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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #77: Marielle Heller Gives Coming-Of-Age Angst a Feminine Spin in ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #77: Marielle Heller Gives Coming-Of-Age Angst a Feminine Spin in 'Diary of a Teenage Girl'

After participating in the 2012 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow and the 2012 Sundance Directing Fellow, Marielle Heller finally made her long-awaited return to Park City this year with a huge breakout in her back pocket. Heller’s debut feature, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” stars newcomer Bel Powley as a teen artist living in 1970’s San Francisco who enters into an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Premiering to vast critical acclaim (read our glowing review here), “Diary” formally announces Heller as a major talent to watch, which is especially encouraging given how hungry audiences are for more female filmmakers in Hollywood. Meet the Sundance hit maker here:

What’s your film about, in 140 characters or less?
The film is a coming-of-age story about a fifteen-year-old girl who is growing up in the haze of the 1970s in San Francisco and having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.

Now, what’s it REALLY about?
It’s about the way it really feels to explore your sexuality when you’re a teenage girl and what it feels like to navigate the wider world. It’s a brutally honest depiction of being a sexually curious, artistically driven and smart teenage girl. It’s not a character we get to see often in films.

Tell us briefly about yourself.
I’m a Bay Area raised artist with a very talented family – my sister is a comedian, my brother is a musician, my brother-in-law is a musician and my husband is a writer/director/actor. I don’t know what our parents did wrong!

What was the biggest challenge in completing this film?
Everything about this project was simultaneously a huge challenge and an effortless joy. Making your first film is always a challenge, and making one about such controversial subject matter is especially difficult. I felt, for a long time, like nobody would ever sign on to be a part of this project, but then the most talented collaborators came forward and we took on the challenges together.

What do you want audiences at Sundance to take away from your film?
I just hope it resonates for some. I hope people who didn’t think they might relate to a teenage girl end up seeing themselves in this character.

Are there any films that inspired you?
More than I can name. Some that specifically inspired this film: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

What’s next for you?
I’m writing a film that’s a humorous look at grief and mental illness.

What cameras did you shoot on?
We shot on the Red Epic, but with amazing anamorphic lenses.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why?
Nope. We just didn’t need to this time around.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. Click here for more profiles.

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