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Exclusive Details On Ava DuVernay's Next Project "Middle Of Nowhere" (Synopsis, Start Date, Crew)

by Tambay A. Obenson
May 13, 2011 11:25 AM
21 Comments
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Seems like it was just yesterday that the country was all abuzz over Ava DuVernay's feature narrative debut, I Will Follow, which recently concluded its noteworthy theatrical run - noteworthy because it was AFFRM's first release (AFFRM being the African American Film Festival Release Movement, spearheaded by Ava herself).

One might expect Ava to maybe take some time off, after what seemed like quite an involved, exhausting run over the last 4 months, since the series of AFFRM dinners she organized at this year's Sundance Film Festival, which I was glad to be a part of.

But no! The young lady is already prepping to shoot her next feature. In fact, production is scheduled to begin on June 20th, just over a month from today, in Los Angeles.

Titled Middle Of Nowhere, the film, in a nutshell, will center on a woman named Ruby, who is struggling to balance her relationship with her newly-incarcerated husband, and her identity, which is undergoing a change of its own. The film will explore the life of a woman who is essentially at a crossroads, and the difficult decisions a woman in her position has to make.

Ava wrote the script, and will obviously be directing it as well.

No cast has been announced yet, but we will have that for you, once they are made available to us!

However, Ava is already firming up her crew, and, most notably, she's brought in award-winning cinematographer extraordinaire, Bradford Young, to shoot the film! Once I read that little piece of news, I was even more excited for the project; Why? You just have to see the man's work. I can't quite paint enough of a picture with mere words. He shot 2 Sundance 2011 films - Pariah and Restless City, with the latter being maybe the most beautiful piece of cinema I've seen so far this year, and maybe in a long time! No hyperbole either; Truth! It was nothing short of hypnotic cinematography, and I can only imagine what he and Ava might be cooking up here.

We'll just have to wait and see when this baby is complete. No word yet on when it's expected to debut.

In the meantime, feel free to follow the film's production process via its Facebook page (HERE), and/or Twitter (HERE).

Casting should be known shortly, so stay tuned.

You'll know more when we know more...


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21 Comments

  • Dankwa Brooks | May 16, 2011 12:47 PMReply

    FIRST of all every movie is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve seen some “classics” that everyone through the years always say are such and I thought, “Huh?!” I think that’s natural.

    AFFRM-
    Personally I think this distribution model is a good thing for filmmakers. If these “ black plays” can go on a tour across the country then why not black film? While I have yet to see IWF, as I wrote on my blog when I wrote about AFFRM (http://bit.ly/lX8ZYU ) “Ava DuVernay was also Director & Executive Producer of the BEST production I've ever seen on BET 'My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop' (2010 TV documentary)” It was easily the best hands down I have ever seen on BET. I was impressed and I don’t impress easily. It is far, far too early to judge what AFFRM can or will be, but time will tell, time will reveal.

    HATERS-
    I’ve been on Internet message boards since pretty much its inception and I know people like to spew negative energy through their writings. There are truly some effed up people in this world and the Internet only makes them more connected to everyone else.

    RESTLESS CITY-
    I saw RC at the Maryland Film Festival this year and while I thought the story was kind of murky the cinematography was OUT OF SIGHT (figuratively, but of course not literally). I’m impressed when anyone can light dark skinned actors and at the Q&A I asked the director (Andrew Donsunmu) was it hard to light dark skinned actors and he said NO it just took the right care and attention. As a photographer himself he paid attention to that and it showed. Literally every scene was beautifully shot with great lighting and composition.

    WRITER/DIRECTORS-
    @Tovah “Just as I think many writers should avoid sitting in the director’s chair. But of course everyone wants to be an auteur.”

    Well as a screenwriter who decided to direct I have to say that my goal is YES to be an auteur. I’ve had several of my scripts turned into local films and while they did a cool job and really didn’t change my scripts all that much, I would like to have more creative control. I also know that once you sell your script you don’t own it anymore and the new owners (producers) can change what they want and I wasn’t comfortable with that either. I expressly transferred from one college to another so I could study directing (at the undergrad level) and am now seeking to study it at the graduate level. I really love directing and the actors I’ve worked with seemed to enjoy working with me as well (or they want to stay in the good graces of a director). In any case I know many writers who “want to” direct, but I take it seriously for it takes hard work and dedication to make art.

  • Joe Doughrity | May 16, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    Hooray for Ava and the AAFRM movement! Everyone has the right to their opinions but anyone who would criticize her clearly doesn't understand the hard work, sacrifice and passion she's putting in. Counting her documentaries this is like her 4th film in like 3 years? From hip hop to rock and roll. Humor and drama. I saw "I Will Follow" and enjoyed the writing and especially the direction. Mature and informed with real human emotions.

