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Ava DuVernay's Advice to Women in Hollywood: "Fight for Your Stories"

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Oscar nominations still "amplify work in a way nothing else does," says the director of the nominated documentary '13th,' who spoke to THR from the set of Disney's 'A Wrinkle in Time.'

What do this year's more inclusive nominations mean for the industry?

Very similar to the prison system in this country, where over the years we've put Band-Aids on something that needs surgery, in the film industry we've often done cosmetic changes to something that needs structural reconstruction. As far as the Academy goes, there now are structural changes put in place — and I was part of that decision-making — and the hope is that those changes will continue to manifest in years like this where the true world is reflected, but we won't know until years to come. We can applaud this year's Oscar nominations, and we should. It's a beautiful year, and it will be even more beautiful when there are Latino, Asian-American, Native American, people with disabilities [represented].

How are you able to effect change as a producer versus as a creator and director?

If you have the opportunity to hire, then you are a part of this problem if you've not done whatever you can to make sure that your crew looks like the real world. On A Wrinkle in Time, you step on our set you see the whole world — women and men of all colors, shapes, sizes, creeds, cultures and faiths working together on this story. You go on [the set of OWN's] Queen Sugar, you're going to find an all-women directorial team. You're going to find a producer who's saying, "The other way, the old way needs to stay old and we need to come up with a new way."

I'm often applauded for the all-women directorial team on Queen Sugar or for my crews, which are always very inclusive. But don't applaud me for doing the right thing — talk to the folks atGame of Thrones, who've only hired one woman to direct in the last three years. The celebration of the few that are doing it — yeah, it feels nice but it's not actually moving anything forward. What needs to be moved forward is an interrogation of the companies and the individuals to do what it's going to take to make real change, which is an industry-wide overhaul.

For me, whether it's [becoming] the first black woman to win Sundance, the first black woman nominated for director at the Golden Globes, the first African-American woman to be nominated for a documentary feature Oscar, or the first to make a $100 million film, all of those firsts to me are bittersweet because my mind immediately goes to the women before me who should've been those firsts — not could've, who should've if they were not in an industry that ignored them and turned a blind eye to their talent and their voice: people like Julie Dash, Euzhan Palcy, Ayoka Chenzira, Neema Barnette, Kasi Lemmons, these are women whose voices are strong and whose visions are really magnificent — and they came at the wrong time. And I know that the reason why the microphone's in my face is because I just happened to be here at the right time.

What do you say to women and people of color who are daunted by the obstacles in Hollywood?

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