HOW THIS BOOK WILL HELP YOU
Did you ever want to write the perfect Christmas TV movie? The type of heart-warming story that keeps folks glued to their television set every holiday season? Would you like to peek behind the curtain and get the inside track to getting a show of your own produced? Not sure where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This book will help you understand more about crafting a Christmas script like the pros.
I once arrived at a color correction session for a holiday movie I’d made with Chevy Chase and Morgan Fairchild, called A CHRISTMAS IN VERMONT (2016.) As the movie flickered across the screen, the executive producer turned to me and said, “Fred, I know it feels like you’re making the same movie over and over, but if you change the formula, it won’t work.” I nodded my head slowly. Good advice, I thought.
I should know better, too. Over the past ten years, between my thirteen women’s thrillers for the Lifetime channel, I have written, produced and/or directed a total of fifteen network Christmas TV movies.
My holiday movies have become staples on Lifetime, ION Channel, UP TV and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN.) On a single day last year, one network ran eight straight hours of my holiday movies, back-to-back. If I didn’t exactly feel like the King of Christmas, I at least felt like a prince.
I’ve written for iconic legends like Chevy Chase, George Hamilton, Shelley Long, Tom Arnold, Morgan Fairchild, and many more. Along the way, I won an Emmy.
In my own humble fashion, I feel uniquely qualified to write about the specifics of this charming and endearing form of entertainment. So, let’s dig in and investigate what we’ll be covering in the following pages. Hopefully, this book will inspire you to take this same journey and find success yourself!
Truth be told, if you don’t arrive at a finished screenplay of your own after reading this book, then you’re not trying hard enough. Every day is Christmas! Let’s unwrap the presents!
In this book, we will cover the following topics out of order, but it will help you to create a list like this one before you start outlining and/or writing:
Who’s your audience?
We’ll start by looking at your target audience. Who are they? The people you hope to entertain. The ones who keep coming back year after year, watching the same movies repeatedly every Christmas season? This is your fan base. It’s important to understand who you’re writing for. Don’t disappoint them.
How much Christmas is too much?
How can we actively weave the 25th of December into your story so that the reader can almost smell the cookies baking in the oven? Bordering on the ridiculous, there can never be too many reminders in your script that it is indeed the holiday season.
Writing for a budget.
How to avoid pricing your script out of the realm of a producer’s financial feasibility and stay within the budget the company has allotted.
Dos and don’ts.
You might not be a professional writer (yet), but there’s no reason you can’t look like one. How to avoid having your hard work wind up in the dust covered “never read” pile because of some easily identified missteps ahead of time.
Fantasy or Reality?
The Pros and cons of introducing fantasy elements into your story. Do you have an angel or one of Santa’s Elves involved in the action, or will your story be grounded in reality? Which one is right for you and which one is the harder sell?
Star or no star?
Deciding whether to include a well-known celebrity role in the production is not the domain of the screenwriter per se, but it’s wise to prepare your script for that eventuality should the situation present itself. The goal here is to keep other hands from rewriting your work as much as possible by checking all the right boxes up front.
Who’s the protagonist?
How to create the perfect character to drive your story and avoid sending your screenplay into the muddle of uncertainty. Remember, every story is the story of ONE person. Everyone else in the story is a satellite that revolves around that one person. You must decide who’s story it is and you must get it right the first time!
What constitutes a “perfect” Christmas script for me is the script you SELL, the one that gets PRODUCED, the one you sit back and watch premiere nationwide on a television network. Now, that’s perfect!
Don’t become stuck in the rut of falling in love with your own work. It’s not perfect... yet. Be receptive to the input of those who have the power to greenlight your script. Engage their perspectives even if you don’t totally agree with them, or... you can alternatively put your foot down and adamantly stick to your guns, refusing to compromise at any level. You can also consider financing your movie by mortgaging your house, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Breaking it down
Here, we will take a look at what we’ve discussed in action and how it breaks down into a successful screenplay, not because the scripts are incredibly clever, but because we can crack them open, look inside and see how they relate to a finished product that made it into Primetime.
You have a script… now what?
How to search and locate those companies that produce the kind of project you want to sell. If you’ve done your job well, you’ll have a holiday screenplay in hand that may fit well into someone else’s vision. Just remember, it’s a business and there is a lot of competition for those often-elusive deals. Finding the right company and getting your script onto their desk is just the beginning of what might develop into a beautiful friendship.
Now, let’s get started. Christmas is always just around the corner!