For year, the story of Frozen has inspired millions of children. The Oscar-winning screenwriter Jennifer Lee of that movie was also the writer of A Wrinkle in Time. She’s a passionate, creative, working mother who I just loved. Here’s what she shared with our group.
On Writing the Screenplay for A Wrinkle in Time
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was when she shared the process of writing the film and getting it to screen.
I tend to write in the mornings and then I can edit and give notes, some things in the afternoons. So it was my morning writing time. But then I would go into animation in the afternoons and do that part of my job as well. So for me it was more of like an every morning thing. But I spent about a year and a half to almost two years, just writing. And doing – and I would show – I worked very closely with Jim Whittaker and Catherine Hand, the producers, creatively. And then with the studio, getting notes. And what I loved is the notes were always about deepening.
And then there comes a time where they go out to directors and look for interest. And I had thought of Ava, only ’cause I thought that’s what it’s gonna take. But what you really need is someone who could be very evocative and make you feel something that you never felt before. Do it in such a way that is so grounded in truth. And when they brought her in, I was shocked and couldn’t have been more thrilled.
So then we go to the next phase, which is we work with her [and] it becomes her film, it has to be. And she didn’t even have to keep me on, she could have rewritten it herself. She’s an amazing writer. But luckily she wanted to keep me around.
On Her Journey to Becoming a Screenwriter
What inspired you to become a screenwriter?
When I was little I was drawing all the time. I love Disney, I thought maybe, oh, I could be an animator. But I wasn’t a good enough artist. But I was always drawing. And then I was always writing things but they would gel. But it was like, there’s something inside, I was running sagas in my head. I would have these like epic journeys going on at night, to fall asleep. And one day I wrote a scene down.
I overheard something and I just started writing it. And I turned it into a scene. And I went, oh my god. Like this is the thing that I’ve been looking for, was the kind of writing that film is. What you can see, what you can hear, and what you can say. And like the reducing it that way, having those limitations, did something. And I had already been a visual artist so I knew there was – I was a visual thinker. But I was 30 when I went to film school. And I’d had a whole decade in book publishing. So for me I came to it late. But it was certainly the signs of saying, Oh, I was drawing as a kid but if I look back, I was drawing stories.
On How She Sees Her Work Impacting Daughter
I grew up a kid who didn’t think much of herself. I had very little self esteem and spent a lot of time criticizing myself and thinking I wasn’t good enough to do things. I would look at others and think, this is what you have to be. And all of that preoccupation with that, all I could have been doing. If I’d just gotten to go, you are fine as you are, just focus on what you’d want to do and how you want to participate in the world.
And I have a daughter now who is a teenager. She’s 14 and a half and five foot eight, and looks down on me. But she has a confidence I didn’t have. And she doesn’t have a blind confidence, though. She has a confidence where she could take criticism, where she can look and say, that’s not my strength, but I’m inspired to do this. She has no problem just going for something and with no expectation of success. She just wants to be a part of it.
And I hope that doesn’t change as high school bears down on her more and more. But I think it’s saying, participate in the world, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be a part of it, and be willing to try and be open. And I think of all she might be capable of doing. It won’t take her till she’s 30 to know what she wanted to do – I think I’d be a happy mom.
Funny aside – our group was on the red carpet before the movie premiere. Jennifer was being interviewed right near where we were walking and taking photos. You can see this photo get taken during this video.