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HFPA In Conversation: Sia on her Big Challenge with her First Movie

Singer-songwriter Sia’s dream got fulfilled when her directorial debut, Music, was released in theaters. She co-wrote the story of a young girl on the autism disorder spectrum with author Dallas Clayton. Maddie Ziegler, who performed in a series of music videos by Sia, plays the lead. Sia told HFPA journalist Barbara de Oliveira Pinto, whether criticism regarding her casting was fair.

“Yes and no. I think it is fair that I didn’t think about it. If I had thought about okay, I want to make a movie about a non-verbal teen on the spectrum, I could have made 50 different kinds of movies. And if I wanted to be more inclusive, I could have written a movie entirely around what was comfortable for the actor, the neuro-atypical actor, it would have been an entirely different movie. But because I wasn’t aware of ableism, I hadn’t thought about it deeply enough, I feel bad.  And also because I love working with Maddie so much, I did realize after I’d written the movie, I had written it with Maddie in mind, that I needed to try to work with someone neuro-atypical. And I did and then their mom said that it was too stressful for them. I listened to the mom and I went back to using Maddie.”

Sia did her research and spoke to many people and she learned there are many communities that all have different opinions.

“I realized in a way I think I feel like I can’t win, I couldn’t have won. I could have if I made that movie that they wanted me to make, which is a movie that I catered to that neuro-atypical actor. It just wasn’t the movie that I had had in my mind’s eye. I wrote the movie first. If I had thought of casting a neuro-atypical actor first, it was just the cart before the horse basically. I regret that I’ve hurt people’s feelings and I regret that I might be ableist, I have to recognize that I might be ableist, I have to recognize I might be racist, I might be nepotist, I have to recognize those things because a lot of us are all of those things subconsciously or consciously, and due to our conditioning and our ignorance. I learned a lot during this period.”

In the end, she made her movie with love.

“I did make the movie that I intended to make and I did have love behind it, and every day I came to work and we would talk about how this was for the community, the Autism community, and those caregivers of those in the Autism community. And we thought we were doing the right thing and we thought we were making something really special and really loving and giving a voice to a small sub-community that doesn’t have a voice. And since then apparently, I’ve used all the wrong language, but I was taught by some factions of the community that this is the language that they prefer and other people are saying well stop saying that and say this, but other communities are saying no, don’t say that, that’s offensive to us, you’ve got to say it like this. And now I am actually kind of a little bit afraid to talk.” 

Listen to the podcast and hear when she learned that she had a strong singing voice; why she is happy she didn’t become an actor; how she learned to write songs; when she became very successful; how anxiety attacks affected her career; what events have caused trauma in her life; who are the people that helped her when she was mentally ill; what she learned about PTSD; what she knows about addictive personality; how she describes the way she looks at life; how she deals with criticism; is she a genius? why she is only on Twitter; how she describes her relationship with her two adopted sons; how she spends her money; how she defines fame; is there a dream she wants to fulfill? how Maddie Ziegler felt about playing the lead character in MusicKate Hudson in Music