VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Director Paul Downs Colaizzo On His Debut Film ‘Brittany Runs A Marathon,’ Real-Life Inspiration For Story
Brittany Runs A Marathon is a new comedy film that strives to do away with many of the stereotypes associated with young women who struggle with their bodies and lifestyles.
The movie stars Jillian Bell in the title role of Brittany, a hard-partying young woman who decides to set a goal of running the New York City Marathon after a doctor’s visit reveals how much weight she has gained and how out of shape she is.
Paul Downs Colaizzo, a playwright who is the writer and director of Brittany Runs A Marathon, spoke to uInterview’s Erik Meers exclusively about the making of the movie, which marks his film directorial debut. Colaizzo began by revealing his personal life experiences that served as inspiration for the story and explained the decision to cast Bell in the lead role.
“I was living with my best friend Brittany in my mid-20s, I had just moved in with her and we were starting to have those deep conversations you have in your 20s about life and what is happiness and what is fulfillment and what is success and what does it look like to us personally,” said Colaizzo. “Can we achieve [success]? How do we achieve it?”
“Very quickly after that conversation, [Brittany] started running and I thought, ‘this is a movie,'” he added before explaining how he started developing an outline for the film and how his friend’s life quickly began mirroring that first draft of the story. Colaizzo said he also incorporated his friend Brittany’s real-life running “milestones” into his movie’s storyline.
The writer-director went on to say how he and the real-life Brittany decided to make a series of transformational changes in the way they lived their lives. Colaizzo discussed how he and his friend wanted to make sure they became the “lead” character in their respective life stories rather than simply the “funny best friend” or “funny sidekick” they had viewed themselves as for yeas.
“In order to do that, we had to change the way we looked at ourselves, we asked other people to change the way they looked at us, we lost friends along the way and got new ones in their place,” said Colaizzo. “We found a way that we could come into adulthood with dignity and self-respect.”
Colaizzo praised Bell as an “amazing comedic actress” and cited her performances in films like 22 Jump Street and in television series like Workaholics, and said he knew almost immediately that she would be his “dream” choice for the role of Brittany.
“I knew whoever played this role was going to have to be both comedically inclined and also have depth and a well of vulnerability to expose because that’s the journey the character goes on,” Colaizzo said. “This is a funny movie but we’re also exploring a person’s inner pain.”
Colaizzo said the film’s producers were at first hesitant to let him take on the role of director, although he eventually ended up helming the movie after making his case for how he would strive to strike the right “balance” of humor and depth to the story and ensure all of the film’s elements would be in service to its characters and their stories.
Brittany Runs A Marathon premiered at the Sundace Film Festival in Utah in January, and Colaizzo revealed he has seen the film multiple times since then, partly because he enjoys viewing the wide range of reactions from audiences throughout the duration of the movie.
“I always say I’m just going to watch the first five minutes of the film and then leave,” the writer-director said. “[But] I love watching the audience’s reaction and how it change and how they change their relationship to the film so much that I end up standing in the back and watching the whole movie through their eyes every time.”
So what is the film’s message, according to Colaizzo? The director said he hopes audiences of all genders, ages, races and body types “identify” with the character of Brittany and realize they can achieve their goals by taking one small step at a time.
“There might be something in [audiences’] lives that they need to overcome and if they take it one step at a time, they might be able to do it,” he said.
Brittany Runs A Marathon will be released by Amazon Studios on August 23 and also stars Michaela Watkins, Micah Stock and Lil Rel Howery. The film boasts a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.