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James Ponsoldt did a very brave thing with his film, SUMMERING. He entered the secret world of 11-year-old girls in order to tell a coming-of-age story from a point of view not often seen on screen. He had help, as he told me when we spoke via Zoom on August 8, 2022. Not just his talented cast of four girls at that age, but also his own daughter, his wife, his mother, and his memories of what his own older sister had been like at that age. The result is a lovely film in which friendship is pre-eminent, and the prospect of separation as they enter middle school on the Monday after the film’s action takes place is more daunting than the dead body that they find. It was my first question to him.
We went on to talk about those different styles, as well as what we need from stories, what sparked the story, and to broach the subject of death to children, both in the film and in real life, and the challenges of maintaining friendships.
We finished up with struggle between protecting your children and allowing them the freedom they need to grow; parenting in the time of COVID; introducing death as a plot element in a way that an 11-year-old can process; the psychology of a kid’s decision; writing from an outsider perspective; and questioning privilege