If you think you aren’t familiar with screenwriter Jennifer Lee, I’m pretty sure you’re mistaken. Jennifer has be part of many of our favorite Disney films, including a little movie called FROZEN. She’s also responsible for bringing FROZEN to Broadway! We had the pleasure of sitting down with her to talk about her role as screenwriter for A Wrinkle In Time, and how she was able to take on this iconic book and adapt it for the big screen.
A Wrinkle In Time From Book To Screen
Jennifer shared with us that it took 4 years to adapt A Wrinkle In Time into a screenplay. One thing was clear: they didn’t want the movie to try to be like the book. This was her thought process when starting on this journey to make A Wrinkle In Time:
“If we try to be the book, we’ll fail. But (instead we’re) showing our love for the book, showing how much inspiration there is in the book, how strong the journey is in the book. If I could stay true to that, then we might have a chance of finally getting it made. Because it’s been years of trying. Then of course, when Ava joined, that was the final magic piece of the puzzle.”
The Job Of A Screenwriter
It’s always intriguing to know how someone as creative as a screenwriter works through their days, especially when taking on a large project like A Wrinkle In Time. Jennifer shared with us how her days were set up, from writing, to meetings with animation and producers, and more writing. She said that most of her writing was done in the morning, then she would work on any edits needed in th afternoon. She also used her afternoon time to visit the animation offices and meet with producers Jim Whittaker and Catherine Hand. Although she received lots of notes from the studio, Jennifer said “the notes were always about deepening.” Deepening the characters, the story, and the general experience throughout the film.
The Jennifer Lee/Ava DuVernay Collaboration Magic
When Ava DuVernay was brought on to direct A Wrinkle In Time, Jennifer says that she had the option to continue working on the script without her. Once a director comes into the project, the script initially becomes theirs. Ava decided to work with Jennifer on any re-writes, and utilize her expertise.
“First, it was a lot of conversations. And we talked deeper and deeper of the characters. She wanted to get her head around the physics, and I love physics. We would do all of that. A fun thing for Ava and I was the bully, Veronica, is actually a matchup of her biggest bully and my biggest bully. It was a lot more about getting deeper, talking a lot, really connecting from the ground up.”
The Quotes of Mrs. Who
In A Wrinkle In Time, we experience Mrs. Who, a celestial being who has evolved past language, so she talks in quotes. The book version of Mrs. Who actually speaks with regular voice, as well as quotes, but Jennifer and Ava saw this as an opportunity to use updated quotes and increase the mystery behind Mrs. Who.
“What I loved about that is, it allowed us to never be on the nose with what she says. But, if she’s drawing from the canon of history, she could draw from anyone. We didn’t have to stick to some quotes from certain periods of Shakespeare. We could have Jay-Z, we could have anyone we wanted. We had a blast; people sending in emails to Ava, to me, about favorite quotes they have. So, that was really fun. There are some we loved but we couldn’t do, because we couldn’t get the rights to do it. We didn’t realize how complicated that process was. But it was fun.”
Leaving A Legacy For Her Daughter
Jennifer has a daughter, and we were curious as to what she wants her daughter to learn from her mother’s work. Jennifer didn’t start film school until she was 30, and spent much of the time before that figuring how who she was, and how she was supposed to make a difference in the world. She finally understood she was supposed to be a storyteller, a screenwriter, specifically. If she wants to leave a legacy for her daughter, what does Jennifer want it to be?
“And I have a daughter now who is a teenager. She’s 14 and a half, 5’8”, 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.’ Films like FROZEN and WRINKLE continue to help her do that. She has no problem 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. And if it won’t take her until she’s 30 to know what she wants to do – I think I’d be a happy mom.”
We absolutely loved speaking with Jennifer Lee about her work, and what it means to do what you’re meant to do in this world.
A Wrinkle In Time is in theaters now!