Director Marielle Heller On Mister Rogers & Telling Kids The Truth
From whyy in Philadelphia. I'm terry gross with fresh air. Today we talk with Mario Heller director of the new film. A Beautiful Day in the neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers Matthew Rees as cynical journalist assigned to profile him in preparation for the film Heller watched a lot of mister rogers. I had this really painful experience of watching the episode about death with my three year old at the time. She's trying to make changes in the film. MM Industry to make it easier for women who are parents and for all parents to work without sacrificing their family life. It was something that I started talking about really early. 'cause because I said you know I don't think Fred Rogers would want us to make a movie about him where we all abandoned our kids in order to make. Yeah so how do we do this. Heller also so directed. Can you ever forgive me. I didn't grow up watching Mr Rogers but I love the new film a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Hood starring. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers I recorded an interview with the film's Director Mario Heller but when we first broadcast it last week it was preempted. KTAR on most stations by the impeachment hearings. We like this interview and want you to hear it. So we're playing and again today. Mario Heller also directed one of my favorite films comes from last year. Can you ever forgive me. She previously joined us to talk about her first film the diary of a teenage girl. The new film is inspired by the the story of Rogers relationship with journalists Tom. Juno who was assigned to profile Rogers in nineteen ninety. Eight for a special issue of esquire. un-american Heroes Juneau says the assigning editor thought it would be amusing to have him a journalist determined to say the unsaleable right about the nicest men in the world world but talking with Rogers changed those life should know wrote a new essay about his relationship with Rogers published in the Atlantic to coincide with the film's release. He writes a long time ago. A man of resourceful and relentless kindness saw something in me that I didn't see myself. He trusted me. When I thought I was untrustworthy and took an interest in me that went beyond my initial interest in him? He was the first person I ever wrote about who became my friend and our friendship ship endured until he died in the movie. Tom Gino's name is changed to Lord Vogel. His personal story is changed to. Let's hear a scene from from the film in which Lloyd is interviewing. Rogers Lord has a bloody cut in a bruise on his face which he told Rogers he got from a softball game but he really really got it at his sister's wedding when he got into a fight with his estranged father this Peace will be for an issue about heroes. Do you consider yourself a hero. I don't think of myself as a hero. No not at all. What about Mister Rogers? Is he a hero. I I don't understand the question. Well there's you fred an end. There's the character you blame Mr Rogers. You said it was a play at the plate is that is that what that will happen to you. I'm I'm here to in to you Mr Rogers. Well that is what we're doing. Isn't it. Marielle Hiller welcome to fresh air. Congratulations on the film. Thank you What did you do to help Tom? Hanks embody Mr Rogers in the movie. I mean the positive thing going into this was obviously the the way the public feels about Tom. Hanks has a similar quality to how we feel about Mr Rogers. There's so there was a warmth that we were starting with there was so much that was already done there but the truth of the matter is tom is very different. Person Energetically jedi quickly than than Mister Rogers. He's very he's very funny. He's very charming. He's actually got like a loud booming voice this and walks into a room and you know he's there he shakes everyone's hand. He cracks jokes. He's he's boisterous he's really vibrant and He doesn't doesn't really. It's never awkward when you're talking to Tom Hanks I've never seen him have an awkward conversation with anybody and what we figured out in our research about Fred was that he really was comfortable sitting in silence an awkwardness and he would ask questions to people and he would wait for an answer. No matter how long it took and he wouldn't fill that silence in And he had a stillness to him too so a lot of what I had to do. especially in the beginning was to kind of rain. Tom's natural buoyancy back and settle him into a kind of Zen. Like state where he was being hyper present in. Every the moment I know on the radio like a pause can be very kind of dramatic thing when you hear like somebody's thinking or somebody's mad or you know but but it goes on too long. Everybody just gets uncomfortable. So how did you deal without making the movie like you wanted pauses. You wanted slowness onus. But if it's too much of any of that it's uncomfortable for everybody in the audience. I mean Fred had very specific cadence. I don't think anybody could have watched his show. Oh and not noticed that he he spoke at a different pace than the rest of the world. And we heard from a number of people that when you would be with Fred it felt like ktar would slow down like he kind of controlled time in a way and Part of the casting of Matthew Rees was I wanted to cast somebody buddy who had a very different pace. You know it