Lauryn DuValle, a 24-year-old theatre art major at the University of Mississippi, is partly responsible for President Barack Obama's visit this past Monday.
DuValle volunteered her filmmaking skills to help direct the video for Booker T. Washington High School's 2011 graduating class in MTV's Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. The film won the national contest, and as their prize, Obama delivered the students' commencement address at their May 16th graduation.
That win came on the heels of DuValle's first film, Pickett, being selected as a runner-up in the University of Mississippi's campus cinema competition. The "dramedy" tells the story of a small-town girl with movie-star aspirations.
DuValle spoke to the Flyer about her creative contributions to the Booker T. Washington video, as well as her film endeavors and goals. — Louis Goggans
Flyer: How was the "Race to the Top Commencement Challenge" experience?
DuValle: It was fairly stressful, but I enjoyed it very much. The entire experience and talking to the kids has validated what I want to do. I would definitely do it again.
What were your duties with the project?
I helped the students create their vision and understand the whole process of film because they didn't know. They thought you could just set up a camera and that's it. I assisted the producer and the editor with camera angles, lighting tricks, shot lifts, and the equipment.
How did you utilize what you've learned in school on the project?
I utilized what I learned from my screenwriting and directing class, which was when dealing with a short film, you have to tell a great story in a short period of time. You want to open it up powerfully and end it just as powerfully.
What sparked your interest in film?
When I was a history major at Grambling University, I had an interest in being a historical consultant for film, but that's not necessarily a career you can just fall into. I came to Ole Miss to get a general understanding of film, and throughout the process, I ended up growing a passion for filmmaking, screenwriting in particular.
Do you have a favorite filmmaker?
It may sound horrible, but I love Spike Lee. He gave so many people of different races and backgrounds opportunities simply through his own vision.
what genre of film do you want to create?
I want to cater to particular audiences such as women and the African-American community, but I don't want to be pigeonholed. I want to cover all genres.
What inspires you when you write your films?
Experiences. You can't write about things that you haven't experienced. You can try, but if you haven't gone through anything, it's hard to write about it.
Are you frustrated with the lack of minority representation in the film community?
Sometimes it's hard to think that it's feasible [to be successful]. There's not a lot of African-American women involved in the backgrounds of film, so if you think about the numbers, it'll make you think maybe I need to reconsider some things. But the amount of passion I have for it is not even comparable.
What's your goal with your profession?
Ultimately, I hope to be able to open doors for other people. All I really want from my success is to give other people opportunities who otherwise wouldn't have had any. I want to help people who are normally pushed to the side to be involved with all facets of the film industry.