The world of Jingle Jangle centers an all-Black cast in a Victorian period setting that’s been richly draped in African culture. From the wardrobe, to the music, to the characters, there’s a vibrancy in Jingle Jangle‘s representation that feels singular, especially for a Christmas movie.
Back when Talbert was still trying to make Jingle Jangle for the stage, he kept slamming into budgetary restrictions. Having made a film for Netflix in the past, 2017’s El Camino Christmas, Talbert decided to bring the idea to Scott Stuber, head of Netflix’s original film division. “I told him about the holidays and how much they mean to my family. But when we sit down every year, there’s nothing we can watch with anybody that looks like us. If we’re feeling this way as a family, imagine how many families around the world are feeling the same way?” Talbert says. “And Scott said we need to do something about that.” Talbert pitched his idea, and Netflix scooped it up with one key provision.
“Before I started writing, Nick Nesbitt, the [Netflix] executive overseeing the project, said something that changed the course of my life as a creative: He said, ‘As you’re about to write this, I want you to write your imagination. We’ll figure out the budget later,'” Talbert says. “I couldn’t be hearing right, because I was used to people saying, ‘You got $2 dollars—and don’t let this go to $2.25, or that’s going to be your 25 cents.'” “I would always have to write with a ceiling and a box that I was put in,” Talbert continues. “And I wasn’t mad at it, but I was just trained that you cannot go outside of this box. Therefore your imagination can’t go outside of this box.” With that prompt from Netflix, Talbert says it took about three days for him to retrain his brain to think without a budget in mind.
Having worked on a project like Jingle Jangle, Talbert says there’s no way he can go backwards from here. “I won’t go back to making a $2 movie, and I won’t allow the art to be put in a box anymore, because I have experienced what it feels like having resources and support,” Talbert says. “It’s a new world for me, and I’m excited to keep pushing the boundaries.”