was about these two men who were sort of foils to each other coming together and having these sort of emotional duels So I met you was also. He's somebody who moves very quickly. His mind is always racing. And he's got a lot of energy pulsing through his body so the idea was in our rehearsals and also in the way that we shot these scenes between these two men it was about really kind of controlling time and when there were pauses they were carefully crafted. It was really. I had to kind of force them to pause even longer than they were comfortable pausing but it was also about what's happening in those pauses. What are the emotional back and forth? That are happening. What was just penetrated? What memory is being triggered? What are you thinking about in that moment and when will you respond? And how carefully will you respond. And is it an impulsive response or is it a very thoughtful response So we worked a lot on pacing and only now that I'm doing all of these press junkets with all of my actors in my hearing about how how slightly tortured. They felt by time that apparently I was like we're going slower guys here. We go and they were going really slower. That felt so slow. What you're describing is the opposite of what's depicted picked in the movie on the set of Mister Rogers neighborhood because on the set their producers Who are thinking like come on like moving along right? Apparently Aries hard. Yeah yes he was always running behind. You was always talking to people for hours at a time. It was really hard to move them through a crowd. Do People really really worth tell you that yeah we. We were so lucky when we made this movie because we we. We went to Pittsburgh where Fred made the show and lived for his whole life and we we were welcomed by his wife Joanne. Bill Isler and all of the people who worked at the Fred Rogers Company. All these people who knew Fred really well and they after after getting to know US entrusting us they really shared with us. Millions of stories about Fred and painted of on a complete picture of him in one of the things was yes he was. Yeah he worked on his own. He had his own timetable in all things and he was very difficult to wrangle goal and they were often very behind in shooting the show and he would talk to everybody and he was. It sounded like pretty impossible in certain ways. I'm not a big fan of bio-pics because because usually the writers and director take a lot of liberties for dramatic purposes and then you leave the movie. Not Knowing the difference between history and fiction fiction is often confused infused with wh wh who the person really was what you get around that in the opening and are in to really lovely ways You know the framing device is that it's an addition of Mister Rogers neighborhood and he's telling all the children look it's it's A Picture Board and on the picture board. There's a a lot of different doors and each door opens to another character. whose from Mister Rogers neighborhood and so he opens each door and introduces each character from the neighborhood in the last or that he opens is a picture and he says this is a picture of my friend? Lloyd and this is a picture of somebody who's like his face is bloodied lead rose. He's got a big cut. He looks angry and miserable. And that's the introduction to the main character the journalist Lloyd and you realize this is going to be the story. Sorry toll through the lens of Mister Rogers neighborhood. This isn't an actual story literally true. This is if this journalist life happened in Mister Rogers neighborhood yes here. We made it very clear from the very beginning. There's no chance you could confuse this for being a documentary or any in any way. It's it's a story that we're telling and it's It's a film and it has very clear kind of surrealistic device to it. which was that? The whole movie is one large episode of Mister Rogers for adults and in the way that Mister Rogers neighborhood would tell you what it was gonna be about and then would kind of take you on a journey. We do that and when he steps out of the door and we head out into the world to kind of check out the story about this person named Lloyd but I I love things that don't tell stories we're using purely linear fashions that either. Skip around in time or skip around with their storytelling. And this does that. It plays with time there. You know you you cut at this picture of him and you see that he's his face is bloodied and then we go back in time and when we meet him. His face isn't bloodied. And we we get to see how his face became bloodied than we You know I think we. We've become a little bit safe sometimes in our cinema whereas in theater. We're kind of more comfortable with less naturalistic ways of telling telling stories. And I I like movies. That kinda push those boundaries a bit and the other way that you make a clear of this. Is the story as if it happened in. Mister Rogers neighborhood is in the opening credits. We're seeing the city of Pittsburgh where Fred Rogers Shot Mister Rogers neighborhood. But it's all in miniature as if it was part of the set of Mister Rogers neighborhood and I thought that that was just a a really lovely thing to do and also very important in framing the whole story as this is in the context of Mister Rogers neighborhood nodding real live right. We sort of used the the miniatures that they used on the show As are jumping off point and then