Fifteen Minutes Chatting Wrinkle in Time with Ava DuVernay
It took me almost thirty minutes to write this title, and if I’m being honest I’m not loving it. I’ve thought about a million different titles and nothing seemed to be able to help me describe what I wanted to about this interview in a short snippet. When the invite dropped in my inbox for the #WrinkleInTimeEvent I was shocked. I was leaving in two days for the #BlackPantherEvent and already another one was in my inbox. I remember reading all the comments from people who were invited and how they were so excited about meeting Oprah, but all I could think about was Ava. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe meeting her was possible and with one email the possibility was within my grasp.
Once we received the interview list and it was confirmed we were going to be meeting Ava, I couldn’t wait. I’ve read so many great things about this woman and I hoped she would be everything people say she was. When we started our interviews one by one different people talked about how great she was to work with. They all poured out their hearts with admiration for their director and just from their words you could tell she had imprinted on them all. We were supposed to interview her after our lunch break but plans changed and she was moved up on our schedule. Typing this now I can still feel my heart racing waiting for her to walk in the room. She reached the doorway and we cheered. She immediately whipped out her phone and did an Instastory before starting our interview.
On Making A Children’s Film
According to Ava, all her films are her children, she chose to not have children so she put her blood into her movies knowing they are what she will leave behind in the world. Understanding they will be her legacy, she knows the importance of each of her projects. A Wrinkle in Time is unlike any of her other projects so we asked her about how she honored her intent to do a movie for children.
It was important that we approached the story in a way that we were always thinking of young people but then also with the young people that we had on set making sure that they felt safe, included and that their voices were being heard because I was really listening to them a lot about what’s cool and what do the kids wanna see. What they said surprised me.
They liked not to be talked down to and a lot of times in kids movies I found this with some of the people at the studio that were like it should be more jokes, kids like to laugh. Yes, kids like to laugh but kids also like to think. They like to feel and so the first thirty minutes of the movie it’s just about Meg. There’s no magic, for thirty minutes we make you sit down and sync into the heart of a young girl and she’s trying to figure out things, struggling at school, struggling with the bullies, struggling with an absentee father, all those things.
We demand that you just look at a girl for thirty minutes before the fantasy magic happens and that really came from Storm. It came from Levi, the boy who plays Calvin they were eleven and twelve and they talked about things kids were going through and it’s worth taking some time to look at that before you send them off flying.
On The Importance of Meg Murry
One thing that stuck with me during these interviews was listening to people talk about a statement made by Mindy Kaling about growing up and not seeing women like her on the screen in films.
Yeah, well there was something really pointed to me today and I almost started to cry at the press conference. Mindy said something really incredible. She said that she loved sci-fi growing up but sci-fi didn’t love her. She never got to see herself in it as a girl but particularly as a brown girl, specifically as an Indian girl with dark skin she said and so to be able to in a film where there are representations of her, representations like Storm was so important to her. I think it was the same thing for me. Storm’s a little girl from the inner city. We’ve moved the book to be in the inner-city, from the book to the movie.
A little girl from the inner-city who wears glasses, who doesn’t know how fantastic she is and I related to that. I remember being that. I remember dreaming about all the things I wanted to be and not knowing if I could be them. Not seeing anything in my world beyond my mom who loved me and my family who loved me to tell me you can do it and nothing else said you can do it. Nothing else said you can do it. School didn’t say you can do it. Society didn’t say you could do it. Nothing said you could do this. Nothing said you can be here and direct this movie. Nothing said that you can do any of it and so you have to find it in yourself and that’s what this book says. That’s what the movie is saying and so I related to Meg very much, very much.
On Having the Money to Express Creativity
During our interview, Ava shared with us the challenges of creating a film with a limited budget. In 2010 her directorial debut was done with only a $50,000 budget that she raised. The film ‘I Will Follow’ when on the win African-American Film Critics Association award for Best Screenplay. Her second film ‘Middle of Nowhere’ had an estimated budget of $200,000 and it went on to win a directing award from Sundance Film Festival along with twelve other awards and nineteen nominations. When she worked on Selma her budget was $20 million dollars but the director said she still faced many challenges in bringing that film to screen. She credits her producer Jim Whittaker for helping her secure everything she could ever imagine while creating the visually stunning A Wrinkle In Time.
Yeah well money helps. Money helps a lot. We made Selma for 20 million dollars and this was like a 120 million dollars and so when you make Selma and you try to do period clothes and violence and crowd shots and Dr. King and the clothes and the cars it’s expensive to do period films because you can’t just go out and get them off the street. Like they’re very specialty items so it’s hard to do that movie at that price point and a real change when I came here. My producer, Jim Whittaker who I love, it’s so important to call out the men who are just really good guys.
I was like God, this is gonna be a good shot. The cameras gonna move here but it’d be a bigger, better shot if I had a second crane. He was like oh, you want a second crane? Because like did you, were you saying you want a second crane? I said no, I was just — can I have a second crane? He’s like yeah, just tell us what you want and I was like I want a second crane. So, really cool and it was just like once I had to free myself to say I can ask them what I want and there’s actually budget to do it.
On Changing The World Through Storytelling
Oprah touched on how storytelling can change your view of the world. She talked about how a television show as able to get people to see the effects of domestic violence in a why she was working towards with talk show for years. Ava is able to shape how we see the world though her lens and we asked about how she wanted this film to change the world.
