How the directors of ‘Judy Blume Forever’ convinced the literary icon to open up on camera

It took “Judy Blume Forever” directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok nearly two years to convince Judy Blume to be the subject of a documentary. Blume, the 84-year-old children’s and young adult literary giant, lives a quiet life in Florida’s Key West, where she owns a bookstore. “I think she wasn’t sure going into this that she knew it was going to be a big time commitment where she would open up,” Pardo says. Ultimately, the directing duo convinced Blume to sit in front of her cameras, where she discussed not only her career, but also the people and places that influenced her writing. Segments from those interviews, along with contemporary scenes from Blume’s life and interviews with writers and celebrities influenced by the author’s unfiltered portraits of childhood and adolescence, make up “Judy Blume Forever.” The 97-minute documentary doesn’t delve into each of the 29 books Blume published. Instead, Pardo and Wolchok focus on a handful of seminal titles, including “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Blubber” and “Superfudge,” and the impact they had on millions of readers.

Amazon will release “Judy Blume Forever” later this year and it will premiere at Sundance on January 21.

Whose idea was it to make a documentary about Judy Blume?

Wolchok: From Davina.

Pardo: I was a shy kid and a bookworm who loved to read and loved Judy Blume, but hadn’t given much thought to her books as an adult. Then five years ago, while on a long road trip with my husband and kids, I decided to play (Blume) “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” and it was like this total gut reaction of “Oh my gosh! This book is very good.” Suddenly, I was seeing Judy through new eyes, and I turned to my husband and said, “What happened to Judy Blume?” And then he became a documentary filmmaker’s curiosity.

Blume wrote so many fantastic novels. How did you determine which books to focus on?

Wolchok: From the beginning, we had highlighted five or six books that we knew intersected with Judy’s personal history and key moments in her life, which in turn influenced the themes and characters of each book. So we wanted those books to take us on a journey from childhood to adolescence and then through late adolescence to adulthood.

The document also features materials from Blume’s personal archive, including decades-long written correspondence with fans about divorce, masturbation, sibling rivalry and depression. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include the lyrics in the document?

Pardo: After seeing the letters, I wanted to include them and turn them into another character in the film.

Two of Blume’s fans appear in the document and are brave enough to share the letters they wrote to him. How did you convince them to do that?

Wolchok: Judy connected us to them. We were unable to contact anyone whose letters are read from the archives. That is very strict protocol from Judy and Yale University, where the letters are kept.

Will Judy be in Park City?

Wolchok: She will be there virtually.

Pardo: He will be 85 in a few weeks, so I think the travel, the altitude and the crowds are just too much right now. Also, she is very cautious about COVID, as she should be.

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