thought but what if it went even further. What if you expanded that out? What if we after you see the little miniature neighborhood that you've seen and hundreds of times on the program what if you widened out and you saw of Pittsburgh and then you hand over and you came to New York City? And that's how we got into Loyd story and that's probably glibly. If Mr Rogers had made a movie for adults that's how he would have done it. So let's you're out of it so I wanna ask you about one of the scenes in the movie that borrows from what happened in real life although it happens in a different way in the movie in in real life Fred Rogers was receiving an award a lifetime achievement award from the TV Critics Association And while he was up at the podium accepting the award he said let's pause for sixty seconds pins and remember those people who loved us into being who we are because I think he asked for sixty seconds and and from what I've heard the they would only grant him ten ten seconds and always thinking two things two contradictory things about them. One is what I really like lovely and thoughtful thing to do making it about you know instead of like praising me the award winner think by people who made you who you are and honor them but at the same time I was also thinking I was in the audience I bet I would have resisted it. I Bet I would've felt like well. It's presumptuous of you to tell me see that now is my time to be thinking about somebody you know what you look around. They they do cut aways in the audience that clip. And there's this wave that you know it's this moment where everyone's thinking about their ego. Everybody's there to win awards everybody's in some kind of a rat race to like win an award over another artist right and He just reminds them to think about the people who supported them along the way. And you watch tears. FILL UP PEOPLE'S IS I mean it's incredibly touching and he fred was. This is a bit of a I wanNA call it a party trick but fred did that. That was something. He did At events but he also also did it at dinner parties where he would ask people to to take time to think about that so it was something that he was sort of known for and it is something that we we have in the movie and a very specific way and I think it's yeah. It's one of the most cinematic moments of the movie and a lot of ways. Did you watch Mister Rogers neighborhood as a child I did so. So is there anything that he said or did that. You remember from your childhood. I have very clear memories of loving the part of the show that was in his house and then feeling scared scared of some of the puppets in the land of make believe and I think particularly lady Elaine What scared you about her? While she looks like a witch she's got like this burnt nose and burnt cheekbones. And she had this very scratchy voice and I she was terrifying are fine. I think she was terrifying for a lot of kids. And you know I've I've rediscovered the show now as a parent. I've had a very different perspective on it. Now that I'm a parent and I can watch chat with my kid. And we also the first way we really came to it was through Daniel Tiger's neighborhood which is the the modern day incarnation of Mister Rogers neighborhood that the Fred Rogers Company makes and it's all based on the teachings of Fred Rogers but it's an animated show And that show has just been the most incredible thing for my kid and for me and he's now at the point where he's rejected it and is kind of outgrowing it but But it's been and it's it's been the thing that's kind of that. I was reconnecting to before Even with signed onto this project that was the first show I let my kid watch and It kind of got me back in touch with Mister Rogers from a different adult perspective. Tell me more about that adult perspective on the show. I think I have a memory of thinking that the show was just all l.. Happier go lucky or something or just easy and then as an adult looking back. I realized that he wasn't afraid of any of the hardest parts of childhood or talking about the most uncomfortable. Things he tells kids the truth. I mean that that is a radical notion but he tells kids the truth and I was blown away going back and seeing the topics that he was covering on his show. I mean I had this really league painful experience of watching the episode about death with my three year old at the time which it's kind of it was such a profound experience? We were having a snow day and so he was home from school but it was a day that I kind of set. I decide that I was going to watch a lot of episodes of Mister Rogers so I asked why Lee if he wanted to watch some episodes with me and I let him pick out based on the kind of thumbnails on on the Internet and he picked the fish one because he's very obsessed with underwater stuff's stuff But I knew just looking at the icon. They'll it's it's the fish one. This is the episode about death and I thought Oh. Are we going to go here. Okay and so in the episode. Mr Rogers goes to feed the a fish and one of the fish is dead and he tries to revive it and he puts it in some saltwater and he sloshes it around Kinda limply sloshes around and he says oh it looks. Looks like it's moving but it's not actually moving. And then he buries the fish and And he tells the story about his dog Mitzi who died when and he was a kid and I just watched my kid watch this episode. Knowing that we hadn't spoken can really