    She's a trailblazer and since the movement is young I see no problem with her using it to promote her own work. Give her time and I'm sure she will work with other filmmakers. I know for a fact she's already helped several behind the scenes because I AM ONE! (Note the use of my real 'guberment' name!)

    My first post since the Indie Wire switch but I see the haters have just found a new home. Love you S&A all the same!

  • CareyCarey | May 16, 2011 2:04 AMReply

    HIP HIP HOORAY TO YOU AVA! Not just because of all you accomplishments, but the way you came here (at S&A) to fearlessly standup and tell some folks exactly what’s on your mind. Oh how I love that. And regardless of how some may view your movement, I’ve always believed that all actions begin with a thought. Your movement is planting seeds, and only you know the pain and struggle, and rewards of your journey.

    I don’t possess the best writing skills, but I’ve never been afraid to voice my honest opinions here at S & A. You know, i have no problem saying what’s exactly on my mind... no fear, no lies, less drama. I mean, I show my hand without concern of what others might think of me or it they‘ll “like me, and I would hope others will show all their card as well. But fear impedes that process. And unfortunately, boards are a place were the most pretentious, fake, phony, cowardly and spineless individuals can play hide and go seek. And that’s the crux of my comment today. As I was reading some of the comments, I so wanted to see the faces of some individuals, or know something about those who make remarks that have little or no foundation/merit. That way, I could at least discern rather or not I should take them seriously, respond to them, or avoid them like the plaque. At the old site, a person could click a person’s link (their name) and visit their site to see what they were working with, but this new format does not afford that opportunity. Fake names and “anonymous” leads the way. So I am left to shake my head at comments like the following, and think, who are those people; those that have me SMH?

    Some comments on S & A:

    “Why does Cynthia hate Halle so much?”

    “This is a one woman show (which, again, is fine, but just say that). Don’t fool us into thinking that some revolutionary movement is occurring when it’s business as usual”

    “Jug, why are all your comments long?”

    “Why would a serious casting director allow him to audition in the first place?”

    “All that cursing and threatening to beat up another man”

    “That was tacky”

    “Clifton Powell stars in some ridiculous load of crap movies that go straight to DVD who is this negro??”

    “Tambay, your attacks on the script are as weak as your critique. If you know what you’re talking about then talk. If you don’t then just shut up”

    And the last one speaks to what I am trying to say, “I don’t fucking know WHO you are because I reeeally can’t see your face, I’m LISTENING to you” BUT....

    Listen, I’ve said this before but I have to say it again. I am all for constructive feedback, but if the feedback is nothing but gripes and moans, sticks and stones and porous opinions, I don't view that as constructive feedback. That's more akin to one of Tambay’s most hated words... HATERS, with bitches and switches. Now, for the record, a hater is (imo) someone that makes a disparaging remark about a person, their product or concept, without justifying their “opinion” with concrete supporting evidence and/or facts, that speaks directly to their major points of contention, not unsubstantiated venomous remarks at the person, their motives or their “success”.

    Do your thang Ms AVA. Some folk will remain in their chronic cynic’s chairs, smelling their own upper lip.

    Some folks cannot even smile at their own image in the mirror, so they can’t be expected to look on the bright side of anything, let alone a black woman with purpose and direction. Excuse my French but fuk’em.

    Oh, practicing what I preach, this is all my dirty laundry

    http://www.blogger.com/profile/08832737883766894892

  • Nikki Love | May 15, 2011 11:39 AMReply

    I don't normally take the time comment on message boards...but errrrr uhhhhh.... I just had to chime in on this one.

    As a woman, a black woman, a black filmmaker, or FILMMAKER period watching Ava's journey has inspired something in me that I can't explain. I've always been a fan, even more so now.

    Here is a filmmaker who is doing her thing, and not only doing it, but doing it on HER TERMS. Putting out positive images. Starting her own distribution platform and collaborating with the black community. All I can say is WOW!

    For those of you who don't know and think she's in it for self, all you have to do is spend 5 minutes digging a little deeper and seeing this is a woman not just dedicated to others but also dedicated to her community of indie filmmakers, black filmmakers and women. One person who is committed to making a difference in this beast of Hollywood. Let me see you try it!

    You're so busy trying to point out flaws and not looking at the big picture. This picture is HUGE and I think we are only catching a glimpse of what this woman is doing to change Hollywood. So even if you can't get down with her method of storytelling or find fault in the actors, the costume, the script, the editing, etc...you can't find fault with the vision. To see a film, a black indie film at that, expand the way IWF did is absolutely amazing. And even more amazing is that the Godfather of critics, Roger Ebert, the complete counterpart, loved the film as well is even more mind boggling.

    It AFFRMS that we do have stories, that we do have a voice and we can make a difference with our films. And we can do it on our own!!

