Here's How Much Ava DuVernay Is Worth

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay tells stories for a living. In her early thirties, DuVernay began making documentaries, eventually leading her to producing and directing full-length feature films, television series, and podcasts, and she's broken new ground in the industry as a Black female filmmaker. Most of her work centers on the lives of women and people of color, as DuVernay raises the voices of traditionally underrepresented groups in Hollywood, and the sum of her portfolio has earned her an estimated $60 million net worth, per Celebrity Net Worth.

DuVernay's career has been incredibly profitable, but she wasn't always working in film (but more on that below). "For me to pick up a camera as a Black woman who did not go to film school — this is a testament to whatever path you're on right now is not necessarily the path you have to stay on," the acclaimed artist told Refinery29 in 2018. "If you're on a path that's not the one that you want to be on, you can also pivot."

Keep reading to discover how Ava DuVernay funded her way into a new career and climbed to the top of an industry in which she had no formal education, which all led to the financial success she has now.

Ava DuVernay self-funded her first film

While Ava DuVernay is one of Hollywood's most formidable filmmakers now, her career didn't begin in cinema. Before working in film, DuVernay was running her own public relations firm, where she represented filmmakers. "When people tell [my story], it's about race and gender, 'Black woman director,' but my story's also really about age, because I didn't pick up a camera until I was 32," she told Refinery 29.

Basically? Filmmaking is a lucrative job for DuVernay now, but it started as just a side gig. She told Elle, "I knew that as a Black woman in this industry, I wouldn't have people knocking down my door to give me money for my projects, so I was happy to make them on the side while working my day job."

DuVernay's first film was a documentary short called "Saturday Night Life" in 2006, and she spent $6,000 of her own money to produce it, per Colorado State University. As she explained, "I was always around [filmmakers]. I [started thinking], 'They're just regular people, like me, with ideas. I've got ideas.' That's literally how it started." DuVernay continued making documentaries since she was able to self-fund the projects, but she did eventually transition to making full-length films. Her first was 2010's "I Will Follow," which cost her $50,000. That's one expensive hobby.

How she made history in Hollywood

Ava DuVernay made history by becoming the first Black woman to direct a film with a budget of $100 million. Deadline first broke the news that DuVernay had signed a deal with Disney to direct the film adaptation of the novel "A Wrinkle in Time," but the news about its budget came later. Despite its high production budget, "A Wrinkle in Time" unfortunately didn't gross much when it hit theatres in 2018 (nor was it hit a hit among critics). According to Yahoo! Finance, the studio "lost between $86 million and $186 million" on the project. 

DuVernay's concern making the film had nothing to do with its budget, though. The director had lost her stepfather just before production began, and ensuring he would have been proud of the film was more important to DuVernay. As she told The New York Times, "I feel like the film is looking for him in a way. And that's why I don't care what anybody thinks about it. ... I don't feel pressure about the whole first, blah blah blah. I know it's $100 million for the studio. They'll be fine." 

And she was right — Disney would be fine. For reference, it's estimated that Disney theme parks made nearly $20 million per day in 2018. While Disney lost money on the film, DuVernay came out richer, and she used her funds to build her production compound, noting, "This is the house that 'Wrinkle' built."

Inside Ava DuVernay's work with Warner Bros

After directing "A Wrinkle in Time," Ava DuVernay signed on with Warner Bros to direct her second $100 million budget film, "The New Gods," per Deadline. However, just a few years after the project was announced, the studio revealed they wouldn't be moving forward with it, as told by The Hollywood Reporter.

DuVernay's work with Warner Bros didn't end with the scrapping of "The New Gods," though. Shortly after she signed on to direct the film in 2018, the filmmaker landed a deal with the studio worth $100 million to produce content spanning genres, according to Deadline. She told the outlet, "Warner Bros is a terrific partner about matters of visibility and belonging for all kinds and cultures of people."

DuVernay earns a handsome living directing movies, but she cares far more about the stories she's telling than the money she's making. "If they won't let me make films at a certain point, I can still make them indie," she explained to The Washington Post. "If I can't make films, I'll make TV. If I can't make TV, I'll do commercials. I'll do the installation at the Smithsonian. I'll do the Prada ad." Something tells us she'll be able to keep making films.

Ava DuVernay signed contracts with other major media companies

Warner Bros isn't the only major company Ava DuVernay has signed a contract with. The filmmaker has also worked with media juggernauts Netflix and Spotify to produce original content. 

