EXCLUSIVE | 'Heist' helmer Derek Doneen says Emree Franklin was always first choice for Heather

In the interview, Derek also noted how Heather Tallchief never wanted to be in front of the camera due to Robert Solis' unknown whereabouts


                            EXCLUSIVE | 'Heist' helmer Derek Doneen says Emree Franklin was always first choice for Heather
Creator Derek Doneen is all praises for Emree Franklin(Sundance Film Festival/IMDb, Instagram/@emreefranklin)

Netflix's latest docuseries 'Heist' has taken everyone by storm, with the stories it presents leaving everyone stunned. Creator Derek Doneen has perfectly captured the essence of humanity in between these extraordinary heists that took place in the US. 

The documentary series works at many levels because of the way it has been told. We have never seen a documentary series where the perpetrators take the center stage and tell why did they do it? The concept completely floored the viewers and they flooded social media with praise for the amazing docuseries.

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Apart from telling these stories, Doneen did an amazing casting on the series. It never looked like these people were acting on the screen and it looked so natural. We had an amazing discussion with Doneen about the project and how challenging the entire casting process was and why did he thought that Emree Franklin was the best choice for playing Heather Tallchief. 

Filmmaker Derek Doneen attends YouTube Originals "Price of Free" screening at The New People Theatre on November 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images for YouTube)

I wanted to talk about Emree Franklin. She is undoubtedly a revelation in the series and was so brilliant in playing Heather Tallchief. The other actors were amazing as well. So, what was the casting process like? Was Emree always the first choice for playing Heather?

The casting process was really extensive and we had to do it all over Zoom because of the Covid-19 pandemic and it created its own complications in many ways. We had a great casting director and she brought a lot of talent to the audition room. Emree Franklin was one of the first actors we saw and I knew right away that she was Heather. But of course, we went through this long casting process where we saw many different actors. But Emree was always our top choice from the beginning and she was great. 

Emree Franklin as Heather Tallchief in 'Heist' (Netflix)

How did the Covid-19 pandemic change the making of the series? Did you face any challenges?

Fortunately, all the interviews we shot happened before the lockdown came into effect in Miami. We just barely got through it and in the process, missed one interview. Later, we did that interview through Zoom. But because we were able to do most of the interviews before the lockdown, we were able to do the editing remotely. So, we got really lucky with the timing.

We did shoot all the recreation stuff during the pandemic and things changed significantly. At the start of every single day, you need to have temperature checks and Covid tests. We were told to wear masks and face shields at all times. We could only have a certain amount of people inside a room at one time. The entire crew took it very, very seriously. We had 3-4 Covid compliance officers on the set and they were wiping down all the equipment after every interval. During the entire time of the shoot, we just had one case of Covid and the member got healthy after going into isolation. It was a testament to how people took it seriously.

You saved the best for the last. The revelation of Heather Tallchief in the series comes at the very end and it completely blew everyone's mind. Was that always the idea? Or this was something you decided as the story progressed? 

Heather said from the very beginning that she wasn’t sure if she wants to be in front of the camera. We knew that going in. But of course, we hoped that she would ultimately come around. We shot the interview with her and at the end, viewers see that we reveal her. We shot a real interview with Heather and there are rough cuts of the film that exists with the real Heather Tallchief in it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t put her face out there because of the unknown whereabouts of Roberto Solis. She was concerned for her safety and we have to respect that. 

Lisa Lord as Heather Tallchief in 'Heist' (Netflix)

We thought of different options and the actor option was always on the table. We also thought of doing face-mapping or computer graphics and many more ideas. In the end, we thought an actor giving the interview in front of a camera would be the best way for the audience to experience the film as if it’s the real person. The film was almost done when we got out and filmed the interview with Lisa and we replaced Heather’s lines with Lisa’s lines.

What's next?

At this point in time, it is really difficult to answer that question. I am going through a lot of subjects and nothing has been finalized as of yet. So, I can't talk about it right now. Whenever I've decided something, you'll definitely get to know about it. 

'Heist' is currently streaming on Netflix.

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