I know. The title of this blog article is contradictory. While the Hallmark movies are all “original” as in they are not spin-offs or franchises, they are not necessarily “original” in ideas. They’re predictable, not very deep in plot and always end the way you expect.
And that’s why I love them!Embed from Getty Images
With the kids home from school during that freezing time of year, the predictability factor is key. I can put on the Hallmark Channel and let it ride without worrying about what kinds of things I’ll have to explain to them. I love cheesy rom-coms and have made the mistake of having something on while the girls were playing that depicts the inevitable sex as the two main characters finally falling in love. I get it from a filmmaker standpoint, it is the easiest way to show an emotion on the screen. However, I have three daughters, I don’t want them to associate sex with true love. That can lead to trouble in their teens!
Here comes a bit of a rabbit trail. Do you remember the movie He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)? Something in that movie stuck with me about raising daughters and it pointed out how silly it is to tell them that the little boy throwing rocks at them actually likes them. Instead, I tell them that boys can be immature and it’s best to ignore them when they act that way. Anyhow, there are enough blogs on parenting and this isn’t one of them. My being a parent just happens to shape some of my programming choices. Hence, Hallmark Christmas Movies have become a favorite of my girls and I. My husband and our teenage son, not so much (though, they’ve been known to get sucked in).
What’s awful and good about these movies is that they are all the same story. Girl meets boy whom she can’t stand. Usually one or both is a half-orphan of sorts. One loves Christmas, the other screams “Bah-humbug!” They are forced to spend time together where they inevitably can’t help falling for each other. The movie ends in a kiss and even a marriage proposal. This formula works for their non-Christmas movies, as well – just replace Christmas with _______ (fill in the blank with “weddings”, “dogs”, “their small town” “the sea” “garbage” etc.). And don’t forget the cherry on top: the cheesy title.
I like these movies because it’s always basically “How many ways can you tell the same story?” Deconstructing even the most epic of blockbuster film boils down to simple formulaic storytelling that’s all been done in one way or another. However, with the Hallmark Originals it’s always something lighthearted.
Which is why I’ve decided to write my own Hallmark style Christmas movie, while I wait for permission (or denial) from Paramount to continue writing Wayne’s World Jr.
It will have all the Hallmark Original Movie elements. The cheesy title: A True Christmas. The basic Hallmark formula as described in the working logline: A Pollyanna-like busy single-mom gets paired with a bah-humbug Danny-Downer type for their community college project where he discovers the true meaning of Christmas.
Here’s a sample – the first few pages of the first draft:
EXT. TRAFFIC – MORNING
It’s an overcast, gray winter day. The traffic light turns yellow as a couple of cars whiz through. It hits red and a small 1990’s sedan screeches to a stop.
INT. 1990’S SEDAN – CONTINUOUS
ANDI ANDREWS, 25, taps the steering wheel impatiently as she waits for the light.
ANDI C'mon, c'mon.
A tippy-cup sails into the empty passenger seat. The baby WAILS. Andi reaches for the cup but can’t reach.
She doesn’t notice that the light turned green until the other cars lay on their horns. She gives up on the cup and drives through.
In the back seat, BABY ROXY, age 1, still fusses and flails.
ANDI (CONT'D) Hold on, baby girl.
She reaches at Andi’s purse right next to the carseat. More fussing.
ANDI (CONT'D) Roxy, it's okay.
Roxy pulls out an open package of Rollos. She stops fussing immediately as she proceeds to lick and slobber all over one of the candies as babies do.
EXT. DAYCARE – A LITTLE LATER
Andi pulls the car into a parking spot, hops out and rushes to the back to pull Roxy out. Roxy gets chocolate handprints all over Andi’s shirt.
Andi grabs a jacket out of the car and wriggles it on as they run up the daycare steps. Roxy barfs all over Andi. They run back down – back into the car.
EXT. DENISE’S HOUSE – A LITTLE LATER
DENISE ANDREWS, 50s, jogs out her front door wearing her skin tight workout gear over her perfectly taunt body as Andi pulls up in the sedan, window rolled down.
Denise turns on her toes and jogs to the open window.
DENISE Andi, why are you here? I mean, aren't you supposed to be somewhere? Work, school?
Andi hops out and takes Roxy out of the backseat.
DENISE (CONT'D) Yikes. You're a mess.
ANDI Daycare won't take her when she's sick. Can you watch her, please?
DENISE No, I can't. ANDI Please? Mom, I'm desperate.
DENISE Not today, I can't. I have a hair appointment. And I wanted to get a wax.
Andi hoists the baby into Denise’s arms and hangs the diaper bag onto her. She kisses Roxy on the cheek.
ANDI Be good for grandma.
She gets back in the car and creeps forward.
ANDI (CONT'D) Sorry, mom. Gotta do, what you gotta do. You taught me that.
