Ava DuVernay is the mastermind and director of Disney’s newest film, A Wrinkle In Time. Not only is she talented, gorgeous, but passionate about leaving behind a thought-provoking legacy and her footprint in this world through her films. You can read my interview with this visionary and incredible African-American woman that wants us all to be a warrior, spread kindness, and count gratitude. 

A Wrinkle In Time Red Carpet and Party

The Impact Ava DuVernay Left On Me + How She’s Changing The World- One Film At A Time

Last night I had a dream I was sitting in my mom’s high school classroom working on this very post about interviewing Ava. I remember I was amped and ecstatic as I told my her all about Ava. “Mom, she is amazing. You would have loved her! She is a visionary just like you!” 

My mom has been gone four years now, but her legacy continues to live on. She was a visionary. She didn’t have the platform that Ava has, but she was passionate about what she believed, and never took no as the final answer. 

As I woke up thinking about the legacy my mom left, and those shoes I cannot fill, it brought me full circle to Ava DuVerany.  Ava is an extraordinary visionary. She didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth, everything that she has, she worked to get- including her latest work, Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time. She’s the first African-American director to direct a film with a 100 million plus budget. But before Wrinkle, Ava was making a name for herself with Selma, which garnered her a nomination for a Golden Globe and an Oscar. You can easily google Ava to read about all of her fantastic work, including the moving and powerful documentary, 13th. 

When I received the invitation to attend the Wrinkle In Time premiere, I crossed my fingers, hoping that we would get the opportunity to interview Ava. While interviewing Oprah was icing on the cake, Ava’s interview was the meat and potatoes. 

She dropped so many thought-provoking and heart-changing gems in our interview, I’m going to do my best to highlight those while sharing what we talked about in our interview. {this piece is long, because I really did not want to leave anything out!} 

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

When Ava walked in the room, we erupted into clapping and cheering. And because Ava is one that appreciates everyone, she was taken back, but quickly pulled out her phone to put us on her Instagram stories. She later told us that we were number 20 today. Keep reading on to find out what that means. 

Working Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay and Storm Reid on the set of Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.

This film is for kids 

“Yeah, I just really wanted to make a film for kids right now. I don’t have children. I don’t have children by choice. I always said that my films 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.” 

A Wrinkle In Time Storm Reid as Meg Murray

Ava DuVernay and Storm Reid on the set of Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.

On working with young people on set

“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 wanna see, you know. What they said surprised me.” They liked not to be talked down to and a lot of times in kids movies, they’re always trying to (make)  jokes, kids like to laugh. Yes, kids like to laugh but kids also like to think. They (also) like to feel; the first 30 minutes of the movie it’s just about Meg. There’s no magic. For 30 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.”

'A Wrinkle In Time' Press Conference

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 25: (L-R) Actor Oprah Winfrey, Director Ava DuVernay and Actor Storm Reid participate in the press conference for Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in Hollywood, CA on March 25, 2018 (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Oprah Winfrey; Ava DuVernay; Storm Reid

Representation Matters

“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.”

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

On directing Selma with a smaller budget

As I mentioned earlier, Ava is the first AA woman to work with a 100 million plus budget. She shares with us the differences on directing with a smaller budget, compared to a bigger budget. I’m impressed by how she is able to take nothing and turn it into something (referring to Selma’s budget). But that’s what black women do. We have learned to work with nothing and turn it into something amazing. 

“Well, money helps. Money helps a lot. We made Selma for 20 million dollars and this (Wrinkle) was like a 120 million dollars. When you make Selma and you try to do period clothes and, you know, 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 this price point, that price point and a real change when I came here and I remember one day I was saying god, my producer, Jim Whittaker who I love, so important to call out the men who are just really good guys.

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Chris Pine and Ava DuVernay on the set of Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Jim Whittaker, I was like god, you know, this is gonna be a good shot, you know. The camera’s not here but it’d be a bigger, better if I had a second crane and doing this. 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 a budget to do it.

I remember on Selma there’s a scene where they’re crossing the bridge and, the bad folks in the town, the racists’ people have these horses attack the marchers. In real life, it was 57 horses but I remember the producer that day said Ava, we just don’t have enough money. You’ve got five horses. I said how am I gonna make five horses look like 57 horses?  They were like this is all we’ve got. And so we made it work with five horses, but like this is the kind of movie where if I needed 57 horses there were gonna be 67 horses just in case Teddy got sick. Like it was like that.”

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

How A Wrinkle In Time will 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. 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. You know, 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 and that if your individual light shines. 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 light to drown out– darkness to drown out light.

Like I said one candle could light up this whole room, right? And so the idea that we could each be that light and if there were more of us to think that way if we start with young people now like 13th. Part of what I want to do with that documentary is understanding how the system works now. If we all really understand it then maybe we can do something about it then maybe we can do something about it. It’s like if you could say to kids if you could understand that you alone, you alone can make a difference just in your world. You don’t have to be Gandhi. You don’t have to be King. You don’t have to be Malala. In your day, when you go to school when you see a kid being bullied, and you don’t talk about people and you behave the right way and you grow up to be empathetic, wholehearted person in the world you have to start right now.