very much about death. And as Mr Rogers is telling the story about the Dog Dying Wiley looks at me with this kind of skeptical look and goes togs. Don't die And I had this like Mister Rogers in my head and went. Well no dogs do die And I told I guess. What's a little bit of a stretch of the truth but I said you know when they're when they're very old and their bodies are tired? You know dogs do die and and cats die and we have two cats and he looked at me and went. Cats cats die and I said yeah and he said but we have great cats and and I thought Oh God what if I opened here and And then I pulled out. A picture of one of our cats had passed away when he was a baby. And I said you know remember. I've told you about this cat who died. WHO's buried in the backyard? And you know I believe everyone believes different things but I believe when I want to visit him. I I can go to the cherry tree in the backyard and and I can visit him And I could see kind of wheels turning wheels turning and we kept watching the show for a few minutes minutes and then while he turned to me and he goes mom. Walruses don't die and I said well walruses walruses do die and he started wailing in a way that I had never experienced before he like it felt like he who was weeping for all humanity or like the entire universe and just asking me if we could bury all the walruses in our backyard cards could visit them and I held him an. I was crying and we all I can figure out to say was I. I know this hurts. I know this is so painful. I don't know what to say But this this really hurts and And then later that night as I was putting him to bed you know the dreaded question came which was what about people You know people don't get the way he said it was people. Don't get dead do they. And then we had had are kind of second round of weeping that happened in that came out of this episode of structures and. I don't don't think I handled it great and I felt I still feel sort of guilty for how this all came up because I felt like. Was it too young for us to kind of go there but I also felt like all I had to guide me. Was Fred telling me you know we. We let the kids guide these conversations. Listen and tell them the truth and so. That's what. I tried to do. Amazing Story. I'm just trying to figure out what I want to show it. It was also one of the first stories that I told Joanne Rodgers. When I went to Pittsburgh I'm just remember what I haven't told this story at all in any repressed but I think we sat in her living room and she teared geared up and we kind of held hands as I talked about it because it just happened when I talked to her about it And then she made a little video for Wiley I'm not about that but just saying hello. My guest is Mario L. Heller Director of the new Film Beautiful Day in the neighborhood. She also directed. Can you ever forgive me. And the diary of a teenage girl after a break. We'll talk about how she learned about death. I'm Terry Gross and this is fresh air. This this message comes from. NPR sponsor capital one with the capital one Walmart rewards card. You can earn five percent back at Walmart on line. Two percent at Walmart in store restaurants. That's and travel and one percent everywhere else when you want all that you need the capital one Walmart rewards card. What's in your wallet? Terms and exclusions apply capital. One May. Let's get back to my interview with Mario Heller who directed the new movie a Beautiful Day in the neighborhood starring. Tom Hanks as Fred. Rogers and Matthew Reese as a journalist journalist assigned to profile him for Esquire magazine Heller also directed the films. Can you ever forgive me. And the diary of a teenage girl when we left off Heller Adjust told the story of how she and her three-year-old son had watched an episode of Mister Rogers neighborhood that dealt with death which was an upsetting idea for her son who had never heard about death before. Do you remember how you learned about. I remember my grandmother's husband dying but I think I was older. I think it was seven or eight when he died but I remember that being the first real person person I knew who tied and I am that my parents didn't let me go to the funeral and I remember feeling like it was really unfair. You wanted to go. I wanted to go well. I don't I thought I wasn't like I felt and I think about sort of Mister Rogers. In that way of like I I felt like a full person. You know I felt like I was having as big of an experience as everybody else. And why wasn't I allowed to go to the funeral. And I think they were trying to protect me. was upsetting for you to learn that such thing existed as love. Oh Yeah Yeah I mean I. Yeah I was one of those kids who thought about death a lot and we had we had the big earthquake in the bay area. Eighty nine then ten But that really it scared me in like a deep dark way you know shook my sense of what could happen in the world. It was just the first. My my brother was trapped in a warehouse and we couldn't get to him in Oakland across a bridge. We didn't know if he was okay. And you know friends of mine. THEIR PARENTS CISCO IN THE BAY bridge collapsed. And we didn't I know if they were okay and there are people who are part of our community who died and it. It was just so chaotic it was just the end into the world. It felt like the end of the world at the time it really did. And it. It definitely I you know it was it. It's still l.. Something