Marielle Heller (Courtesy of Rich Polk)
Marielle Heller has set a new first-look deal with Paramount Television Studios for her company, Defiant by Nature. Along with producing partners Havilah Brewster and Leah Holzer, Heller will develop premium television shows for the studio across its platforms.
Heller came to prominence as a writer-director for 2015’s “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” for which she won an Independent Spirit Award for best first feature. She then went on to direct “Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (2019), which drew effusive critical praise — as well as Oscar nominations for Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant and Tom Hanks. Heller, who began her career as an actor, also co-starred in the Emmy-winning limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” in fall 2020, playing Alma.
Heller and Brewster formed Defiant by Nature in 2018, and its first project was Heller’s filmed version of Heidi Schreck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which premiered on Amazon in October 2020, and was produced by Brewster. The company, according to its mission statement, “seeks to illuminate stories which speak to our hearts — especially those from women and non-binary creators — in an effort to uplift, inspire, challenge and entertain.”
Leah Holzer (Left) and Havilah Brewster (Right)
Courtesy of Ethan Mitchell/Jeffrey Mosier
Holzer joined Defiant by Nature recently, having been at the production company Big Beach for the past 10 years, where she worked with Heller as a producer on “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
“We are so excited to work with such a bright, multi-faceted talent in Marielle,” said Nicole Clemens, the president of Paramount Television Studios and Paramount Plus original scripted series, in a statement. “We’ve been admirers of her work since ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl,’ she is an undeniable triple threat.”
“Havilah, Leah and I are thrilled to be partnering with the smart, supportive and insightful team at PTVS,” said Heller. “It’s wonderful to find such creative alignment and Defiant by Nature is full steam ahead exploring where this new partnership can take us.”
Heller is represented by UTA, 42West, and Johnson Shapiro Slewett & Kole.
Variety's Kate Aurthur contributed to this post.