Exclusive: Writer/Director Sian Heder Talks ‘Tallulah’ And Writing Process



“As a writer, you’re always an observer,” says Sian Heder, an Orange Is The New Black scribe who’s the director/writer of the new film Tallulah. Centering on an impulsive yet often well meaning young woman (Ellen Page is Tallulah) who steals a baby from a neglectful mother (Tammy Blanchard) at a New York Hotel, the feature is an uncompromising tale that blends melodrama, dark humor, pathos, and a sliver of fantasy into the mix. Allison Janney co-stars as Margo, the mother of Tallulah’s boyfriend (Evan Jonigkeit).

Below is a full breakdown of my 1:1 interview with Sian Heder. To listen to the conversation, which includes insights on turtles, writing, and the filmmaking process, click on the Soundcloud bar below:

(0-1:46): A pet turtle is Margo’s constant companion, and in real life Sian’s sister has had a turtle for years named Alfie. Sian and her family are also proud guardians of a tortoise.

(2:03 – 3:43) – The advantages of having actresses Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard driving the story. (“The heart of what they’re doing is so great and rich and full,” says Heder)

(3:44 – 5:33) – On making Tallulah a detailed human drama amidst the film’s “melodramatic” elements.

(5:34 – 8:36): On the evolution of the script as her life changed over the years. She also talks about how an anecdote from Allison Janney’s life made it into the script.

(8:37 – 10:44): Shares a funny memory about an Oliver Stone reaction when asked about his favorite movie during the Nantucket Film Festival. Heder also discusses her admiration for the work of filmmaker Ang Lee (The Ice Storm, Life of Pi) and Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska).

(10:45 – 12:40): On how Netflix is changing the game for storytellerss and independent film.

(12:14 -15:48 ): Sian gives great and tangible writing advice, and she elaborates how being part of a writers’ room (including Men of a Certain Age and Orange Is The New Black) has helped hone her skills. “The creative well is not finite,” says Heder.

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***Tallulah is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix.

****I also briefly mention Tallulah on this week’s CinemAddicts podcast (I didn’t give it justice). To subscribe to the show, please go iTunes or our website.

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