‘CODA was Sian’s love letter to Gloucester, it’s mine,’ says Thyra Heder of her new illustrated children’s picture book, ‘Sal’s Boat’, which she will read at an event special this Sunday, September 25 at The Bookstore. of Gloucester.
Seven years younger than her Oscar-winning sister Sian, Thyra — 15 years an acclaimed Brooklyn-based illustrator and prolific screenwriter — worked closely on the pre-production portion of “CODA,” which was filmed almost entirely in Gloucester, a town the sisters have loved since childhood.
“When we were kids,” says Thyra, who grew up in Cambridge, “in the summers we would visit family friends who had a house in Gloucester. For me, Gloucester was one of the most magical places in the world. It was a place I’ve always loved, but never really spent time in before ‘CODA’.
A film born out of her sister’s childhood memories in Gloucester, “CODA” took months in production, and as well as scripting the toughest filming sequences, Thyra was heavily involved in location scouting, a job that took her to the next level. brought her to the beloved coves and quarries and beaches of her childhood.
“I was there working on Sian’s film, but in the meantime Gloucester inspired me to make my own ‘film,'” says Thyra, who studied film at Brown University. “I think cinematically,” she says, “and Gloucester is a very cinematic place.”
The “movie” taking shape in Thyra’s mind featured a little boy from Gloucester named Sal – a composite of Thyra herself and her nephew, Sian’s son Milo – who gets it into his head that he going to build a boat alone. “Milo and I both love projects and we’re both stubborn,” says Thyra. In Sal’s case, his stubborn streak puts him in a tough spot as he attempts to not only build a boat, but also a boathouse.
“When we were coming from Boston and getting to this point on Route 128, where you look down from the bridge over the water, this floating boat house told me I was in Gloucester,” Thyra says of why the Sal’s dream boat was a houseboat.
But when Sal’s dream of actually living on the water – “just the waves and me” – lands him wildly out of his depth, the boat-savvy people of Gloucester lovingly portray him as a place where everyone help everyone – save the day. “Everyone showed up for work,” reads Heder’s text, and Sal’s dream boat is successfully launched.
Sal’s Boat, released in late summer in an illustrated hardcover edition, is Thyra Heder’s fifth illustrated children’s book, but her first to be set in Gloucester. It is, as she puts it, very “cinematic”, and her love for Gloucester brings its pages to life.
Heder’s other four children’s picture books are available worldwide through Abarms Books for Young Readers. His online comics are published on Medium and Spiralbound and his illustrations have appeared in Vogue, The New York Times and Vice. As a concept illustrator, she has produced visuals for Swarovski and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as HBO’s “CODA”, “Barry”, “The Sesame Street Movie”, and “Scenes From A Marriage”. She was a Sundance Screenwriting Fellow in 2015 and received the Hearst Fellowship from the San Francisco Film Society the same year. She teaches storyboarding at Drexel University and is a guest lecturer on picture books at The New School, School of Visual Arts and Pratt Institute.
“Everything I do starts with drawing,” says Heder. « I use drawing as a camera, as a diary, as a way to tell a story or a joke, a way to connect and to offer my vision of the world. I see him as both an athletic and empathetic medium, best when you meet your subject’s energy with your own.
“I feel the same way about picture books,” she continues. “A good children’s book is read and re-read and has a unique and sly ability to exist where other art forms might not exist, in the most intimate domestic moments. I consider this a great honor to be welcomed into the emotional life and imagination of a child and it is not a position I take lightly!