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“It Was an Interesting Challenge to Take a Real Place and Mold It” | Josh Margolin, Thelma

An elderly Black man and an elderly white woman are sitting on a red electric scooter.Still from 2024 Sundance premiere Thelma

Films are made of and from places: the locations they are filmed in, the settings they are meant to evoke, the geographies where they are imagined and worked on. What place tells its own story about your film, whether a particularly challenging location that required production ingenuity or a map reference that inspired you personally, politically or creatively? 

We shot a portion of the movie in my real grandma Thelma’s condo. That space is incredibly meaningful to me. Growing up, it always felt like a second home. I wanted to utilize it for the movie because it feels so connected to her. She lived there until she was 99 before moving in with my parents (into my old room actually), and at the moment we were going into production the place was empty, so it just felt right to shoot there. 

It was great to feel such familiarity with the location, but it was also an interesting challenge to take a real place and mold it to the needs of the movie. My fantastic DP David Bolen and amazing production designer Brielle Hubert shaped it beautifully. It was very surreal to be in there and see a handful of items I recognized from childhood interspersed with new elements brought in specifically for the production. It got trippier once the cast arrived, playing versions of my family members in a space my real family has occupied my entire life. But it felt really right for the movie and the character. The condo is emblematic of the autonomy she’s clinging to, so the real article was tough to beat. Our shoot started there, and I think it was grounding to be in a space with real history like that. 

We recently had to put the condo on the market, so I feel very lucky and grateful that I was able to memorialize it on screen.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

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