Interview: Paul Downs Colaizzo – Brittany Runs a Marathon


I sat with Paul Downs Colaizzo to talk about his new film Brittany Runs a Marathon. We talked about making a film based on his friend’s real life, social media’s impact on the hero of the film, and having a healthy relationship with yourself.

A marathon is about distance traveled. This movie is about distance traveled and not about a finish line. Life is full of doorknob moments. Are you going to do it? Are you going to go outside and challenge yourself?

Brittany Runs a Marathon is inspired by a true story. Did you have any reservations making a film about someone you know?

Paul Downs Colaizzo: I think it was Nora Ephron who said, “Everything is copy.”Meaning…be careful around writers. All we’re doing is analyzing the world. [Brittany Runs a Marathon] was done from a place of love and with her full blessing. It’s not her story, there’s so much that’s  different. What is the same is they were both working in theater in their late 20’s and felt they wanted to make a change in their lives so they started running. I was her roommate when I started writing this and I outlined the film the first day she started running. Then it all happened in her real life after I’d already outlined it. It’s almost like her life is based on a true film.

Talking to people about the film, I didn’t realize so many people I know have run marathons. My friend has run about 13.

PDC: First of all, that’s crazy. Hats off to those people. I will not be doing that.

For some people, it’s the only time they have to themselves.

PDC: I think it’s spiritual for a lot of people. Running is about your relationship to yourself. When you’re running, you’re the voice that says “No! “and the voice that says “Go!” In the film, our hero is the antagonist and the protagonist. It’s all inside of her. In my life when I’m coming up against obstacles, how do I approach the conversation with myself to get past that obstacle? It’s a movie about personal triumph and overcoming. The title is apt whether Brittany runs a marathon or not because she’s running a metaphorical marathon in the movie.

There’s a moment in the film when I wondered if she would run a marathon or not, but did it really matter if she did?

PDC: She’s run one already. A marathon is about distance traveled. This movie is about distance traveled and not about a finish line. Life is full of doorknob moments. Are you going to do it? Are you going to go outside and challenge yourself? In film, we usually take characters like Brittany and laugh at them. We’re asked to laugh at them. We’re asked to cosign their humiliation as something we’re ok with. I wanted to take someone like my friend and give them a hero treatment. We’re all heroes of our own story. We deserve stories like that. That’s where the love comes in when telling a true story. You’re telling a hero’s story. Your hero just happens to be a disaster of a late 20-something party girl.

I loved the party girl aspect of her character. As she tries to better herself, there are these self destructive habits that keep popping up.

PDC: They never go away.

That scene when her roommate brings in the pizza and she has to actively choose the salad.

PDC; That’s every day. If you’re in this life and you’re living a life where you can change and grow, that’s the only way.

It’s not just ending bad habits; you have to form healthy relationships to things and people. That’s a different daily struggle.

PDC: For me the film is about the way shame suffocates potential. We all recreate the relationships we know and if the relationships are toxic, we have to break through that. I come from theater and I love going to see something and I’ve seen myself in those characters. I walk out the theater understanding myself better and life better. It’s not just inspirational or wish fulfillment; it’s something I can take with me. I was interested in having people leave the theater and think, “I am Brittany.” I want men and women of all ages, sizes, and lifestyles to think about what they’ve feel inspired to do and what have they’ve been challenged to do. Also, “Why was that so entertaining?” [laughs].

I like how the journey stays focused on Brittany.

PDC: The journey is inside of her. The beats are in [Jillian Bell] eyes, her soul, and the energy she’s giving off. There’s an internal conversation she’s having. When she gets the OK Cupid message, that’s an entire conversation she’s having with herself.

I appreciate the way you show how social media impacts Brittany.

PDC; It’s all about comparison. The way we’ve used it in a film, it’s shown as Brittany vs. Social Media. It’s her versus the idea of someone‘s life.

What did you have to cut that you wish you would’ve kept.

PDC: There was something amazing that we couldn’t put in the film. We filmed the actual New York City Marathon and every time we filmed [redacted] a stranger would try to help. We had to tell them she was an actress. We were sobbing because it was so sweet.