hitched for the holidays

Premieres on the Hallmark Channel on November 25th @ 8p/7c

Every so often the Hollywood Oracle selects entertainment professionals with established Hollywood careers to interview about their work, opinions and what advice they have for the next generation of up and comers wanting to make it in Hollywood. This week we welcome back Gary Goldstein, Award-Winning Screenwriter & Playwright for Film, Television and the Stage. It seems he’s been busy since our last interview here on the Hollywood Oracle. Specifically with a screenplay he wrote called “Hitched for the Holidays,” which was picked up by the Hallmark Channel and premieres this Thanksgiving weekend (2012).

So Let’s Get Started…

THO –

Tell us a little about the story and how you came up with the idea?  Did it come from a personal experience of you surfing Craigslist for a date one x-mas long ago? Or was there some other muse that helped you come up with the idea for the story?

Gary –

gary-goldstein1

Gary Goldstein, Hollywood Screenwriter

I came up with the idea for the script after going to a Christmas Eve party and realizing how many friends and other guests there were unattached. As someone who was happily and long partnered-off by then, I started remembering all the past holiday events I went to solo and how much harder and more awkward they often felt to navigate. I also realized how much more I now enjoyed holiday events–and not just the end-of-year holidays–being part of a couple.

Then I thought: How far would two single people go so as not to be alone over the dreaded pre-Christmas to New Year’s period?  Potentially funny idea.  And “Hitched for the Holidays” was born.

Is this script one that you’ve been working on for a longtime or was it something that you were commissioned for by the Hallmark Channel. Why did you start working on this idea to begin with?

I wrote the script as a spec feature awhile back.  It came close at a few studios but ultimately didn’t sell.  It then started to be considered by TV movie producers.  Eventually, it worked for Hallmark.

Holiday telefilms are popular. What is your advice for first time screenwriters if they take on a holiday based script? Do you think it is a difficult genre to pitch compared to other scripts that might cross a producer’s desk?

The upside with holiday telefilms is that so many of them are made; there’s a real market for these scripts.  The downside is that since so many have already been made you have to find a take on them that feels somewhat unique.  That’s not to say one needs to reinvent the genre, just bring a fresh and entertaining perspective to it.

Did “Hitched for the Holidays” go through an extensive rewrite process and if so, what were some of the problems with the original version?

Since it was originally written as a feature, it needed to be compressed a bit (for length and budget) as well as kept “family-friendly” to work as a telefilm.  Also, once pre-production began, certain scenes needed to be cut or reconfigured based on location, shooting schedule and practicality.  That said, the script happily maintained its full original story, character arcs, tone, humor and warmth, yet also ended up improved in many ways.

hitched for the holidays cast

"Hitched for the Holidays" Marilu Henner - Emily Hampshire - Joseph Lawrence

What would be your best advice for handling script revisions from the director? Do you ever get offended when some Producer or Director asks you to re-write a portion of the script or is that just the nature of the business? When do you, if ever stand your ground for the sake of the story?

If you want to write in a collaborative medium, which the movie and TV world is, you have to be open to rewriting.  It’s a given and you can’t take it personally.  Remember, no one ever purposely wants to make your script worse.

At the same time, if you don’t agree with a note or don’t understand it, it’s important to speak up, in a politic way of course.  And for me, once it’s talked out, I tend to end up agreeing with–or at least accepting–a note I wasn’t initially sure about.

Casting is always the hardest and most important challenge for a successful MOW. Marilu Henner, Emily Hampshire and Joseph Lawrence are the three main stars in your finished picture; all are great actors in their own right. Did you have to make any adjustments to your script once casting was completed to develop the proper chemistry for their characters, especially since this is a comedy? Or was this a process between the director, you as the screenwriter and the actors themselves during filming?

No overall adjustments were needed.  These actors were cast because they fit the parts so well so there was nothing to do but let them have at the characters and dialogue.  They all brought so much great stuff to their roles.  The director did a terrific job with them as well.

hitched for the holidays photoFor this particular script, did you have any actors in mind (as a model or specifically) when you wrote the script? Or do you find that writing with an actor in mind for a certain character can limit your creativity?

I really didn’t have anyone in particular in mind for these parts; there are so many appealing, talented actors who could play these kinds of funny, romantic characters.  I don’t think writing with someone in mind limits creativity, but you just have to know they probably won’t end up in the part.  Frankly, I just enjoy being surprised by who’s cast.

As the screenwriter on “Hitched for the Holidays”, what was your production involvement? Were you dialed in prior to production and asked to be available for consultation? Were you on-set for character building and script changes? If so, what was your experience during the shooting of the dailies? Is being on-set something you enjoy as part as your job?

