Nia DaCosta has known she’s wanted to be a director since she was 16 years old, because, as she put it in our interview, “I realized they’re the ones doing all the ‘stuff.’”

DaCosta has officially achieved her goal. In late April, her first feature film Little Woods premiered to adoring crowds at Tribeca Film Festival. It’s an unshakably strong thriller about two sisters set in a North Dakotan oil boom town, and it landed DaCosta the festival’s Nora Ephron Award, which is given to women filmmakers who embody the spirit of the late writer.

“Part of the reason I wanted to learn more about [North Dakota] and tell this story of the gendered experience of poverty,” DaCosta told us, “[Is because] there’s a lot of political discourse about women’s reproductive rights and health care, but it was never really human. And I was trying to get into the human aspect of it.”

A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School, for years DaCosta constantly wrote, studied writing in London, and worked any productions she could find. She got her big break in 2015 when she was accepted into the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, which would eventually lead her to write, workshop, direct, and finance Little Woods. “I’ve gotten lucky with the people who are involved in my first film,” she said. “My producers are amazing, my EPs are amazing, my creative investors are amazing, my actors are so wonderful and they are so behind the film.”

Little Woods stars Tessa Thompson and Lily James and has yet to be picked up for wider distribution, but it’s just a matter of time. Jezebel spoke with her in mid-April, just before Little Woods premiered at Tribeca, about her ambitions, her future, and the importance of nuance in inclusion. “Complicated women with agency,” she said, “is my M.O.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated DaCosta’s college major. Jezebel regrets the error.

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Producer: Phoebe Bradford, Associate Producer: Zoe Stahl