While there are many movie producers that can successfully bring a given story idea to its eventual audience, there may be no one more suited in the entertainment industry than Kristin Hahn to turn “Stargirl” into a feature film. Hahn’s background and life experience, coupled with a career seemingly structured toward taking on this project, have helped put her in the right place and time to translate Jerry Spinelli’s best-selling book into a visual medium.
Born in the Midwest in the late 1960’s to parents Howard and Dianne, Kristin Hahn grew up fascinated and entranced by the power of film. After her mother relocated from Omaha to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Hahn has stated she spent a lot of time with her mother watching movies, and learning the power that they have to educate and inspire. Beyond that, she decided she wanted to pursue filmmaking, or storytelling as she would have it, as a career – without any connections in the entertainment industry, or even an understanding of how to go about making it her life’s work. While still a high school student, she began on her own to set her path, reaching out to a local commercial director for career advice and securing an internship at a local PBS television station before applying to USC Film School. It’s tempting to imagine Hahn being able to look back on her time as a strong-willed, creative young woman attending high school in the American Southwest and seeing glimpses of herself in the character of Stargirl Caraway.
In Spinelli’s book, Leo and Stargirl find as a mentor the retired university teacher and paleontologist Archie Brubaker, who guide them poetically and sometimes cryptically to maturity and understanding. In Hahn’s case, the mentoring she received was much more practical and direct. After getting the name of television producer and script consultant Bob Ellison, she left phone messages for him daily until she wore him down. Ellison put her to work, arranging for her to get entry assistant jobs on the 80’s TV shows “Cheers” and “Dear John”, as well as providing the leeway for her to continue her evening film school studies.
Hahn has preached and lived by the philosophy that everyone involved in the making of the show or movie is part of the storytelling process. She has served over the years on various projects as production assistant, music supervisor, camera operator, writer, director, and producer. Several of these credits stem from an early documentary project, developing and creating “Anthem” with Shainee Gabel in the late 1990s. The film is a Studs Terkel-like series of interviews with the famous and not-so-famous about the state of the American Dream. In that same vein, she also wrote the book “In Search of Grace”, published in 2002, an interview and introspection piece about faith and religion in modern America.
It is as film producer that Hahn has had the greatest success and most impact in the industry. She formed a close friendship and became roommates with a pre-”Friends” Jennifer Aniston, leading eventually to her working with Aniston and then-husband Brad Pitt. Their production company Plan B Entertainment developed films including “The Departed” and “The Time-Traveler’s Wife.” As a result of the fallout between Aniston and Pitt’s divorce, Hahn and Aniston then formed Echo Films, a production group that developed “The Switch” and “Cake” as Aniston vehicles. They are currently developing “The Goree Girls”, a period film about the true story of an all-female country band formed in prison in the 1940’s. In addition, Hahn’s own production company Hahnscape produced “Tumbledown” starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis, and is the banner under which she is producing ”Stargirl”.
Hahn’s stated preference for character-driven stories, frequently with strong female protagonists, made her choice to take on “Stargirl” obvious. About the title character of Stargirl, she told Bustle.com that, “I want that character for my daughter. I want Stargirl out there as a character girls can relate to, and that can make being kind, cool and being an individual OK.”
Her previous writing experience provided Hahn the confidence and background to convince her to write a script adaptation for “Stargirl” from Spinelli’s book. She reached out to Spinelli at an early stage to share her vision for the film, only moving forward with production after he gave her approval on both the treatment and the finished script.
Movie and TV production is complex and frequently frustrating. The work involves constant coordination between funding sources, studios, directors, writers, agents, and all of the other personalities involved in the storytelling process. Disruptions or complications from any of the key parties can lead to delays or even cancellations of the production. Hahn’s film “Tumbledown” for example required recasting and rescheduling in order to reach completion.
In the summer of 2015, Hahn and the “Stargirl” production team were far enough along to announce the selection of Catherine Hardwicke to direct and the casting of Joey King and Charlie Plummer as Stargirl and Leo respectively. By early 2016, delays due to being unable to secure financing and studio support led to the director and actors pursuing other work. Hahn and producing partners Lee Stollman and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein didn’t give up on the project, eventually resulting in finally securing backing from Disney in early 2018. As principal photography nears completion, Hahn is now within sight of the finish line of one of her long-standing passion projects, one that will hopefully be as successful as she has long imagined.
Hahn lives in Los Angeles and has two children with husband Charles.
This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Yfl9ID8F0g&lc=UgypNLMQRnFmTNV48xJ4AaABAg