that has meant you know meant something in my bigger emotional life that I'm still dealing with therapy and you know I think back on myself as as a kid and I'm like I and I see it in my kid. I think that's why this experience of showing him. That episode was so I felt for him. MM so much because I I remember what it was to be. The kid who was thinking about the kind of dark questions of life and while other people weren't But now you know I had this experience when I was preparing to make this movie before I went to Pittsburgh I went to a a talk. Look at the Buddhist Centre in Brooklyn and I think I had this idea in the little. I really know about Buddhism or Buddha where I was thinking that somehow somehow if you are very enlightened that you're very peaceful you're at peace you're sort of happy and this woman who was giving this talk said The goal of Buddhism is not pure peace or to to never feel any pain. The goal is to feel all the pain And that made me think about Fred at that time because all all of the things we were hearing in the research about Fred was that he would empathize such such a great degree with the people. He came into contact with he would meet a stranger on the street and they would pour their heart out to him about what they were going through and he would almost hold it like a vessel like he he just became this great vessel for other people too poor what they were experiencing into and And I think he felt it all he was he was present in the pain of the world and not denying it and he grew up with a lot of illness. I mean who has a sick child was often isolated. That's how we started doing voices. Voices for puppets right. He was his parents were so nervous that he was going to be kidnapped they had them chauffeured to school so that he was even more isolated from his friends. Yeah and I think he was in his own in his own head a lot in that way but I think he also was very He spent the rest of his life therefore trying to be super connected to other people rather than being so separated from them. I WANNA play one of Mr Rodgers songs that you use in the film. I particularly like this one. It's the one called. What what you do with the mad that you feel? Yeah and it's awesome. It's a song all about learning to control yourself on your emotions. Get Out of hand and I think this is a song that most of US adults I should learn by heart too so so this is the real fred rogers singing at Here we go. What do you do with the mad? Add that you feel when you feel so mad you could bite when the whole wide world seems Oh so wrong and nothing you do seems very right what do you do bag. Some clay or some Round friends for a game of tag again. See how it's great to be able to stop when you land a thing that's wrong and be able to do something else instead and thank this song. I can stop when I want to can stop one. I wish stop stop. Stop Anytime John and what a good feeling to feel like this that the feeling is mind. Yeah Oh there's something deep inside us become what we can or fan be someday a how long and boys and some common okay. Those Mr Rogers Do you play these songs for your son. I do that one. I played for my kid all the time. That song sort of became like our thesis for the whole movie. Have this idea that. So many of us don't actually have practical ways to cope with our feelings and You know it was a song he quoted when he did that famous Hearing in front of the Senate where he got money for. PBS BS but also it was a song that we put in the movies specifically because it felt like it was telling the story that we were trying to hit on with this. This movie which is about this grown men who really hasn't figured out his own coping ways he can't he hasn't figured out what to do with his own mad and And what does that mean. What what type of a man is he? Then let's take a short break here and then there'll be plenty more to talk about if you're just joining us. My guest is Mario Heller. She directed directed the new film a Beautiful Day in the neighborhood. We'll be right back. This is fresh air support for NPR comes from whyy presenting the PODCAST UNCAST. Eleanor amplified and adventure series. Kids love here reporter. Eleanor Atwood crafty villains and solve mysteries as she travels the globe to get the big story story available where you get podcasts or at whyy dot. Org I listen to Bullseye because Jesse always has really good questions. What John Malkovich wear with? Twenty two. I don't know how to describe it Bullseye interviews with creators you love and creators you need to know from maximum fund dot org and NPR. This is fresh air. And if you're just joining us my guest is Mario Heller. She directed the new film a Beautiful Full Day in the neighborhood. So the movie is in memory of Jim M.'s Willer Who died in a freak accident during the shooting? Could you explain what happened. I don't think we'll ever totally know what happened is the truth but We were filming the movie and and GM was our sound person and A very beloved member of the Pittsburgh Film Community and somebody who had worked with a lot of members of our crew for thirty years and and We had a little part. We were filming in a new location that we hadn't been on. That was a apartment building outside of town and there was is Our main apartment where we were filming and there was another apartment next door that was we were using for holding that. We hadn't seen ahead of time