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Sundance Women Directors: Meet Marielle Heller – ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’

Sundance Women Directors: Meet Marielle Heller - 'The Diary of a Teenage Girl'

Marielle Heller is a writer, director, and actor. She was selected as a
2012 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow and a 2012 Sundance Directing Fellow, and was
honored with the Lynn Auerbach Screenwriting Fellowship and The Maryland Film
Festival Fellowship. Her writing credits include pilots for ABC and 20th
Century Fox and multiple screenplays and theatrical plays. She has performed
at theaters all over the world, from New York to the West End. (IMDB)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl will premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.  

MH: The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a coming-of-age tale of a bright, curious fifteen-year-old girl who is growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s and is sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend.

W&H: What drew you to this story?  

MH: Diary is based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel of the same name. When I read the book, I was so blown away by the honesty of the depiction of female adolescence, I knew I had to do something with the material. It was the most vulnerable, relatable version of a teenage girl I had ever come across, and I realized how starved we are for such characters.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

MH: I think making your first film is always a challenge — I was untested as a director. Everyone could tell I had a lot of passion for the project, but could that translate into being a competent director? I was nervous about a lot of things, but I was confident that I knew my story inside and out — I knew and loved these characters. Eventually, the power of the story won out, and I somehow convinced many talented people to come on board.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?  

MH: I hope people feel as though they went on an emotional journey with this brave character, and that they feel a little more connected to their own adolescent story. And I hope they’ve laughed a bit too.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

MH: My advice for anyone wanting to direct is that nobody is going to hand you an opportunity. You have to create your own opportunities and not take no for an answer.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?  

MH: I doubt people know much about my work. I have worked mostly in theater, but I’m excited for people to form some misconceptions from here on out.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.  

MH: There are too many to choose from, but one that sticks out in my mind is Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight. I got to see it at the Sundance Film Festival and just loved it. It was my introduction to Jill’s work, and I’ve since been lucky enough to have her mentor me through the Sundance Women Filmmakers initiative.

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