    And she is absolutely right, what filmmaker would've let her "test" out this new distribution platform on their film?? But seeing her put her own baby, her own film, her blood sweat and tears on the table to launch SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW does something to a little black girl from the cornfields in Illinois now out in Hollywood.

    And all I can say to Miss Ava is that I WILL FOLLOW! Keep dreaming, keep striving, keep changing the game, keep doing you sister. God Bless!

    Nikki Love ~ REEL Ladies

  • Matthew A. Cherry | May 15, 2011 2:20 AMReply

    I am really looking forward to seeing this sister take her career as a filmmaker and a distributor of independent black film to the next level. This sounds like a very promising project that should give us a break from the typical story lines that the big Hollywood studios attempt to force feed us.

    And please, let's give the sister a break. She just announced AFFRM in January, completed her theatrical run for her own film "I Will Follow" last month and is getting ready to shoot her next feature film in June. Clearly she puts her money, energy and time where her mouth is so let's see what happens with the next AFFRM film before we are so quick to judge what her true intentions are.

    How many African American filmmakers have attempted to create a distribution platform for black cinema only to leave us waiting for years and years without not even the promise of seeing a completed film in the theaters. The next film that her company AFFRM puts into theaters is going to be huge in regards to establishing what type of distribution company AFFRM will be and I am pretty sure that she realizes this as well. Of course, "I Will Follow" was the first project, it made sense. She used her film as the project to test the market with and it passed with flying colors. If only there were more doers in this world of talkers that we live in.

    Ava should be commended for doing what all filmmakers would love to be able to do in this day and age and that is to make another film with her own resources without having to beg, borrow and deal from the traditonal Hollywood system. Can't wait to see this project develop.

    -MC

  • Ms. Stone | May 15, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    As a filmmaker I find what Ava has done with AFFRM absolutely amazing -- she is distributing films. So many independent filmmakers make movies and have absolutely no vehicle to move them - Ava has created a successful model to get films into the theaters.

    We can go back and forth about the merits of her film(s) -- some will be moved to tears, others may hate it -- but personal aesthetics aside, I believe Ava deserves recognition for her distribution model.

  • Ava DuVernay | May 14, 2011 10:30 AMReply

    Hello to all,

    Criticism is an interesting animal. My mother taught me - "to each his or her own." I have no problem hearing that someone hates my films, that I'm no good at filmmaking, that my films bore them, that I'm unoriginal, that I cannot write, etc. Smart, sharp criticism often helps me and pushes me. Ill-intentioned criticism doesn't distract me, deter me or discourage me. Never has for some reason. Have at it.

    But when nonsense is written suggesting that AFFRM is a personal ploy, I take offense. Even when its written by ghosts on the internet so spineless they can't sign their own name, I take offense.

    The first AFFRM release wrapped its run ONE MONTH AGO. But some hater here scrawls: "the truth is clear" that it is not a real movement. Laughable and - as others here have suggested - sad.

    What you call a sham is the result of hundreds of people who gave hundreds of hours of hard work to jump-start an idea. An idea that was launched by me, yes. By my film, yes. The guinea pig for an experiment to figure out if this thing called community distribution could work before we applied our ideas to the films of other moviemakers. If it failed, it wouldn't hurt anyone else's baby. If it succeeded, we proved the model. And prove the model we did.

    Now, we close out one release and are planning for the next. While some sit around typing venom, we are working and strategizing. As I've always stated and will restate for the record: AFFRM's mission is to release two films per year by hand, by sweat, by love of black film. Its unfortunate that this process has to happen amidst some simple-minded people who get off on typing their lies. But no matter. We continue.

    I thank my partners at the festivals who stand with me in making AFFRM's mission a reality. I thank them for our most recent planning call just last week discussing the second film (obviously by another filmmaker) and opening day strategy. I thank the many, many thousands of city volunteers and supporters on our Facebook, Twitter and at our showtimes around the country who champion the endeavor and spur us on.

    And I thank Tambay for posting notice of my next personal project. I'll continue to send casting notices and updates as I believe in S&A and what this site represents. But I won't be back to read comments - ever. Criticism, yes. Lies and hate, nah. And I see this place is teeming with that kind of energy. OldWiseOne and his/her ten aliases can have that all to themselves.

    Ever onward,
    Ava

  • Lem | May 14, 2011 10:22 AMReply

    Tambay you and me both about Bradford shooting this. I read that and literally jerked my head back, excited. And you're right about Restless City. I expect another quietly intense beautifully shot film. Even more beautiful than IWF. Good luck to the team.

  • Hanna | May 14, 2011 10:00 AMReply

    I think this is great! And the same goes for all the conversation below my comment. Ava should be smiling wide right now knowing that she evokes such strong and diverse opinions about her and her work. That's the mark of someone with "volume" and she's showing no signs of quieting down anytime soon. Go Ava! There are a whole lot of us who'll be there the next time around. Carry on LOL!

