“I want A Wrinkle In Time to be a seed that blossoms into something beautiful in young people,” Ava DuVernay shares. How awesome would it be if more people were the light in the room, in all of the darkness? That’s the real story behind A Wrinkle in Time. Ava DuVernay is a warrior woman. She is real. If you’re unable to see the great message in this film – that’s geared towards lighting a spark in young kids – maybe your own light is crowded by darkness.
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are my own.
The Light in the Darkness
Where was Ava DuVernay’s powerful words when I was growing up? I’m going to be raw here for a moment….I did not believe in myself for a really, really long time. I felt average, I felt square. I still am square. LOL! But when I was younger, school came easy to me. I made straight A’s and sometimes B’s. I had friends, I had a good family. However, as time went on, that family crumbled. My parents divorce hit me like a ton of bricks where I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I sought love elsewhere because my family was ripped apart. I was depressed to the point that my hair was falling out. I felt defeated. How could I get my parents back together? Everything would be fine if they would just reconcile. That never happened.
My dad encouraged me to go to modeling school. I was fascinated by the Hollywood life. The school was really a bust, but I did start working as a model from age 16 to my early 20’s. The Orlando area wasn’t the right space for modeling though. I did a fitness catalog, hair shows, and other gigs. I still lacked confidence. Modeling is a hard space to be in. You are constantly comparing yourself to others. You get a lot of rejection too. If you’re not confident, you won’t make it.
Having an anxiety disorder didn’t help either. Nor did being in an abusive relationship for years. That relationship made me into a shell of who I used to be. I couldn’t think for myself. That’s what an abuser does. It took a long time to break-free, but eventually I did. That seems like a lifetime ago. Thankfully, I sought counseling and moved on with my life. I am a new person, a better person for going through those struggles. I’m now happily married with 2 beautiful sons, and live an amazing life. However, that doesn’t mean those inner demons are gone. They exist, but I have to work through them. I have to continue to remind myself that I am enough….that those words he said to me all those years ago are wrong. My husband believes in me. He thinks I am enough, so I have to remind myself of that. I will be my own light. And I will pass that message onto my young, impressionable boys that I’m raising – because young people need to hear that.
Exclusive Ava DuVernay Interview
Although Ava’s passion was to make a film “specifically for kids today,” my inner-child still learned a powerful lesson. Humans are very limited. We have to make the choice to be the light because it’s so easy to follow the rest of the crowd to darkness. It’s easier to be negative, hurtful, angry, use and abuse, but when you choose to be different from the rest. To believe in yourself – that you alone can make a difference. “You don’t have to be Gandhi. You don’t have to be King. You don’t have to be Malala,” Ava said. Adding, “[when] you don’t talk about people and you behave the right way – you grow up to be empathetic…a whole hearted person in the world,” and that starts now. A lot of the times I feel different than most – usually because I’m in my head, that’s what living with anxiety feels like. So, it was nice to remind myself that it’s okay for me to be myself…that having Christian values and morals is acceptable.
Although Ava doesn’t have kids, her films are her children. Sharing, “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.” Ava mentioned, “we (Ava and Frozen writer, Jennifer Lee) 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. They liked not to be talked down to and kids like to laugh, but kids also like to think. We demand that you just look at girl for 30 minutes before the fantasy magic happens and so that really came from Storm. It came from Levi, the boy who plays Calvin saying [what] kids were going through. It’s worth taking some time to look at that before you send them off flying.”
Rowan Blanchard who plays a high school bully in the film shared that Ava allowed her to shadow her as a director and learn from her, saying Ava is “loyal to everybody and she succeeds because she brings people up with her.” We shared that with Ava and her reply was simply powerful, “I mean why would I not? I used to be a crew member. I used to be a publicist and I would on to sets and I would be only one of the few women and probably the only black woman so many times, but regardless of who I was like so many directors just didn’t know their crew members’ names. I thought how disrespectful. These people were here before you got out of your trailer. You know, this is someone’s father or mother who’s been here since five o’clock in the morning. Everyone’s working hard. It’s the culture of a lot of industries in this country.”
Ava had a message for all the critics, “This is not Selma (another film Ava directed) in space. This is for the kids. Are you that cynical that you can’t just smile when the girl flies? You know, can you not smile at a talking flower? Can you not? Like when you see those women standing in that wheat field and the camera goes over the grass and over and just be like that’s beautiful. Are you that hard that you can’t even see that? And so hopefully there are people who see it and it doesn’t have to be a lot of people.”
Ava related to Meg’s character. It was personal to her. Ava shared, “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. So you have to find it in yourself and that’s what this book says….that’s what the movie is saying.”
Regarding the Mrs characters, Ava shared that she intentionally picked out three different races. Saying, “I wanted an African American Mrs, a Caucasian Mrs. but I also wanted a Mrs. that was something else…Latina or an Asian Mrs. and then I thought oh, gosh Mindy Kaling!” Read more about that interview with Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy here.
We also asked Ava “The scope of work that you’ve done, documentaries, kids movies, they all have heart in a different way. I’m curious if you think about that for every film that you want your Ava stamp to look like this.” Ava’s response was perfect, “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.” Adding, “My dream was making movies to leave in the world and so I get to do that every day and I get to have family on set.”
Regarding the difficulty of making a classic book into a movie, and choosing what parts to eliminate, Ava shared, “it’s a book that a lot of people know. It’s adored for generations and so it’s been challenging. It’s challenging to try to figure out gosh, so many people love this book. What do you keep out? What do you do? But I thought to myself I had to rewrite the speeches of Dr. King for Selma because we didn’t have rights to the speeches. I had to rewrite those speeches and what I did there was just looked at this intention. What did Dr. King intent to say? It was the same thing here with Madeleine L’Engle. What did she intent to say to kids? What did she wanna get across? Am I getting that feeling across?”
What brings Ava DuVernay light when she’s 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 throughout the day. So at the end of the day when I say goodnight to myself and to the universe or to God I’ll say thirteen or forty seven or whatever. 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.”
Every single woman in that room had a teary eye at one point or another during Ava’s interview. She is truly magical. She is inspiring. The rest of our day was filled with gratitude because we got a piece of Ava DuVernay. It was such an incredible opportunity! Now go watch Selma, and 13th (on Netflix) and you will get an even stronger sense of who this SHE warrior is. We need more of her in this lifetime, and I’m so grateful for her influence.