Editors Note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay Series debuts. It celebrates the scripts that will be considered in this year’s movie award race.
After writer-director Sian Heder scored raves for her debut feature film Tallulah, she came to the attention of the producers who held rights to the acclaimed 2014 French film La Famille Belier. “They were looking to do an American version of the film and really wanted a filmmaker to come in who had a unique take,” Heder told Deadline, noting that she was eager to explore deaf culture and American Sign Language on screen in CODA, the title of which derives from the acronym for children of deaf adults.
Heder is a hearing person and quickly began to research techniques to tell Ruby Rossi’s story (Emilia Jones), a teenager who is the only one hearing in her family. She also learns how to balance her responsibility towards her family and her dreams.
Heder was initially disappointed by the absence of cinematic precursors to inspire him.
“There were not many movies where I could see deaf characters. She adds that she was returning 35 many years to Children Of A Lesser God This scarcity was however “very motivating” for her in terms of how the story should be told and the character at its center. The CODA experience is unique in that CODAs are raised in deaf culture and live between the hearing and deaf worlds. The story .”
was both specific and universal. This made me very happy.
Heder was ultimately the one to tell the story about Gloucester, Massachusetts. This is a place she knew well from her childhood summers there. She said, “I knew that area and the fishing community very well.” “It was not about diving into deaf culture but the culture of this fishing community and how specific it was… There was a lot going on in the community. There were a lot of issues family fishermen were facing in terms of losing their livelihood.”
Heder’s biggest challenge was writing dialogue in a language she didn’t know. It was fun to write the script in English because it’s my first language. However, the production’s ASL