That doesn’t change. We don’t change that much. Mrs. Whatsit says in the film, I’m trying but they’re human and very limited. It’s like it’s real, you know, what I mean. All of you I could see it in your eyes. It’s like I could see the girls in you that were, that was something in you. There are some adults you can still see that light in and some you just can’t where it’s gone.”

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

Ava is extraordinary

A statement was made about how the previous interviews with the cast talked about how much they enjoyed working with Ava, and how Ava knew everyone’s name (including the crew). 

“That’s kind. Why would you not?  I used to be a crew member. I used to be a publicist and I would go on to sets and I would be only one of the few women, and one of the few black people, 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. They set up the trailer that you can go into. This is someone’s father or mother who’s been here since five o’clock in the morning. You know, everyone’s working hard. Like how do you walk past people and not know their name? And yet that’s the culture of our industry.

It’s the culture of a lot of industries in this country. It’s like, you know, the people that are in quote on quote higher positions just don’t even, you know, my father recently departed laid carpet and flooring in people’s home and he would come and he’s the kind of guy that you would pass by, just pass him by. My aunt, Denise, who passed away some years ago who I really know would love this movie was a nurse at night. She would take the bus. She was the kind of person you would just pass by and no one knows how extraordinary they were. They were great people. You can’t pass people by.” 

Note: This is the part of the interview where we got to see a raw and passionate Ava DuVernay. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room after she finished pouring into us her passion and gratitude. 

“You have to know people’s names. You have to treat people with kindness. You have to, so I’m glad she (Rowan) said that. I’m sorry I got emotional. I feel like I’m talking to my mom here. My god. I called my mom the other morning. I said mommy, I’m going to the junket. I’m gonna share the movie for the first time with people who are gonna see the movie for the first time. I don’t know what they’re gonna think. She said Avy, you did your best. Like a mom. You did your best. I was like a little girl again. You did your best, babe and, you know, your best is good enough and so pretty. It’s just like you. You’re the best girl in the world. All those things. I was like thanks, mom. So, that’s the energy I feel. That’s why I’m emotional ‘cause I am a hardcore director, okay. I’m not gonna cry in here with you guys.”

 

A WRINKLE IN TIME with Ava DuVernay

Director Ava DuVernay on the set of Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Ava’s footprint on the world through film

” 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; a meal and I think the only way to do that is to put love in every frame. I sacrificed something. People say — think I sacrifice something because I don’t have a family and I work all the time but it’s not work to me. I’m living my dream every day when I walk out of the door.

Some people’s dreams are family and children. 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. 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, and so I hope some of the way the films I’m making leave a mark, so that more people can do it this way, more inclusive where more people feel like they belong.”

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay arrives as Disney presents the world premiere of “A Wrinkle in Time” at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles, CA on February 26, 2018. .(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

On A Wrinkle In Time’s transformation from book to film

“It’s a book that a lot of people know. I mean written in 1962, published in ’63, translated to over a hundred languages. It’s challenging to try to figure out gosh, so many people love this book. What do you keep out? What do you do?”

Ava shared with us that they didn’t have the rights to Dr. King’s speeches in Selma, so they had to rewrite them with the intention of what Dr. King was saying. 

“Let me try to say it in a different way so then I honored in intention. It was the same thing here with Madeleine L’Engle. What did she intend to say to kids? What did she wanna get across? Am I getting that feeling across?”

Ava’s intentions are for people to feel something when they watch “A Wrinkle In Time.” Maybe they don’t remember all of the characters names from the movie, but they will remember how they felt when they watched it. 

Interview with Ava DuVernay

Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

On counting gratitude

One has to wonder where Ava draws her strength from- what helps her get through a bad day. We’re human, and we all have those days that are not the best. Ava shares with us her weapon of gratitude.

“What brings me light when I’m in a dark place? I do this thing all day where I count gratitude throughout the day. Aat 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. At 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 at this moment, right and some days you’re going through the day, and you’re like I got three. Good night.

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, 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.

Interview with Ava DuVernay

And now we can all see why Ava DuVernay is visionary. A fresh of breath air. A warrior, a shining light and fighting darkness with just a few things. It’s not money. It’s her passion. Her gratitude. Her kindness. Her example to leave that same type of emotion on the rest of us, so we can continue to spread the light, continue to be grateful, and be warriors. 

As I said before, my mom would have loved meeting Ava. She had similar passions and broke down a few of her own barriers as an African-American woman.

I’m taking what I learned from Ava, coupled with the example my Mom left me and changed the way I approach life. I will be a warrior. I will be a light. I will show gratitude. I will be thankful and show kindness to others. Because what not? That’s what we are supposed to do. 

You can join me in being a warrior and catch Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time now in theaters!  

A Wrinkle In Time Poster

Read more of my A Wrinkle In Time coverage and interviews:

On interviewing Oprah, Mindy and Reese as the Mrs. | A Wrinkle In Time Characters

A Wrinkle In Time Movie Review

A Wrinkle In Time Premiere | Blue Carpet Experience + Who I Saw At The Disney Party

Interview with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dr. Kate Murray In A Wrinkle In Time

Who Is Storm Reid | 8 Takeaways From Our Interview | Why You Need To Know Her Name

I’m Going To Meet Oprah + Ava | A Wrinkle In Time Press Junket