Town Hall LA Host Val Zavala interview with John Ridley, Oscar® Winning Filmmaker
Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET
Thursday, Nov. 30 at 8 pm ET/PT on Link TV
By: Judy Shields
Photos: KCET & Google – Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 11/29/2017 – “When a show like Town Hall, they called and said they want you to be involved, that is not lost on me, what that means, the fact that so many people in Southern California are going to see this show and be aware of the stories and have an opportunity for me to speak directly to what things are about. I don’t take things like that for granted.” John Ridley told The Hollywood Times today during a phone interview.
John also said, “I appreciate you thanking me for taking the time to be on the show, and speaking to you, but it’s not lost on me. People like Town Hall, saying hey we really want to know what John Ridley is thinking, what he is doing, more about the story he is telling. Those are rare spaces and I need to appreciate it.”
John Ridley won an Oscar® for writing 12 Years a Slave and is the creator, director, and executive producer of ABC’s Emmy®-winning series American Crime.
His limited series Guerilla, with Idris Elba, Freida Pinto, and Babou Ceesay recently aired on Showtime and Sky. “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992”, his critically acclaimed documentary about the Los Angeles uprising, premiered in theaters and aired on ABC in April.
So don’t forget to tune in tonight on KCET and watch John Ridley’s interview with Val Zavala. It’s a memorable one on one.
The Hollywood Times had the pleasure of interviewing John Ridley today:
THT: How was the interview with Val Zavala on Town Hall?
John Ridley: “It was wonderful. I was very fortunate, I’ve known Val and worked with her previously and to be invited into a space where you have the opportunity to not only talk about the things that you do, but to be able to talk about them with patience and with depth.”
“To talk with someone who really understand, not only what you are doing but, for me as a first-time documentarian support the concepts of journalistic integrity. We are living in a time when people, the disregard for individuals who are out there trying to get to truth and get the facts, unfortunately being denigrated on a daily basis. So, to be on Town Hall and be on with someone like Val, who has spent her life in conversation, it was a wonderful opportunity.”
“It is one of those things when you are around, and I give a lot of interviews but there are certain times you are around people and you know that they are on book, studies and they know the material and your typical answers are ones that you would give in the short form. Sometimes you just know going into it that they are not going to be good enough, not that someone is trying to trip you up, but they want to know more and they want to explore. That is very exciting. Sometimes you have to re-examine your own material, but it is also very exciting to be in a space where it really is about the conversation and really getting to the things that lie beneath the surface.”
THT: How old were you when you knew you wanted to write?
John: “It is interesting, because I always appreciated writing for a long time, but there was a big chunk of my life where I didn’t particularly like to read and writing felt like a chore. It wasn’t necessarily when I was a young person that it was the kind of career that I thought I would end up in. I think it was over time, evolution, because I came to appreciate reading more and appreciate expression more. The only skill set I had, although, it may in retrospect be one of the few skill sets I had. I really think that when I was young, it was the last thing I wanted to do was read or write or be involved in the depths of history or things that acquire a lot of analysis. But over time, I think it was something I thought I could do fairly well. More importantly, as I have done it as a career, I have always enjoyed the process of writing storytelling.”
THT: So you do like the storytelling?
John: “Absolutely. More than anything. Now I really like interviewing people and listening and creating a space where people can share their story with their voices and less about me just creating and writing and coming up with things. More about giving myself an education and then see if I can take those things that I have learned and put them in front of an audience in a way that is interesting and compelling.”
THT: What was the first piece you wrote and how old were you?
John: “Probably I would have to say it was in college. I started working for a local press in Brooklyn. The first time I had to write where facts matter and I had to call people up. This was way before the internet and Google up things, saying okay I found it in two places, so it must be a fact. It was about calling people and to be responsible, having an editor and it was daunting, kind of scary at times. I was studying journalism for a bit, it was not my major when I graduated. It was one of those things that I had an appreciation for the process.”
“Years later, I returned to it, and said okay, not only do I appreciate it, but understanding more of the value of what it really takes to get a story. I just think there is not enough spaces anymore that not only appreciate that, but advocate for it and again being part of Town Hall where people are advocating for stories, advocating storytellers and then saying let’s sit down and have a conversation, that is amazing.”
“It’s one thing to be on it, but to get invited, you reach a part in your career, even having done things that I am very proud of, when people invite you to be part of something, there are writers and storytellers that I have such respect and admiration for and I know not everyone is asking them to be parts of a conversation, to share their stories and their perspectives and put context with the stories they are talking about.”
We spoke about social media and the fact I like to still write letters.
