Editor’s Pick: Growing up there were a handful of films I watched every year during the holidays. Peanuts Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Christmas Story were good but none of these films featured characters that looked like me. This past holiday season, the Black community was given a film that we will be able to share and enjoy for many years to come, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.
Taji Mag was able to speak with Jingle Jangle filmmaker/playwright, David E. Talbert, and his wife, producer/author, Lyn Talbert, about the amazing film.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): Lyn, what made you convince David to turn Jingle Jangle into a film?
Lyn Talbert (LT): David’s scope was so broad on what he wanted to do and I felt he could capture everything in a film. I knew the project could be immortalized in film and he could also do the play. I thought David could have fun with Jingle Jangle in film form and bring together everything he’s ever done.
DDF: David do you still plan on turning Jingle Jangle into a play?
David E. Talbert (DET): Absolutely! The project’s first incarnation was to be a Broadway play but it will live on the stage.
DDF: What was the first holiday cartoon or film that you fell in love with growing up?
DET: One of my favorites growing up was Santa Clause is Coming to Town with Keith Meiser, The Abominable Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Peanuts Christmas – those were my favorite.
LT: I love those films as well. I also liked the claymation cartoons like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Those were really stories! I also love Home Alone and Coming to America, even though it’s not usually considered a holiday film.
DDF: In one of your interviews you talked about what a great impression Black Panther made on you and how you like what it did for the Black community. Was your intention to make Jingle Jangle leave that same impression on people?
DET: My intention was to create the most evolved version of this story possible and we tried to put almost everything we could into it. What has happened and feels overwhelming to me, is the significance of what it means not only to the world but the Black community. The Black community has taken ownership of this film like I wouldn’t have expected. A friend of mine just texted me, a pastor in Oakland, that one of his members had a daughter and they named her Journey.
LT: It’s funny David mentioned his friend’s church member naming their daughter Journey, I was on a virtual book reading and a little girl said “It’s because of you guys (David and Lyn) my little sister’s name is Journey and she was just born a few weeks ago.”
DDF: What was the writing process like for Jingle Jangle?
DET: You have to learn how to open up your mind and just write whatever version of that idea is. There have been many projects over the years that Lyn and I had to work with a very finite budget, so we had to retrain our brains to utilize our imagination. We both are not short on imagination, so it helps. I have to really give so much thanks to Netflix, Scott Stuber, and Nick Nesbit.
DDF: Lyn, what was your reaction when you read the script?
LT: I loved it. I could visualize everything he was writing. This project has been incubating for many years. I’ve seen the evolution of it which has been phenomenal. While reading it, I tried looking at it as the viewer and it touched the little girl in me and I know our community took ownership of it because of what it meant. Dave is a phenomenal writer and he taps into the emotion of his words. He is so good at finding balance and you don’t feel like you are being preached to or like there is no escaping this dark place. This is important because we do want the lesson but we don’t want to be hit over the head with it. We just need a little reminder of the things that are important.
DDF: Lyn, what was the process like writing the Jingle Jangle book?
LT: For me, the song “Square Root of Possible” is my song throughout this process because it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I need to find my square root of possible at every turn and solve it at every turn. That was my mantra throughout the film and the process of putting together the book. I always love picture books and have 7-year-old son that I read to all the time. I feel like picture books are simple ways to teach lessons and tell stories in a fun way. I want this film to be a classic piece that’s around forever. I think about how other films are immortalized through books, toys, socks, bedding, and animation. I want to do the same with Jingle Jangle.
DDF: You both have worked on many projects together, how was your experience working on this project?
LT: Jingle Jangle was a big deal and there was a lot of pressure. It was equally important to us as the people who were behind it and if we didn’t get this project right, it may take another 20 years for someone to have an opportunity like this. We had our moments but what kept us centered was that we wanted the same thing. We did have our thing where we would ride separately, so we could allow each other to think about what we had to do that day.
Whether it be married or on set, you are actually married to the people on set because you have to be with them several hours a day. If it’s a good relationship, you will always get back to where you need to.
DET: Advice from a married man, you just have to say Ahman.
DDF: What advice do you have for all the aspiring filmmakers out there?
DET: Trust your own instinct. Be open to people evolving your idea.
LT: I second that. I would also add that you should continue to work on your idea. You guys have so much access to so many things we didn’t have growing up in the business and you have so many outlets like Instagram. You see many artists like Issa Rae who have success from those outlets. Just continue to work on it and do the research on those who came before you.
It was an honor to sit with the couple and chat about this historic film. I made sure to let them know that Jingle Jangle is a film I needed as a child and that every child needs while growing up. I am so happy to share the experience of the film with my nieces. Make sure to check out Jingle Jangle on Netflix and purchase the book sold on various outlets.