Ava DuVernay's Film HQ Is In Filipinotown, And She's 'Dying To Make Something' Based In LA

Ava DuVernay at the Filipinotown HQ of her film collective Array. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Ava DuVernay couldn't find something she was looking for in Los Angeles. So she built it.

The Filipinotown headquarters of her film collective, Array, feels a bit like a resort for filmmakers. There are writer's rooms, editing suites, a 50-seat theater, comfortable lounge areas, communal tables and plenty of space to host events.

But the amenities aren't the only reason DuVernay — whose limited run Netflix series "When They See Us" is up for 16 Emmys — calls it her favorite place in the world.

"[It's] a place here in L.A. that really has people of color and women in its DNA," the filmmaker told us. "Not as an inclusion program, not as a diversity initiative. But in every space and in every program and in everything that we do here — every project — people who are uncentered are the epicenter of our work here."

DuVernay said her work at Array is about disrupting systems that marginalize artists. So she and her colleagues at Array have focused on finding distribution channels, exhibiting their own movies and helping get films by women and people of color produced in the first place.

"We don't have to ask permission from anyone to edit, to have a writer's room, to prep, to shoot," said DuVernay. "And so it's kind of taking back all of these pieces of the puzzle that are doled out with permission and really undermine the whole idea of independent filmmaking."

That mission has meant releasing films like "Echo Park," from director Amanda Marsalis, and this year's "The Burial of Kojo," the directorial debut of Ghana-born filmmaker Blitz Bazuwale.

So far, Array has served mainly filmmakers. But soon, DuVernay said all Angelenos will be invited to visit the campus for a multi-week screening program. The schedule will include new releases, restored classics and films under the Array moniker.

The curated film series will be "focused on prioritizing work of people of color and women of all kinds," DuVernay said, adding, "there will be tickets open to the public pretty soon."

DuVernay, who grew up in Compton, said she's excited to be back in L.A. after spending time in New York. "'When They See Us' was hard to make because I had to be away from here," she said. "I'm really dying to make something that is based in L.A. I have a TV show now that's based here that we're just getting started on."

The filmmaker loves L.A. for its sprawl, even if that space between communities can make it confusing for visitors.

"I hate it when people come here and they go to Beverly Hills and they're like, 'Eh, it's kind of fake,'" DuVernay said. "And I'm like, 'Dude, you didn't go anywhere, you went from like LAX to the Beverly Hilton. You didn't experience it!'"

L.A.'s multitude of cities within the city are a delight for DuVernay, who said there's a little bit of everyone here.

"People can really put their roots down here," DuVernay said. "And it grows into these beautiful kinds of flowers of an array of people."

A version of this story aired on KPCC's The Frame. Listen to it here.