This was one of the best collaborations I’ve had with a produced script.  Between my director (Michael Scott), who was extremely open and communicative, and my producer (Mike Moran), who was incredibly available and supportive, I was kept completely apprised of everything from pre-production through production and then post.

The movie was shot in Canada, so I was not on set during production.  But I was in touch by e-mail and phone throughout the shoot for any late-breaking scene changes or rewrites that were needed.  Sometimes I was just called by the director for an opinion, which was great.  I think all that positive collaboration is evident on the screen; the movie really works.

Plus, as is usually the case, I was sent the daily call sheets, so every day I was aware of what scenes were being shot when and with which actors.  So I always felt in the loop.

When you can, it’s definitely fun to be on set.  I mean, it’s great to meet the actors and crew and watch your words being performed.  But unless I’m actually needed to rewrite something on the spot or whatever, I never feel the need to be there for long stretches of time.  There are enough people watching over things as it is!

As the screenwriter do you get paid to do additional rewrites or consultation or is it a package deal? Who makes that choice for the screenwriter on how far his involvement will go? Is it you or the production company?

You generally get paid per step (script, rewrite, polish, etc.).  If it’s an original screenplay, like “Hitched,” there’s a script purchase fee, then the writing fees.  As for how far a writer is allowed to go on a script, it’s usually up to the network, studio, producer or production company (in features, the director or even the star may weigh in).  I’ve been fortunate over the last years to be on all my films from start to finish, unless I’ve been brought in to rewrite something.


 

If you were not involved with production, what is the process for selling a script and walking away once it is picked up? Are there a lot of meetings or is it just a phone call from your agent saying hey your script sold? What was the process for you on ‘Hitched for the Holidays’?

Unless there’s some extenuating circumstance, a writer rarely sells a script and walks away.  He or she will usually be contracted for at least one rewrite and it goes on from there.  There are so many roads to a script selling, but if you have an agent (and/or manager), the “it sold!” call will usually come from them, since they were probably the ones to submit the script to buyers.

With “Hitched for the Holidays,” my agent had submitted it to Hallmark, maybe a few times, I think.  In any case, when the time was right (meaning there was room on their upcoming holiday movie slate and the script worked for their mandate), they said “let’s go.”

Once the picture is complete, is there any emotional remorse? How do you handle the first viewing and eventual reviews? Do you get more nervous as premiere night approaches? Have you ever been upset at the final project thinking they got your vision wrong? Or are you just happy you sold a script and move on?

There are definitely times you wish certain things in a film had turned out differently, or at least more as you’d intended. But there are so many reasons a scene or setpiece or joke or whatever turns out the way it does, you have to stay cool about the results. Everyone really tries to do the best they can but sometimes budget or scheduling or location will create some limitation you can’t control. I figure if 75-80% of what I wrote gets on screen the way I wrote it, I’m doing great. Anything more is a bonus. But like I said, with “Hitched,” the percentage was way higher. I’m really proud of this one.

As for reviews: be professional. You put your work out there, people are going to have opinions. Of course, who doesn’t love a good review? I don’t tend to be nervous about my film openings or premieres, by then I’ve generally aleady seen what everyone else is going to see; I’m aware of what works and what may not. I just focus on enjoying the accomplishment and hope that folks are entertained. Not to sound overly Zen, but there’s just so much you can stress over.

What is next for Gary Goldstein the screenwriter? What can your fans expect to see coming soon? 

Another feature screenplay I sold to Hallmark, this one’s called “This Magic Moment,” was shot this fall and will air sometime in 2013.  It a very special script to me and I’m so glad it’s finally gotten made.  It’s a romantic comedy about an aspiring screenwriter who falls for a famous actress when she comes to his small town to film a movie.

I just started adapting a novel called “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” also for Hallmark, which is a really clever, funny story about dating, love and dogs.  I’m a big dog person, so it was great to be brought in on the project.

I’ve also been rewriting a spec feature script I wrote last summer called “Best Month,” which is a kind of “What if?” marital comedy.  It’s a totally fun, creative and, I hope, meaningful idea that I’m very excited about.

All in all, it’s been an extremely gratifying work period for me.  I feel very lucky.

 

We’ll that concludes another great session of The Hollywood Oracle’s Job Spotlight segment. We would like to say thanks to our special guest, Gary Goldstein for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his Hollywood Story with us. And make sure you check out “Hitched for the Holidays” this Thanksgiving on the Hallmark Channel.

To view a video trailer of “Hitched for the Holidays” click the link below.

“Hitched for the Holidays” on the Hallmark Channel

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1 Response » to ““Hitched For The Holidays” Our Interview with a Hollywood Screenwriter”

  1. deb says:

    It is distracting watching a movie that claims it is taking place in New York or Chicago when any intelligent viewer can completely see that the filming is done in Canada. Why insult us?

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