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“Selma” star David Oyelowo tests his directing skills with “The Water Man”

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You may know David Oyelowo from his onscreen work — playing Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, or recently starring in George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky.  Today, however, he makes his directorial debut with The Water Man.

The 45-year-old British actor also stars in the film, playing the father of a young boy who takes off to track down a mysterious healer in the hopes of saving his mother.  Oyelowo tells ABC Audio what made this the perfect first film to direct.

“I loved The Goonies, I loved ET, I loved Stand by Me.” he explains.  “And that’s partly why when this script that Emma Needell had so beautifully written came into my orbit, I wanted to do it.”

Oyelowo’s Selma director, Ava DuVernay, used the the mistakes of her past to teach him how to make a tonally even film.

“[If] she had a love scene, she would direct that scene as if it was from a love story.  If she had an action scene it would be like from an action film.  If she had something more dramatic, she would direct it like it was a drama,” he says.  “And that is the way to have a tonally uneven film.”

“I knew I wanted to make an adventure movie.  So even if…myself and [co-star Rosario Dawson], we’re just talking about our son in a bedroom, it had to have the specter of adventure.”

Dawson says the film also benefited from Oyelowo’s ability to create a family vibe on set.

“It felt nurturing and it felt intimate and it allowed us to go to really deep and vulnerable places when we needed to and to be able to still do it with a lot of light and love.”

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