John said “it is a lost art, writing letters, and what I appreciate about people stilling doing that is having patience. He thinks that is one of the things we have lost. There are many good things about instant communication, but being patient, being thoughtful, taking the time to check your work, thinking about what you are saying. Those kinds of things. I don’t want to sound like my granddad, but I mourn the loss of patience of empathetic responses, people just taking a bit of time to really think about what they are saying, the impact that their words might have.”
THT: Did you have an inspiring teacher?
John: “I had so many inspiring teachers, but I would say the most inspiring teachers that I had were my parents or are my parents. My Mother was a teacher and actually still works in teaching, and my Dad. There is nothing like having two people around you, who love you, support you and even if you don’t agree with every single thing that they do in terms of raising you, you are aware that they are constantly in your life and they are looking out for you. How you conduct yourself, it matters. You still go out in life and make mistakes. But just having that moment, when you think about okay how is this going to reflect on my parents, the things that I do. Again, just taking a pause, we all go out and live our own lives, but that is such an amazing value. I have to give all the credit for all of my success to my parents. That is the truth!”
THT: You grew up in Wisconsin, what was that like?
John: “I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, my parents and my youngest sister still live there, great environment. One of the great things about being from a smaller environment is that the whole city takes pride in the things that you do. I am very thankful not only have I been able to accomplish some things and hopefully I can take the things that I have accomplished and return the favor to the environment that was very supportive.”
THT: Did you learn how to multi-task from your Mother or your Father?
John: “I think it is just some disorder I have where I don’t feel quite right unless I am working on many things at one time. It is really odd, when I am working I think I need a break, a vacation. I did “American Crime,” “Guerrilla” and “Let It Fall” all at the same time and as you can imagine is what just manic. This year I have had much more time, comparatively speaking, to take things in and there are days I wake up and go I can’t believe I am not working on this project or that project, I have to do something, what’s wrong with me”?
THT: What do you want for Christmas?
John: “World Peace. I don’t have any capacity to deliver that. Please feel free, if you don’t give it to me personally, feel free to dispense it to everyone else you know.”
THT: When did you buy your first Hoodie?
John: “My gosh, not sure when I bought my first one, but I can tell you this, I will never be down to my last one. I will be buried in a hoodie.
THT: Where does your Oscar® reside in your house?
John: “I will say that it is not currently in my house. It is at a secure location, undisclosed secure location, like where they put the Vice President, in times of trouble, just in case.”
Town Hall Los Angeles with a goal of giving access and timely insights into California solutions with a world view. The goal of TOWN HALL LOS ANGELES is to present cutting-edge solutions, visionary thinkers and intriguing stories from the worlds of technology, medicine, the economy, social justice, the arts and more. Through exclusive, intimate discussions with KCETs SOCAL CONNECTED anchor Val Zavala, top industry experts offer their perspectives and solutions to regional, national and international matters.
KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station, continues the series this Wednesday, November 29th 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET in Southern California. While Link TV, available nationwide to all subscribers of Dish Network (channel 9410) and DirecTV (channel 375).
Following its successful debut last year on KCET, TOWN HALL LOS ANGELES continues to provide viewers insight on a variety of issues that affect Southern California from people at the forefront of their respective fields. During the taping of each episode, KCETs Facebook followers participated by asking questions for each of the TOWN HALL ANGELES guests.
The series will be telecast as follows (subject to change):
John Ridley, Oscar Winning Filmmaker – Wed., Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET/ Thurs., Nov. 30 at 8 pm ET/PT on Link TV
Marqueece Harris-Dawson & Jennifer Ito, Councilmember to the 8th District of LA & Research Director at USCs Program for Environmental and Regional Equity – Wed., Dec. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET/ Thurs., Dec. 7 at 8 pm ET/PT on Link TV
Adam Steltzner, JPL Chief Engineer for the Mars 2020 Project – Wed., Dec. 13 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET/ Thurs., Dec. 14 at 8 pm ET/PT on Link TV
Karla Ortiz & Lucy Herrera, Youth Organizer with the East Los Angeles Women’s Center & Leadership Program Manager for Legacy LA, under the Youth Council Leadership Program – Wed., Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on KCET/ Thurs., Dec. 28 at 8 pm ET/PT on Link TV
As the paramount gathering place for the past 80 years for industry leaders to share perspectives and influence change in the community, Town Hall Los Angeles is ranked among the Top 10 Leadership Forums in the nation. Town Hall Los Angeles provides a distinct and vital nonpartisan voice that helps the Southern California community become better informed on timely issues, breakthrough developments and innovative trends that impact the regions businesses, community and people.
Additionally, KCET.org will feature video-streaming of all broadcast episodes, as well as web-original content including clips and highlights with the speakers.
Join the conversation on social media using #TownHallLA
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