I really want it to be a seed that blossoms into something beautiful in young people about the way that we treat each other and the way that we see ourselves and the way that we’re seen and so that’s really what I’m hoping. I mean movies have the power to do that. Movies have the power to do things that politics doesn’t even do. It reminds me of the time when kids who had HIV would swim in a pool and they’d drain the pool ‘cause people didn’t even understand what that was and it wasn’t CDC reports or politicians that changed people’s minds about that.
It was images, stories. It was Philadelphia. It was Angles in America, the play. It was stories of human beings going through it that made people think oh, okay I don’t have to be afraid of this and so stories are powerful and so I believe in this story. I believe in this story to be able to plant seeds with young people at this time. There’s a lot of division and darkness in the world to be able to say you could be a light. Oprah always says it’s easier to for one light to illuminate a dark room. So if we were the darkness in this room and someone just turned on one candle there would be light in the air. But it’s really hard for darkness to drown out light.
While talking about how the movie could change the world, Ava used a line from the film from Mrs. Whatsit where she says she’s trying but humans are limited. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see how we can change things especially when we don’t understand them. According to Ava one of her goals with 13th was to use the documentary to help people understand how the system works hoping it would help us see a way to change it. She went on to talk about as adults we need to make sure that our light can still be seen and trying not to be cynical but to enjoy the magic of A Wrinkle In Time.
On Why She Learns The Names of Everyone on Her Crew
I mentioned earlier how everyone we talked with in our interview talked about how much they loved working with Ava. Rowan Blanchard went a step further when talking to us about her time shadowing the director while on set. Rowan who has aspirations of being a film directors said she was blessed to have the opportunity to shadow Ava and one thing she plans to do just like the director is to know all the names of the people on her crew. When we asked Ava about it, she simply responded with “Why not? Why wouldn’t I want to know their names. I used to be crew.”
On My Mindy Kaling Was Perfect for Mrs. Who
When you see the film you notice that Mindy Kaling’s character Mrs. Who is very distinctive. She speaks mainly in quotes from other people. We asked Ava was Mindy the person she always had in mind for this role.
Yeah, Mindy Kaling was the first person who came to my mind ‘cause I knew I wanted an African American Mrs, a Caucasian Mrs. but I also wanted a Mrs. that was something else and so first I was thinking Latina or an Asian Mrs. and then I thought Mindy Kaling because the part is interesting since she doesn’t say a lot and she speaks only in quotes for a long time so it was important to have like a comedic actress who can do a lot with a little, body language, looks, things like that. She comes from the comedy world so she was perfect for kind of like a Chaplin-esque like playing with not having a lot of words but she’s stunningly gorgeous.
On The Imprint She Wants Her Movies To Leave Behind
When you’re doing the kind of work Ava’s doing, it seems like being impressionable is a big deal. I can’t imagine being her and putting something you poured your heart and soul into only to find out that people have negative things to say about it. We wanted to know what kind of Imprint she hopes her movies leave on people.
I just want them to be meaningful. I don’t want them to be junk food where you come in, you see the movie and you walk out and you forget about it by the time you get to the car. I want the images to stick to your ribs like soul food right and I want you to think about the stories or get something from the narratives or the way that the camera moves or the way that something looks. Just try not to let it be empty calories but a meal and I think the only way to do that is to put love in every frame. I think people think I sacrifice something because I don’t have a family and I work all the time but it’s not work to me. It’s like I’m living my dream every day when I walk out of the door.
On What Brings Her Light In A Dark World
One of the last things we talked to Ava about was what brings her light in this world. I know that these interviews today will be on apart of the gratitudes she counts today and when she says her final number tonight us twenty-five bloggers will be one of those numbers. If you’ve ever spent anytime around this woman you can just feel her positive energy. It pours out of her and her aura is so beautiful.
What brings me light when I’m in a dark place? I do this thing all day and I don’t talk to a lot of people about it but I do this thing all day where I count gratitude so throughout the day at the end of the day when I say goodnights to myself and to the universe or to God I’ll say thirteen or forty seven or whatever and in that moment I can’t remember all the things they were but like I’ll count them. So today I’m on 19. You all are 20 right, about the things that I’m grateful for in this moment, right and some days you’re going through the day and you’re like I got three. Good night.
But it’s my little prayer and I count the little pieces of things that I have gratitude for, a smile, a person that lets me in the left turn lane when I know it was wrong and I shouldn’t have been there, a parking spot, just little things. If you just take a second to acknowledge it, it gives you a little jolt of joy, just the little pieces because I work so much and you guys have families and you got kids and so it’s hard to find the time, the vacation, the massage, the big joyful things, right. You just count them through the day and they give you a little kick.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have that time chatting with Ava because she was everything I had hoped for and more. It really warmed my heart to know that she’s exactly what I heard people say over and over again. She’s such a joy to be around and after this interview, I can see why anyone would want to work with this visionary creator.
ABOUT A WRINKLE IN TIME
From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.
Meg Murry is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who just wants to fit in. The daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace, but she has yet to realize it for herself. Complicating matters is the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Murry, which has left Meg devastated and her mother broken-hearted. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin to three celestial beings (Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who) who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they embark on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil force. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must face the darkness within herself in order to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness rapidly enveloping the Universe.
A Wrinkle In Time is now playing in theaters everywhere!