  • anonymous | May 14, 2011 8:54 AMReply

    Similar to what Tovah said, above, so we can't criticize Black films on account of the fact that there are so few Black films out there?

    That's complete bullshit.

    I think that it's great that this Ava woman is doing her thing, but at the same time, if people think her movie sucks, they should be able to say that her movie sucks without other people going, "oh, well, don't criticize her, she's making money."

    Fuck that.

  • Tovah | May 14, 2011 8:43 AMReply

    So black people with potentially unfavorable opinions of other black people should say nothing lest they be considered wounded self-hating souls? On the internet, no less? But it's okay to critique white people, yes? Never mind, I'll just check the bylaws of my handy black person pocket guide.

    Personally, I thought the weakest point of IWF was the writing. As someone who majored in dramatic writing, that is what I'm most critical of. Truth be told, I think many directors would be better served directing the work of professional writers. Just as I think many writers should avoid sitting in the director's chair. But of course everyone wants to be an auteur.

    It's lovely that the movie spoke to you, but I had a different experience. Surely you're not so insecure as to feel that your connection to the film is threatened or invalidated by another person's lack thereof?

    "we deserve the sorry state that we are in. "

    Um...something tells me you felt this way long before you read a few trifling comments on the internet. Festering wounds indeed.

  • oldwiseone | May 14, 2011 8:20 AMReply

    This is great news for Ava. Glad to read here that she's making another movie. Again, great news for Ava, but what about "The Movement"?

    At first, I was skeptical, but then, like many others, I believed wholeheartedly that AFFRM was indeed an actual movement. The truth is now crystal clear. AFFRM is a shingle to produce Ava's films and this "movement" was simply a ploy to galvanize black audiences to see her work.

    I'm ecstatic that Ava's getting black people excited about film again, but don't call it a movement when in actuality, the movement consists of you and you alone. I don't believe that there are other films, outside of Ava's, that are coming down this AFFRM pipeline. If so, where are they?

    This is a one woman show (which, again, is fine, but just say that). Don't fool us into thinking that some revolutionary movement is occurring when it's business as usual.

    Smart idea though. Hats off.

  • LvFlg | May 14, 2011 7:56 AMReply

    well whoever can add to the mix. step-UP. [read- do a better film]

  • BLACKSNAKEGROWN | May 14, 2011 6:19 AMReply

    I don't write on walls but I had to this time. You people sound like children who are offended by this lady's success. Your intention to tear down is apparent in the way you are saying what you are saying. The pettiness is seeping through the posts like festering sores from people amongst us who are wounded. One person says the woman director needs to get a new writer for something they have never seen and has not even been made yet, one person says the lady doesn't do anything new but its her second movie, one person throws shade on the summary itself! We are a mess of a people and we deserve the sorry state that we are in.

    For the record I am a vet, husband to a beautiful black queen and father to two small boys and I was moved to tears in I Will Follow. I have never watched a movie that moved me to think of my mother and my wife and to shed a quiet tear.

    I hope this lady doesn't read the things some of you spew. If I were her I wouldn't want to make a film for us or about us. We hate ourselves too much.

  • Blaqnoir | May 14, 2011 5:49 AMReply

    I loved IWF and cant wait to see her next film. In this life there will always be folks who dont see eye to eye. Thats cool...like the old addage says ...opinions are like assholes. Move on respectfully. CONGRATS AVA!!!! Thanks for giving us Black folk a chance to see us on the big screen in a different light. Let's see what the naysayers can produce!!!???!!

  • Tovah | May 14, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    I took two people to see I Will Follow and we were all left a bit cold. How can I say this diplomatically? For me it was like the cinematic equivalent of listening to Talib Kweli. I knew the intent was noble so I gave it a go. But I wasn't feeling the delivery. So while I'm sure Bradford Young will be an amazing asset to this film, I'm not sure I'll see it. Perhaps she should have hired a new writer as well.

  • Starla S. | May 14, 2011 4:43 AMReply

    i see haters. sad.

    congratulations ava and bradford on ading another black movie to the universe. with both of your track records, i am looking forward to this film.

  • Quentin | May 14, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Nothing is ever new with this director, nothing original. Yet, they can't stop talking about her work.

  • Cynthia | May 14, 2011 2:46 AMReply

    Excellent news!

  • reg | May 14, 2011 1:14 AMReply

    @ Lynn what kind of silly question is that? What are all the films on the big screen that you're talking about? Her first film dealt with a woman dealing with the death of a loved one to cancer. Nothing new right? But the film was fresh. Did you see it? If not you should and may that will tell you something about her style.

  • Lynn | May 13, 2011 12:49 PMReply

    Hmmm...a story about a Black woman struggling an what not and her man heading to prison. How is this different again from other stories i have read and seen on the big screen?

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