'Wrinkle in Time' director Ava DuVernay underscores the importance of hiring diverse interns

David Ng, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Ava DuVernay, the director of Disney's new movie "A Wrinkle in Time," has spoken tirelessly in recent years about inclusion in the entertainment industry and her desire to see more diversity in all aspects of production.

The filmmaker put her speech into practice on the set of her new movie, which opens Friday. "A Wrinkle in Time" qualified for California tax credits for its decision to shoot primarily in-state, receiving approval for $18.1 million, one of the highest amounts in the program's history. The film, whose budget exceeded $100 million, shot in the Los Angeles area on soundstages in Santa Clarita and other locations as well as in Northern California, including Sequoia Park in Eureka.

California's film and TV tax credit program includes a provision called the Career Readiness Initiative that helps students gain access to production-related careers. It requires each project in the tax credit program to offer opportunities such as paid student internships, teacher externships and professional skills tours.

Rather than focusing on candidates from elite film schools, the initiative has emphasized students from less advantaged backgrounds, with 70 percent of participating students coming from community colleges.

Last month, DuVernay helped launch a separate diversity program in L.A. that will fund internships in the entertainment industry for young people from underserved communities. The $5-million initiative will help pay for internships for 150 students this summer throughout Hollywood, with the goal to increase the number in subsequent years.

DuVernay recently spoke by phone from New York about her experience hiring diverse interns on "A Wrinkle in Time."

Q: Why was this program important to you?

A: I'm very committed that there be inclusion across all departments I work on, and part of that is looking at all levels of crafts people.

To dissect what's going on with inclusion in our industry, we have to take a close look at people who currently work in those departments and who will work in those departments in the future.

Q: How were interns selected and where did they work?

A: We had rotations. I interviewed a group of students from L.A. City College, Compton College. ... There were two group interviews with 20 kids and we picked the ones who would be the best fit for our production. They come from different parts of the city, different cultures, (different) people. We had them rotating through departments. Some of them found a place -- the department wanted to keep them.

Q: How large was the entire 'Wrinkle in Time' crew?

A: The end credit sequence for the movie is 11 minutes!

Q: 'A Wrinkle in Time' was filmed in California. What was it like to shoot a major motion picture in your home state?

A: I loved it and hope I can do it again. It made a tangible difference in the mood and tenor. The set people got to go home to their families at night. I can't tell you what that means when you're working so hard and get to sleep in your own bed. People often have to go away to do their jobs, so it was beautiful because the movie is about family and light. But also, it gave us this beautiful terrain. I'm from Compton. There are some parts of the state I had never experienced and it was fantastic to get the opportunity.

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