With that, Andi drives off leaving Denise frozen.
DENISE (to herself) But I was talking about landing a decent man. Something you say you don't need.
Denise looks at the messy baby Roxy and gives her a half-baked smile.
INT. COMMUNITY COLLEGE CLASSROOM – LATER
MRS. ZIMMERMAN, 40s, paces the front of the classroom full of mostly young COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS in her simple black heels and crisp pencil skirt suit. “Sociology 101 – final projects” is written on the white board behind her.
MRS. ZIMMERMAN We've hit the halfway mark. That means you better get started on your final projects.
MRS. ZIMMERMAN (CONT'D) Seriously, folks. It's worth half your final grade. Doesn't it then make sense to work half the quarter on it? You will be partnered up alphabetically...
Andi bursts through the classroom door, still a mess, and takes a remaining seat up front. She mouths “sorry” to Mrs. Zimmerman.
MRS. ZIMMERMAN (CONT'D) Earliest you've been late, Miss Andrews.
Andi catches ASHER, 27, in the seat next to her, as he shakes his head in disapproval.
ANDI (whispers) At least I show up every day. MRS. ZIMMERMAN Aaron and Aaron. Convenient. Andi and Asher, Bethany and Chloe...
A LITTLE LATER
The desks are now pushed together in pairs, including Andi and Asher. Asher’s attention is on his phone. Andi looks over the assignment packet.
ANDI This looks pretty straight-forward. Hardest part will be choosing a specific topic.
She looks up to see Asher’s face still in his phone. She swipes it from him. He grabs it back and issues her a death stare.
ANDI (CONT'D) Look. I don't have a lot of time outside of school. And I need a good grade. ASHER You don't need an elective. ANDI Some of us care about our GPA.
ASHER And some of us live in the real world. He goes back to his phone. Andi looks down at the packet, takes a deep breath. ANDI I'm sorry. I shouldn't be judging you. Text me your number and we can figure out a time to work on this.
Phone in hand, he nods.
EXT. SCHWEITZER’S DEPARTMENT STORE – LATER
Andi zips into the parking lot at Schweitzer’s Department Store. She holds a pb&j sandwich in her teeth as she gets out and runs up the steps to the store.
INT. SCHWEITZER’S DEPARTMENT STORE – CONTINUOUS
LIV, 20s, stands behind the counter in the ladies department as Andi rushes in. Liv holds out a clean shirt for Andi who grabs it as she whizzes past.
HOUSEWARES DEPARTMENT – MOMENTS LATER
Andi, all set in her fresh shirt, spots a purplish-grey haired customer, MRS. MACKAY, 70s, comparing a Nutribullet and a regular blender.
ANDI Can I help you decide something?
Mrs. MacKay turns around, happy to see Andi.
ANDI (CONT'D) Oh, Mrs. MacKay! I didn't recognize your new hair. Very hip.
MRS. MACKAY Oh, deary, no one says hip anymore. You don't want to sound like a square, do ya?
ANDI Well, it's lovely and you're lovely. Doing some Christmas shopping? She nods to the two boxes in Mrs. Mackay's arms.
MRS. MACKAY I'm looking for something for my daughter-in-law. What's the difference between these two contraptions? Does it matter which one I get?
ANDI Well, depends. Does she like booze in her smoothies or vegetables? MRS. MACKAY Hmmm, that's a good question. Ever since the triplets were born, it could be either.
She puts the blender back on the shelf.
MRS. MACKAY (CONT'D) I suppose she has a few of these already, given the mound of wedding gifts she got. How's little Roxy?
ANDI She has a little flu bug. I dropped her off at my mom's.
They head to the cash register so Andi can ring her up.
MRS. MACKAY Shut the front door! Your mother?
ANDI I didn't really give her a choice. MRS. MACKAY Well, you drop her on me tomorrow if you need to.
ANDI That would be great. I have to get ahold of this guy... MRS. MACKAY A guy?! You always say you don't need a guy.
ANDI ...For a school project. Don't get your panties in a bunch. MRS. MACKAY Oh, girl, at my age my panties are always in a bunch. Right under my armpits.
Andi places the Nutribullet in a shopping bag and hands it to her.
MRS. MACKAY (CONT'D) I'll see you tomorrow. And you take your time with that... (air quote) ...Project.
ANDI Stop. I'll tell Pastor Hagen on you. MRS. MACKAY Yeah, yeah. That's nothing compared to what he already knows.
She gives Andi a wink.
MRS. MACKAY (CONT'D) You may not need a man, but we all need love.
Andi walks out from behind the counter and plants a kiss on Mrs. MacKay’s cheek.
ANDI You give me plenty of that. But I'm still tattling on you.
Mrs. Mackay waves her off and is out the door.
End of Sample Pages
Feel free to comment about my script, your thoughts on Hallmark Movies or films in general! I’d love to hear from you!