Ava DuVernay kicked off South by Southwest Film Festival here with a lesson plan for life.

During her keynote speech Saturday, DuVernay said she became a happier, more fulfilled filmmaker and person by not worrying about things beyond her control — box office and awards — and focusing on the stories she tries to tell.

In the case of Selma, the story of Martin Luther King’s 1965 march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery in support of voting rights, that approach was valuable because she was bearing a burden of history in making the film. Then Selma received what many considered too few Oscar nominations — two, for best picture and best original song, the latter of which it won — and some criticism for its portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Her message: Give your attention to your intention.

“It’s so big for everyone, but especially for artists and creative types like us,” she said. “Whether you are conscious of it or not, your intention is the cause that produces the effect, which is your life. So if you are not paying attention to your intention then your life is a bit of a hot mess. That is what I’ve found.”

DuVernay noted that she was the seventh director offered the helm of Selma. Still, she said, “I went into that film with one thought, singular and clear: serve this story. You have to. It wasn’t made with any sort of achievement in mind.”

Initially, she did so out of self-preservation. “It just felt like the only thing one could do to survive and stay sane with the idea of jumping from $200,000 (the budget of her 2012 film, Middle of Nowhere) to $20 million to telling a story in your father’s hometown — you’re an African-American studies major (and) you are telling the first film ever made and released in theaters about King,” she said. “There’s a lot going on. I’m just going to serve the story.”

She became grateful for daily events. Among them: Oprah Winfrey joining the cast and becoming a producer, scouting the bridge in Selma for the first time with her father. The first time she heard actor David Oyelowo “do his King voice.”

Investing in the story made her feel like “I got this. It’s like The Matrix. That’s how I felt every day.”

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Source: USA Today | Mike Snider

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