When I received the invitation to attend the A Wrinkle in Time premiere, I thought meeting Oprah would be the most impactful moment of the experience. I noted that we were meeting the director, Ava DuVernay, but I didn’t know much about her beyond that she had directed the Oscar-nominated movie Selma.
Knowing what I know now, I am ashamed to admit that.
Because Ava DuVernay should be a name that every single American knows. I fully except that before long, her name will be listed in the same breath with other great directors like Steven Spielburg and Ron Howard.
And she won’t be known just for her work, which is spectacular.
She will be known for the way she pushed America to talk about race and be more inclusive.
She will be known for breaking a glass ceiling in Hollywood, where male directors make up more than 90% of the field.
She will be known for the ways she generously served other people – through non-profit work, diversity initiatives, on her own sets and more.
She will be known for her passion.
She will be known for the way she treated people with kindness.
Ava DuVernay affected me in a way in so many unexpected ways. She was the single best part of my trip to LA for the A Wrinkle in Time press junket. I can’t stop gushing about her. I can’t stop replaying her words in my head and to others. When people ask me about Oprah and Reese, I reply, “but let me tell you about Ava. You have to know about Ava.”
If you haven’t seen Selma, her Emmy-winning documentary 13th (available on Netflix), and now A Wrinkle in Time, you must rectify this. Her movies are so important.
The transcript from our interview with Ava was nearly 20 pages long, so I am only going to be able to share some of the highlights here. After reading this, go to YouTube and watch some interviews with her.
On Making a Film for Children
A Wrinkle in Time is geared toward children eight and above (see my full review here.) Ava was very specific that this is a movie for kids. We asked her how she honored that intention while making the film.
I really wanted to make a film for kids right now. I don’t have children by choice. I always said that my film are my children. You know, I put my blood into them. It’s really what has my name on it. It’s what I’ll leave behind in the world and so to be able to make something specifically for kids today, something that I hope endures for kids for a long time to come was very emotional to me.
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, what do the kids want to see, [etc.].
On the Character of Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is a wonderful character in the A Wrinkle in Time book, but the movie really takes her to another level. It’s clear a lot of thought went into her character development. I also love the intentional choice to cast a biracial girl as the lead. One person asked, your interpretation of Meg felt so personal. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you interpreted her and what of you went into Meg?
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, you know. 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. You know, 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 Her Legacy as a Filmmaker
I asked her about what she thinks about when she thinks about her legacy and her work. From the documentary 13th to A Wrinkle in Time, the scope and style of her work is enormous. I loved what she had to say on this, particularly about how she works through the lens of love. What would our lives look like if we all pursued work with a love mentality?
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, 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. You know, 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.
My dream was this. Some people’s dreams is family and children. My dream was making movies to leave in the world. I get to do that every day and I get to have family on set. They know my name. I know their name. I walk up to the set and I get love from hundreds of people every day who are happy to be there and happy to do their work. I hope some of the way the films I’m making leave a mark but also the way we made them. The way we made them leave some mark so that more people can do it this way, more inclusive where more people feel like they belong.
On Practicing Gratitude
What brings you light when you are in a dark place?
I do this thing all day where I count gratitude so throughout the day so 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 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. But it’s my little prayer, and I count for gratitude 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, the parking spot there, 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.
The most honest thing I can say about Ava is that to every person she meets, she makes them feel seen and known. She is friends with many incredible influencers and celebrities, but she was truly delighted to be in a room with us, a bunch of “normal” women, most of whom were moms.
During our interview and while I waited to speak with her at the premiere after party, I noticed how Ava looked directly into each person’s eyes when they spoke. She hugged and laughed and teared up. She is smart, funny and honest. Ava DuVernay is full of light in a way that you rarely encounter. I am tearing up writing this because she is *soul* beautiful. And her fingerprints make the movie A Wrinkle in Time a beautiful thing to experience.
A Wrinkle in Time is open in theaters nationwide. I hope you will go see the movie and tell me what you think.