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St. John’s producer Margot Hand’s film to be screened at Scotiabank Theatre

St. John’s-born and raised producer Margot Hand on the set of "Brittany Runs a Marathon" with the film’s star, Jillian Bell.
St. John’s-born and raised producer Margot Hand on the set of "Brittany Runs a Marathon" with the film's stat, Jillian Bell (Jon Pack photo). - Contributed

"Brittany Runs a Marathon" is her first to be shown on local big screen

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Today she’s a Los Angeles-based film producer who has worked with stars such as Anjelica Huston, Colin Farrell and Luke Wilson, but growing up in St. John’s, Margot Hand thought a film career was a far-off dream. 

The first movie she recalls seeing at the Avalon Mall was "The Lion King." Now, on Friday a film she produced will be on the big screen there at Scotiabank Theatre.

Hand has produced many films, but the breakout comedy "Brittany Runs a Marathon" is the first to be available in St. John’s theatrically. 

It stars Jillian Bell of the TV series "Workaholics," as well as the movies "Office Christmas Party" and "22 Jump Street." 

Margot Hand. - Contributed
Margot Hand. - Contributed

Variety has called the film “genuinely moving,” and The Los Angeles Times said it was “honestly inspiring.” 

The story of a hard-partying woman who takes control of her health and life by training to run the New York City Marathon was voted an audience favourite film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Hand was in town last week visiting her family, and stopped by The Telegram to talk about the movie. 

The 34-year-old said she’s “really excited” to have it screened in her hometown.

Hand grew up in St. John’s and completed a finance degree at Memorial University. After graduation, she moved to Vancouver and pursued her dream to work in film. That was about a decade ago.

She landed a job in business affairs at Insight Film Studios, which was the largest film production company in Canada at the time, but it was producing what’s known in the business as MOWs (movies of the week), such as Hallmark and Lifetime films.

“I was like, ‘The movie industry sucks. I’m over it,’” Hand said with a laugh.

She worked in digital media for a while, but then was asked to consult, and that’s when she started producing and working on Hollywood movies. 

Within a decade, she went from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and this year had what she called the greatest moment of her career so far: Amazon Studios acquired worldwide rights to "Brittany Runs a Marathon" during an all-night auction at Sundance, closing the deal at $14 million.

“To be in a bidding war was exciting,” she said.

“It’s intense. You’re up until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning going through deals, going through offers, talking through (it).”

Filming in Newfoundland on bucket list

Hand said Jillian Bell and producers Tobey Maguire and Matthew Plouffe felt they needed a female producer to shepherd the film through casting and production, and that’s how she came to

A scene from "Brittany Runs a Marathon," starring Jillian Bell. Photo courtesy of Elevation Pictures. - Contributed
A scene from "Brittany Runs a Marathon," starring Jillian Bell. Photo courtesy of Elevation Pictures. - Contributed

be involved.  

“This was kind of before any Me Too, Time’s Up stuff happened. We were actually on our tech scout when the Harvey (Weinstein) scandal broke. So, they were very early to the party in terms of doing the right thing, which is nice.”

Hand said she read the script and loved that it handled body image and weight loss issues honestly and respectfully.

But producing a movie that involves filming a marathon through New York City had its challenges. It was actually the first movie, other than documentaries, to film the New York City Marathon. 

“It was a nail-biter,” said Hand, explaining it required a slew of permissions, from the marathon organizers New York Road Runners all the way up to the Department of Homeland Security. 

“Luckily, the New York Road Runners read the script and loved the movie and the message, and what it said about running.”

Hand’s now off to New York to film "Passing," a movie based on Nella Lawson’s 1920s Harlem Renaissance novel. It tells the story of two African-American women who pass as white.

Hand said she hopes to return to Newfoundland one day not just to visit family and friends, but to shoot a movie. She called it “one of the dreams still on the bucket list.”

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