that had sort of been unlike. The building told us well whatever we have available on the day to kind of. Have your spillover people in. We'll give you and this was an empty apartment and it had a balcony that we we discovered partly through and So pretty much everyone who are smokers. On the movie were going out there all day and using this balcony that had pretty low railing. It was an old building that probably had older codes and so it had been built a long time ago and all we know. Is that when we called cut and we were setting up some lights. We heard something and Jim had gone out there for a cigarette and fell and it was. I mean it was the hardest thing I've ever experienced on any any possible shoot ever and I mean just. It's just so sad. What do you do after that? There's no protocol for what to do. That was the thing that was so hard. I mean we obviously first thing was getting him to the hospital and trying to you know Everybody starts the packing up equipment. Because you have to. But we're just all standing there crying trying to figure out what's happening not knowing what happened and then And and then we gathered the producers and I and the cinematographer regathered the next morning. Well that night we all were together and and the hospital and and he died and so we were all in shock and then you know the next morning we we both called Sony and we were talking to everybody in there was no set protocol. There's no sense of okay when this type of thing happens on set this is what you we do and we looked at each other as the leaders of this project but we looked at each other as a few things we said. Were the leaders of this project. Everyone's looking to us to know what to do. But we're also so guests here in Pittsburgh we are. We've been welcomed as part of their film community and Jim was part of their community and we are sort of the visitors this so we decided that the best thing we could do was listen so we called everybody on the crew. We had obviously taken that day off the next day. And we we kind of broke up the crew into our different divisions and we each called people to kind of listen and hear how people were doing and to hear what people wanted to do. Did they want to gather. Did they WANNA Come together as a group. What did they want to do in there was already sort of a a vigil gathering that was happening in an impromptu way so we all came together including Tom and Matthew on me and all the producers and we we all just I mean all I can say is we we help each other? We cried together. We wailed. We didn't know if he had had a heart attack. We didn't know why he had fallen. I mean we were all sort of reeling from the news and trying to figure it out and we And we tried to listen to the crew. You know we essentially said if you don't WanNa come back we understand. We had a week left I think I spoke to everybody and I essentially said you know. I know that we tend to have the slide. Show must go on quality to show business. But we're making a movie about Fred Rogers. This is not a place. Where are you know where you're not allowed to cry where we're here to feel what we're feeling and you get to feel what you're feeling so I want you to be able to be honest with us and if you don't WanNa come back back if you feel like this is too much that is okay and essentially everybody said Jim would want us to keep going and and we need to finish this movie I felt very inspired by our crew. I felt so touched by the way that this horrific event in some way brought everyone together in an even tighter way we were so close to begin with and this horrible tragedy that happened. It was like everybody linked arms and just cared for each other in the sweetest way. I can possibly imagine when we came back to work after many days it was like everybody was taking the time to look at each other's eyes and hug each other and be present with each other and we tried to take the lessons dozens of Fred and use them in this moment of tragedy. It was this weird moment of the the lessons of the movie needing meeting to be used at the exact moment that we were making the movie. Thank you for talking about a chapter of the film. I know is really horrible for you but thank you you for talking about it So I read that when you were making a a beautiful day in the neighborhood you kept the shooting to a limited the number of hours a day so that people like you could get home and put their kids to bed or spend some time with family So can you ever forgive me. Your previous film came out last year And what's the difference in age in the age that your son was between went out the new one and also. What did you learn from making your first film about what you need in your life and in your family's life in order to keep doing this and not feeling and like you were a neglectful mother? When I was making Daniel ever forgive me I think it was too and I would leave in the morning when he was asleep and get home and he would be asleep. And even though I was shooting in New York City where we live I felt like I was just gone and it was really hard. It was really really hard on all of us It was hard on my husband. It was hard on Wiley and it was hard on me and I felt over the course course of the next year. People were constantly asking me questions about like. How can we have more women directors? Why why is it so hard for women to direct movies like what do we need and I thought