At the risk of being honest, here's what I thought of my Hallmark movie The Town That Christmas Forgot. My biggest concern was not really the actors or the script - it was something a lot more obvious.
How do you make a feature-length movie that is set in a remote mountain town in the dead of winter, in a blizzard, on an extremely low budget and a 12-day schedule. And how do you do it in the heat of a summer day in southern Ontario? Some 1-hr TV episodes take longer and have budgets10 times as much.
Well, somehow they did it. The opening shot is an SUV driving through snow-capped mountains with some digital snow blowing by. And it worked just fine. Remember this is a Hallmark movie and the Hallmark audience is there for the story and the heart.
And on that beat, it works quite well, the cast is good, particularly Stephanie Belding, who has a million dollar smile, a producer friend said she should be a star. And Rick Roberts who plays the father is solid and fatherly, yet we see another side of him during an almost fatal accident. Lauren Holly, of Picket Fences fame holds up her end as the only "Hollywood star" in the movie.
There were changes in the script, but mostly due to budget constraints; I had characters searching for a lost man in the wilderness, they couldn't do this on their budget, as it was filmed on hot summer days in Hamilton.
Instead they opted for a mining accident with two characters; a great idea -- it's all interior and thus, they saved money. And ultimately,the scene was about the same thing as my original scene.
The production design is really well done, even on a light budget, down to the moo-moo creamers on the table. In case you're not old enough, those are coffee cream holders in the shape of a cow and you pour cream through the cow's mouth. I grew up with these items in cafes and wrote it into the screenplay.
You'll notice not a lot of exterior shots, and when they do one, it's usually a very limited angle of the entrance to a building, very few dollies if any.
And again, remember this isn't a $100 million Tim Burton movie; it's Hallmark and they do family, albeit probably a 1950's family. But more than a million people will have seen this movie by the time Christmas rolls around, and that's a million people who have seen my work.
Are there things I didn't like. Sure, but not many. There were some awkward edits which I attribute to the director simply not having much time to do more takes or reaction shots. And sometimes the whole town is represented by 3 or 4 actors, larger groups would cost too much, but every movie has these problems.
The worst part of the movie: The constant titles on the screen advertising movies and the hideous "30 Days" to Christmas balloon on the bottom right of the screen. At least they didn't have news headlines running along the bottom.
Bottom line from the producer; "it works because it has heart".
(Mon: Back to Casualties)