DuVernay's partnership with Netflix began when they reached out to her in search of work for their viewers. DuVernay worked with the streaming service to produce the 2016 documentary, "13th," which "analyze[s] the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom," according to Netflix. DuVernay also worked with the company to produce 2021's "Colin in Black & White," a documentary about football player Colin Kaepernick, known for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. This project began amidst Netflix's commitment to support Black communities with a $100 million pledge, per CNBC. DuVernay previously told Variety that Netflix is the first place she's worked where they're willing to spend the money necessary to support her vision, noting, "It truly is a safe, productive artist space."

In early 2021, DuVernay signed a deal with Spotify to produce podcasts, per The Hollywood Reporter. The specific amount of her contract was not disclosed, but given the amount the company has paid other podcasters, the deal is likely very lucrative. Per Variety, Alex Cooper, host of the "Call Her Daddy" podcast, signed a three-year deal with Spotify for $60 million in mid-2021, moving from Barstool Sports to the music streaming service. DuVernay's could very well be in the same range.

Inside her speaking engagements and awards

In addition to directing, writing, and producing scripted films, TV shows, documentaries, and podcasts, Ava DuVernay works as a keynote speaker. While this clearly isn't her full-time job (we're not sure how she has time to do anything outside of filming), she does net a large sum of money for these events. According to All American Entertainment Speakers, DuVernay charges $100,000-$200,000 per speaking engagement.

DuVernay has spoken at high-profile conferences like SXSW and BlogHer, and in order to speak at such functions, the keynote needs credentials. Not only has the filmmaker produced a litany of works, she's also earned prestigious awards. DuVernay was nominated for an Oscar and won an Emmy Award for her work on "13th," among others.

While DuVernay didn't directly earn money from her Emmy Award, she did get paid for another award, the Gish Prize, which is given to artists who have "made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life," per the prize's website. DuVernay was awarded $250,000 for her win in 2020, according to The New York Times.

Ava DuVernay is helping the next generation

Ava DuVernay had to claw her way into filmmaking, but now she's making sure others are given the opportunity to be seen and heard through her foundation, Array, formally known as AFFRM. "Our work is dedicated to the amplification of independent films by people of color and women filmmakers globally," per their website. In 2015, DuVernay hosted a conversation on Twitter, noting, "Every dollar goes to the distribution of films by moviemakers ignored by studios."

But DuVernay's efforts to give back don't end there. In 2021, the director teamed up with Google to create a $500,000 film grant to be given to a woman or person of color, per Forbes. "It's a full-circle moment to have started with a $50,000 budget film as a filmmaker myself and, 10 years later ... to be able to give half a million dollars to a filmmaker to make something," DuVernay told the outlet.

Not only does DuVernay want to help others make movies, she wants to continue making them herself, for as long as she can. As she told The Cut, "My biggest goal is to achieve longevity. ... I want to be a senior citizen making films my way, with my vision, telling stories."

The filmmaker's real estate deals

Ava DuVernay has a lot of money to spend. And while keeps her personal life private, real estate transactions are public information. In July 2021, the filmmaker sold her Hollywood Hills home for $2.06 million after purchasing it for $1.85 million in 2017, per the Los Angeles Times. The house is a modern estate with gorgeous views of the city.

At the time of this writing, DuVernay currently lives in a home she purchased from fellow producer Josh Schwartz, the man responsible for iconic teen dramas "The O.C." and "Gossip Girl," among other successful television shows. The transaction came in just under $10 million, per Dirt. According to Architectural Digest, the house is equipped with a movie theater, swimming pool, and guest house (a fitting amenity for the creator of "The O.C.").

The filmmaker loves to look at real estate, too, even when she's not in the market. DuVernay told The Cut she frequently browses real estate website Zillow, adding, "I'm just like, 'Hey, I want to see what people are doing in Nebraska. Let me find a Zip code and get in their house.' That's literally my pastime. It's ridiculous." We love browsing Zillow, too, Ava — though, we don't have quite as big a budget.

How Ava DuVernay spends her money

Ava DuVernay isn't always spending her money on multi-million dollar homes. More often, she's traveling or buying luxury beauty products. As she told Vanity Fair, DuVernay's makeup brand of choice is Nars, the products of which range in price, but can cost over $70 for a single item. 

As far as her love of travel goes, she explained to Conde Nast Traveler, "Traveling is a spiritual practice for me. It connects me to a higher power." The director has traveled all over the world, and with other famous people: Back in 2015, DuVernay joined Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King on vacation to an undisclosed location, but we're sure it was fabulous — and expensive. Her favorite destination, though, is Mali, as she told Carlos Watson. For reference, round-trip flights to Mali from Los Angeles typically range in price from around $1,100 to $10,600, depending on the day. No matter the variables, it's not a cheap flight.

Despite all the luxuries DuVernay can afford, her favorite part of her job is truly the work. As she told The Cut, "I am living my dream and doing the thing that I always wanted to do ... and I love it."