“I grew up in the Compton/Lynwood area of Los Angeles. My family has no connection with the entertainment industry at all except that I had a very beloved aunt named Denise who was a lover of the arts, of film and music and theater and literature. She gifted me with an appreciation for it all. But she was truly a ferocious movie watcher and fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of film. How she got it is really just through the atmosphere, because there was no one ahead of her to introduce her to the arts, but luckily she was there for me. I spent many an afternoon, getting picked up from school going straight to a movie. Long conversations about film and books and art. It was really all a gift from my aunt to me.”
Director Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Interview with Scott Myers/Go Into The Story
P.S. I’ve said before that you can live not far from the Hollywood sign in West Covina, California and feel like you’re in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Compton/Lynwood area only about 20 miles south of the Hollywood sign would be low on the list for places in Los Angeles County where you’d bet on someone rising to a filmmaking career in Hollywood. (Though an abundance of rappers and professional athletes are from the area. NWA/Straight Outta Compton. NFL great Richard Sherman playing for Seattle in the Super Bowl this Sunday was born in Compton.) I spent some time in and around Compton/Lynwood in the early 80s while working as a photographer in nearby Cerritos. Gritty would be a word to describe it then. At least back then—and when DuVernay was in high school— the area was known for it’s heavy presence of African-American and Hispanic gangs.
I’m guessing the area was different in the 1940-50s from what I saw in the 1980s, because actor/director Kevin Costner was born in Lynwood in 1955 and future Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush lived in Compton briefly in 1949.
I hope Ava DuVernay’s (@AVAETC) filmmaking success is an inspiration to all of you who come from or live in “unlikely places.” But make sure you read the full interview at the Go Into the Story blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to see the many steps she took to write and direct movies.
Related LA Times Article: WME talent agents go from A-List to ABCs in Compton mentors program. Very cool.