AA: You've had some pretty cool pop culture appearances
recently with the Pirelli calendar and having your own Barbie,
which sold out. What do you think of those? Are they a good thing
for moving the conversation of diversity forward, or are they
AD: No, I don't feel that, but I also don't
feel that they're earth-shattering. I feel like to move the
conversation forward, to change the way we see each other, to
restitch the fabric of this country in all the things we're doing,
we need to look at every thread. This is one of the threads. The
way that we see each other -- who's making the image, who's in
charge of making the image, whose image do we see? If I can be in a
place where my image is encouraging people to see different people
behind the camera, and my image and the images I make can help open
up a certain world view, I think that's all a part of a larger
spirit of change and progress and I'm happy to be part of it.
AA: You've been outspoken figure on the lack of female
representation in Hollywood and directing. It's a complicated
issue, but what are your thoughts on what needs to be done? Is
there a starting point?
AD: Not really. When I get asked that question
it's like someone asking me, "How do you put an end to racism?"
These are deeply rooted systemic problems. They are the ills of our
society that I don't propose to even know what the starting point
is. That kind of prescriptive talk gets pedestrian after a while.
What we all need to do is to do our part. There are some people
whose part is policy, there are some people whose part is the art,
there are some people who make changes within their own family,
there are people who make changes in their own selves. It's a
centuries-old challenge, whether we're looking at discrepancies and
imbalance regarding people of color, women, sexuality, gender
We're at a time right now where we're talking about all of this.
To do so is important and I'm happy to be alive and making work and
being a creative person at this time when it feels like
everything's coming into the open and people are really discovering
things about each other and themselves. But to know where to start
is not for me to say. I know where I will start. I start through my
work, through my creative energy and through my storytelling.
Hopefully, everyone's activated to do their part, that's where real
change comes, I think.
AA: Outside of directing film and television, you also
directed a campaign for Apple Music, the first spot of which was
arguably the most talked about thing at the Emmys. What was your
experience on that like? What are your thoughts about directing
AD: Apple was so fun. I'm selective; I've done
it before. I did a campaign for Miu Miu and Prada a couple years
ago called "The Door." It was a short film format. I really like
it. I think some of the best creativity happens within limits. I
consider that to be true of advertising; it's certainly true in
film. It's true of this kind of visual medium. In film, television,
commercial work, we are restricted by what we can do, so to be able
to push the boundaries of your creativity within a spot is fun and
challenging, especially when you have a certain specs the client
wants. I don't do commercials for a living, so if I'm doing it,
then [the client] must want my voice so I'm trying to insert my
voice into their message. Apple, I was really happy about that. I
was able to get across what I wanted to, communicate some images
that I thought were important and vital to see within the message
of the product. It was a lot of fun and I got to work with some
AA: What was "you" about that project?
AD: It was a celebration of womanhood,
specifically, black womanhood. The parallels are pretty obvious. We
don't see as much as we would like, [images of] women being friends
and free and unaffected by what men are doing, free of any kind of
male influence. They're just having a good time with each other.
And for those to be black women, those images are not something
that I ordinarily see. We're seeing it a little more here and
there, but when it happens, it reverberates. I was happy to be
involved in that one.
AA: In your previous life you worked in publicity and
marketing. Do you think your experience in that field has had an
impact on your work today?
AD: I'm not sure. I owned my own agency for
twelve years. I ran a business to be in service of my client, but I
really embraced the idea that if you're coming to me, you want my
opinion and my perspective about how to do this. I represented
everyone from Dreamworks to Target. I always embraced the idea of
inserting my point of view in how to help a client tell their
Now I tell my own stories and I think that practice at that time
as a publicist, a marketer and an agency owner was really an
exercise for me in working out my creative muscles. So when it was
time for me to do it on my own, I had a really clear idea of what
my voice was and the way to go about things.
I don't think about marketing when I'm writing, because I feel
confident that I know how to sell anything. Because I know that
essentially to sell something is for it to have an authentic voice,
and I know anything I'm doing is authentic in my voice, so I never
have a fear of anything I'm doing won't sell. It may not sell big,
it may not be a blockbuster, but I know that what I like, at least
a handful of people out there are going to like. I feel really
comfortable in a lot of those things as an artist. I think a lot of
artists have a fear around "will this connect with people." I think
[from] being a marketer and a publicist, if you're coming from an
authentic place, [you know] this will connect.
AA: So many people, advertisers, talk about authenticity
now. In marketing it seems everyone's striving to be
AD: It can't be contrived. So even the
conversation about authenticity, in an of itself, is disingenuous.
People are trying to manufacture authenticity, and it comes from a
very specific place. With that said, I feel comfortable because of
my marketing background, I know if it's authentic, it will sell, it
will connect and as along as I'm being authentic in my voice I'm
gonna be okay.
AA: How would you define creativity?
AD: Creativity is an energy. It's a precious
energy and it's something to be protected. A lot of people take for
granted that they're a creative person, but I know from experience,
feeling it in myself, it is a magic, it is an energy. And it can't
be taken for granted. It needs to be nurtured and developed and
exercised and celebrated. It's like your significant other; you
can't neglect it -- because it will go away. Many of us know people
in which it has waned or in which it has strengthened and become
more powerful over the years. I see it really as something that I
try in myself to preserve and make sure to hold on to.
AA: Who, or what are you most inspired by these
AD: I'm a big people watcher and a people
talker. The beautiful thing about being an artist and a creative
person is that you can get an idea from anywhere, and I'm always on
the hunt for them. Even when I go to get gas, or I'm just driving
in my car, or in an elevator, my biggest inspiration comes from
observing because you walk out the door and there's a billion
stories. It's perfect. The world will give you exactly what you
AA: If you could give one piece of advice looking to
girls or women looking to succeed in entertainment -- or any career
for that matter -- what would that be?
AD: It would be to not ask for permission. Many of us, people of
color, women, people who are outside the mainstream adopted
culture, are trained and socialized to be permission based.
Especially as a filmmaker -- someone needs to authenticate your
script, you need to be represented by an agency, a studio needs to
want to make it, someone needs to want to finance it before you can
let your voice be seen and heard. Those are all permissions, so [we
need to] in wherever place we are, strip away our need for the
permission. Sometimes it's hard to figure it out -- for me it was
being an independent filmmaker, taking away the studio layer, the
rep layer, all the things I didn't have that I felt were holding me
back because I didn't have those permissions. [Once I did that] I
was able to make things and move and that's how things started to
progress for me. So don't wait for permission. There's no one to
ask and you have to do the thing you want to do.
AA: What are you looking forward to most for next
AD: More stories to tell and hopefully that I
get the chance to tell them. Making my first foray into television,
a new film. Just more stories. I want to be an old lady with my
cane shouting "Action!" and "Cut!"