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June 18, 2020

The Real Deal

Tenacity leads to a producing career based on authenticity.

Ann Farmer
  • Wes Klain

As the single child of a single mom, Kristin Hahn would often curl up with her mother in front of the television and gorge on movies.

"We'd laugh and cry together," she says. "I experienced from a young age how profound and powerful and cathartic storytelling could be." By age 15 she'd made up her mind to work in the industry.

Today, her work is streaming on multiple platforms. Hahn executive-produced Apple TV+'s The Morning Show, which garnered a best-actress SAG Award for her best friend and colleague, Jennifer Aniston.

She also wrote and produced the Netflix film Dumplin' and cowrote and produced Stargirl, one of the first original films on Disney+.

When she arrived in L.A., however, Hahn knew no one in the business. She found the name of a producer and badgered him for a month until he finally picked up the phone asking, "Who are you?" He agreed to set up an interview with writer-producer Bob Ellison, provided she would leave him alone.

"That was my giant break," says Hahn, who served as Ellison's assistant during the day, soaking up opportunities to watch masters at work — like Jim Burrows directing Cheers. At night she attended USC's film school.

Her first independent project was Anthem, a road-trip documentary featuring musings from inspirational Americans like Studs Terkel and Willie Nelson. She and her coproducer, Shainee Gabel, wrote Anthem's companion book.

Then Hahn wrote a second book, In Search of Grace: A Journey Across America's Landscape of Faith.

She met her BFF while hosting a barbecue at her shared house in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon. Aniston, in town visiting, was still relatively unknown. They clicked. Hahn convinced her to move next door, which allowed them to carry on much like a real-life Friends.

After Aniston shot to fame, they formed the production company Plan B Entertainment with Brad Pitt. The Oscar-winning The Departed was the first of many films that Hahn originated and supervised under that umbrella.

She and Aniston later cofounded Echo Films, agreeing to work only on projects they both loved. "The theme of authenticity is one that Jen and I are drawn to," Hahn says, referring, for instance, to The Morning Show, where Aniston's narcissistic TV anchor slowly awakens to the compromises she's made.

Similarly, Dumplin' features a superficial mother whose resolute, plus-size daughter (Danielle Macdonald) incites in her a fresh perspective.

After reading Hahn's first draft, Aniston felt compelled to play the beauty-queen mom who's endearingly trapped in her own vanity. "Jen had fun playing a heightened version of both of our moms," says Hahn, who waggishly tweaked the script in that direction.

Most recently, Hahn adapted Stargirl from Jerry Spinelli's best-selling YA novel under her solo banner, Hahnscape Entertainment. It showcases a nonconformist teen whose singing invigorates her schoolmates.

Hahn viewed hundreds of audition tapes before landing on Grace VanderWaal, a 2016 winner of America's Got Talent. "Grace had so much Stargirl fairy dust in her naturally," she says.

Just as movies inspired her, Hahn is on a mission to tell stories that help girls feel less alone. "It's a rich storytelling area," she says. "I never get tired of it."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2020

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