well one one of the things we need to stop pretending is not true as a lot of us are moms and how do we make it more sustainable for those of us? Who are parents to do this job? It's really really hard. But not to mention the fact that there were a number of stories about crew members dying after eighteen twenty hour days driving home long hours you know I just started to think like this is is a pretty unsustainable life that we choose to live and production particularly is really insane. There's the sense of that. You have to kind of kill yourself in order to do this job. Well and Melissa McCarthy was the one who actually said to me. Have you ever shot French hours. which we we call them French hours but it's not what they do? In France. I've since heard in France they take like for our lunches with wine. I guess but The idea behind French our is that instead of doing a twelve and a half or thirteen hour day with a lunch break in the middle. You do a ten hour straight day. Everyone kind of eat food throughout the day. Anyway on a set. Nobody's going hungry on a film set But you work straight through. Oh and then you're done and for me. It was the difference between getting home to put my kid to bed or not so it was seventy five or eight to six. It was Most days out of the week and we didn't do it every day of the filming but we did at large majority of the days. There are certain days when you have like a big move or to schedule just makes it impossible to do that. You really need the longer longer day but a lot of days we found it to be just as efficient if we were in the same location not taking a break in the middle of the day shooting less hours. But you don't have this kind and a dip and momentum that happens when you take a lunch I found it to be just as efficient And so it was something that I started talking about really early because I said you know. I don't think Fred Rogers would want would want us to make a movie about him where we all abandoned our kids in order to make. So how do we do this. How do we find? Find a way to do this and I was just lucky that everybody who worked on this movie was really game for this idea. Pretty much everybody involved had little kids or kids remembered what it was like when their kids were little and a lot of us had kids under five and so figuring out a way to make that happen became a huge priority for me and And it worked great and I you know. I found that the actors loved it to Chris. Cooper particularly said to me you know I hate taking lunch on a on a when you're in the middle of a scene. I hate breaking the momentum. I don't go like going off and eating a big plate of potatoes. I come back and I feel like I don't remember how I was feeling or I can't remember my lines it just I don't don't eat anyway because I it just distracts me and You know I often would find the my script supervisor. My EP or I would end up. Having meetings are working through lunch anyway. Nobody was really taking a break so it wasn't actually functioning as the break that it was supposed to be so this became just sort of a mission for me and something that I i WanNa talk more about. I want to talk to the unions about. I WANNA talk. Boats Directors Union to the crew unions to everybody about this idea that this could benefit all of us that it is a way that we can get more parents as directors because I think for a lot of us. It's the difference between the Spena. Sustainable lifestyle colon it not But also that it's safer and it could benefit all of us. Let's take a short break here. Okay and then we'll come back and talk some more more. If you're just joining us my guests Mario Heller. She directed the new film. A Beautiful Day in the neighborhood about Fred Rogers and his relationship with journalist who profiled filed him and she also made. Can you ever forgive me. And the diary of a teenage girl. We'll be right back. This is fresh air this message comes from. NPR SPONSOR TIAA providing retirement options for individuals who work at nonprofits president and CEO. Roger Ferguson is proud to serve this community by helping to guide them to do and through retirement. ow vision is to help the millions of Americans who are helping others To do better in their financial lives and and so that means providing products and services advice education. We say that we manage money for folks have more important things to do to find out if you're eligible in order to learn more go to Tiaa dot org slash. Never run out. Guarantees are subject to the claims paying ability of Tiaa annuities czar issued by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America. New York New York being an artist means being able to see the world and then express the world through your point of view and you have to have confidence in that point of view and you have to feel that you have an independent point of view worth expressing and not wait for everybody else's affirmation before you can express Yeah not not make sure you're in the majority in how you're perceiving something I think Was it ever hard for you to believe. In your point of you know I don't know it's this funny thing because I obviously I get asked a lot of questions about about being a female director and the fact that you know there's a a lot of women feel Not connected to their power and I recognize that as a truth and that a lot of women stopped raising their hand when they were eleven years old and