Ava DuVernay Celebrates Emerging Filmmakers at AT&T Shape Conference

Courtesy of AT&T

In a surprise decision, three directors split the top prize at the fourth AT&T Film Awards.

It was a true win-win-win situation at the fourth AT&T Film Awards.

Ava DuVernay co-hosted the Saturday afternoon event on the Warner Bros. lot with AT&T president of mobility and entertainment David Christopher, introducing a trio of short films from three finalists for the $20,000 top Emerging Filmmakers prize.

The 10-minute shorts were not restricted to any genre, and the variety showed: Bola Ogun's comedy Are We Good Parents?, starring Tracie Thoms and Once Upon a Time's Sean Maguire, drew continuous laugh-out-loud moments from the audience; Jonah Ansell's animated fable Moose (narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) had the filmmaker himself choking up onstage during his brief chat with DuVernay; and Cameo Wood's Real Artists (based on Ken Liu's short story of the same name), starring Tiffany Hines and Tamlyn Tomita, was a chilling exploration of art and artificial intelligence.

The final determination of the winner was to be done live via audience text-in vote, but as the results began to roll in on the big screen in front of the three finalists onstage, Christopher quickly called an audible and decided to award $20,000 each to Ogun, Ansell and Wood. With joyful tears they were quickly swept up in a group hug with DuVernay, who earlier that day had met with them for a brief mentoring session.

"That's the reason I [did this event]," said the busy director, who will next shoot Central Park Five this summer in New York. "When I speak with younger filmmakers, I ask them to interrogate what they really want. The trappings of Hollywood have changed people's idea about success — that Oscar, that Emmy, that red carpet. It's when you start to unhinge that piece that you see that you have everything you need, and what you really want is someone to hear your story."

The Film Awards were part of the AT&T Shape, a two-day event that included interactive demonstrations of cutting-edge technology with filmmaking applications, including Ericsson 5G, the RED Hydrogen One holographic smartphone and AT&T's Flying COW drone. Other presentations included conversations with Issa Rae and Sean Combs.