class they went from being overachiever to be quiet and not wanting to raise. It just wasn't me. I never stopped and I don't know why I I don't know what my parents did. That made it that I just. I've always I've always been fairly confident. In what I feel. Thank in part of that. I think is coming from the bay area where you know. Being an individual was very celebrated our culture of the bay area is a place where you want to be different. You want to be seen and you want to be heard you want their conformity is the worst thing that you could aspire to so I definitely have that. You know that just in my bones but Also whatever my parents did that helped foster me as an independent person. I mean anyone who knew me as a kid is like and find out. I'm directing movies. It's like yeah that makes sense nobody. Nobody's shocked you know. I mean I was like I was definitely organizing using little plays on my block and making all the kids do it. I told them to do so. I was Bossy from a very young age but also I I knew what I thought. I knew what I wanted and I knew and I was very very clear about it. You wanted to act originally in your in a children's theater and it sounds like directing kind of fallback scheme all not get nor I didn't I I didn't even think about directing I mean I didn't even I don't even think I quite knew what not in film. I didn't really know what a director did. I mean that's not something you get a lot out of images of as you know you Kinda you have images of what an actor does but you re I I guess I had images of what a director in theatre did but You know I I still consider myself. An actor. Acting is the craft. I studying in college. It's something I I have a lot of respect for. I love actors. I think I think part of why I'm a good director is there's a secret which is that. A lot of directors are scared of actors and are afraid. They don't know how to speak their language and don't know how to communicate with them or get what they want Out of actors and as soon as you talk to other directors you start to realize like oh actors are this like really scary entity for a lot of people but that was the thing. I was the most comfortable with because I was like. Oh well that's what I know. I know how to talk to actors about a scene because I know how I'd like someone to talk to me about. You Know I. I know how I like to be directed so when I came to directing which was totally It was totally not a plan. It was just because I didn't want anyone else to direct wrecked my movie I had written. I realized that these skills that I had as an actor which were for this huge benefit I had and that could really help me you you know pull performances out of actors And that the things that I was really scared of were all the technical stuff I was really scared of not knowing the right lenses or not understanding and how you write a shot list or these kind of like these skills that the other directors who all went to film school those were the things they were very very comfortable with but as I started directing it felt incredibly natural to me more because as an actor I sort of always felt like I was holding my tongue. Like when you're an actor you're not supposed to get involved in certain things you're not supposed to get involved in every discussion you know if like even if I was acting in a play and it was a new play and we were discussing how a scene was working working or not working. You know the director and the playwright might be discussing whether it seems working or not but as an actor. You're not really supposed to get involved in that conversation. You're sort of their to do your work and I was. I spent a lot of years when I was working as an actor doing theater. Kind of holding my tongue where I wanted to be involved in those bigger creative discussions Russian. But I knew it wasn't my place and when I started directing it was like oh great now I get to actually be involved in all of the deeper creative discussions and figure these things out in and the problem solving of storytelling and You know and I tried to involve my actors in that way as well and let them feel like they're not required to hold their Tong and that we can all be parts of these bigger discussions wissmann wonderful to talk with you. Thank you so much for the interview and for the movie. aww thank you Terry. It's such a pleasure to talk to you. Marielle Heller directed the new movie a Beautiful Day in the neighborhood starring. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our Technical Director and engineer as re Bentham with additional engineering support from Joyce Lieberman and Jillian Herzfeld our associate producer for digital media. Is Molly Seavy Nesper. Roberta shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross. You can make believe and Dan or pretend something true you can wish or hope for contemplate thing you'd like to do but until you you start to do it you will never see through the make. Believe pretending just won't do it or you got to do a little bit. You've got to do it win win. You can know. Did it or you did it. You did it you. It's not easy to keep trying but it's one good way to grab. It's not easy easy to keep learning but I know that this is when you learn your bigger than you were a a day. It's not an easy to keep trying but it's one way to grow. You got every little bit. You've got to win with point when you did it for you did you did you.