Interview With Screenwriter Julie Sherman Wolfe

By Ruth on June 17, 2016 in interview, movie, television
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For me, the storyline of a film has always been paramount as to whether I will like the film or not. It can have the best actors in the world and be filled to overflowing with special effects, but if it doesn’t have an engaging story, I lose interest pretty rapidly. With Hallmark, storylines are predictable but solid and sometimes touching. But I will admit that I rarely seek out the writer of the story unless it is an author I recognize or whose work I may be interested in reading at a later date. And when it comes to screenplays, the entire idea of penning them is a rather foreign concept to me. That is, until now. Recently, I connected with Julie Sherman Wolfe. While her name is probably not a household name, more than likely, you are familiar with some of her works. She happens to be a screenwriter who typically has the somewhat arduous task of adapting books into films for various networks. One of those networks just happens to be Hallmark. I was ecstatic to discuss her many-faceted career with her in great detail. Moreover, I was elated to discover who this gem is behind some of the beloved movies that grace our screens.
jswRH: So I understand you have a film coming out very soon that is family-friendly and might appeal to my daughter?

JSW: Yes, it’s called Jessica Darling’s It List. It stars a girl who will be famous next year because she’s on Liv and Maddie. They’re shooting that now. She’s going to be huge in about six months. And Ashley Liao, from Fuller House, just got promoted to series regular. She’s in this movie, too. Interestingly enough, they shot this film before any of this happened to either of them. So, it stars two up and coming ladies. That’s the joke. They’re going to be huge stars, and they’re going to forget about us. This film will be available on Itunes, Amazon, and other VOD’s, since it’s a low budget film. It’s not going to have the lush, beautiful colors of a Hallmark movie.

With Jessica Darling’s It List, this was an adaptation of a bestselling book for junior high. The author, Megan McCafferty, was really, really gun-shy about getting back into Hollywood because of the way things went last time she was supposed to get a book adapted. But luckily, she and I really clicked. I basically promised her I wouldn’t ruin it. So I’m hoping she comes out when we do the premiere. It’s really cute.

it listThe great thing about this It List movie is that I have a great relationship with the author, and it’s just a big lovefest–“No, you’re great!” “No, you’re great!” That kind of thing, especially for women, that’s the best thing. The It List is almost all women. It’s a woman director, producer–It’s Debby Ryan and her mom that are the producers. So we’re really happy about that.

That sounds like something my daughter might be interested in. 

It’s about seventh grade. It’s about kind of coming into your own and staying true to who you are in seventh grade and not doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing just ’cause somebody tells you that’s what you need to do to be popular and happy. Good message.
wedding-bells

With Wedding Bells, I got to go to the set for a couple days–just for fun. Honestly, it’s totally not necessary for me to go to the set because my work is completely done. But I find that it’s hard to remember why you’re doing all this when you’re in your little office–in the cave–and you’re doing what you’re doing. For me, I like going up to the set when I can to remember how cool and fun it is to do this for a living and not just sit here in the office all day. They were shooting both The Convenient Groom  and Wedding Bells.  They overlapped by a couple of days. So I went up there for a week and got to go to both sets. The house where they shot Wedding Bells was a replica of a Russian palace they built for an exiled czarina during the Russian revolution. And the house is totally amazing, creepy, and probably haunted–I just loved it. It was fun.

So what do you think of the Hallmark fans?

You know, I was just telling somebody that I think it’s kind of cool what the Hearties do. You don’t always get that kind of support. I guarantee it helps when it comes to renewal and pickups for the show. I would love to have a show for Hallmark. I would love to have an hour-long light drama or something like that. That would be my preference. We’d like to convince Hallmark to do a series, but shoot it in Los Angeles. But I don’t think they ever would. That’s the problem.

It seems like almost everything ends up being shot in Canada.

It really does. I don’t mind that. The hard thing is that I don’t think I could pick up and move to Vancouver. Some shows, they let the writers stay in LA, and the producers go up. But my next-door neighbor is also a Hallmark writer, and she does a lot of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered films. Right now, if I went five feet through my wall, we’d be in her house. She goes up to Vancouver all the time ’cause she’s also a producer.

When I think of jobs in the entertainment field, being a screenwriter is not the first thing that comes to mind. So how did you happen to become a screenwriter?

It actually didn’t come to my mind either. I’ll tell you what happened. I went to UC San Diego as a Communications major. I always have been a writer. I’d do either short stories, plays, or journalism or anything else like that. I was always just writing, writing, writing in high school and elementary school. It was always my thing. But I just figured I’d do advertising. So after I graduated in San Diego–this is pre-internet, by the way. It’s not like I could just say, “Hey, I’m a writer.” They do it different now. The only thing on the internet was bulletin boards. I was also doing stand-up comedy. I was at the local club, and I was on at like 11:30 at night. I had just been laid off from my first advertising job because they downsized, and this was 1994. I had also just broken up with my boyfriend. I was doing a lot of comedy about that. Another comedian came up to me, and he said, “I don’t understand. You’re a writer. You’re funny. You’re a girl. Why aren’t you writing for sitcoms in LA?” And there was literally a moment of total epiphany of yes, that’s exactly what I want to be doing. And I literally moved up here, knowing nobody.  I just found an apartment and moved in.

Luckily, I faxed my resume to every sitcom in town. And because of my proofreading and copywriting/copyediting background, I got a job as a writer’s assistant, and that’s how I broke in. From there, I made some connections, and I wrote spec scripts–samples of the existing shows–and got an agent.  Incidentally, I’ve been with the same agent for eighteen years. I’m ridiculously loyal. People have said I’m crazy not to move up to a different agency, but now she’s one of the big ones. My loyalty has paid off, and we’re really good friends. That was twenty years ago I moved up here. I lived in West Hollywood the whole time. And once we had our son, seven years ago, we moved to the burbs. And now we’re here.

That’s why my resume goes all over the place. First, I did sitcoms. Then there was a lull in that. So I wrote a couple of movies and happened to sell them. And suddenly I’m a feature writer.  Romantic comedies don’t really get made as a feature writer. Then I kind of went back to TV, and I started developing a niche for older kids sitcoms. I did the whole Disney Channel thing for a while. Then I got back into the RomCom world with Hallmark, and that’s been great. That’s where I’m happiest. And the first two movies I sold–one of which might actually have a  life now even though it was written ten years ago–they were both romantic comedies. It seems crazy, but it all makes sense to me. The only thing I miss about TV is being in the writer’s room–it’s really fun. Really stressful, and you’re always on, and your brain has to be on all the time. But it’s really, really fun. And you make lifelong friends. Unless you’re in a bad room, and it’s horrible. I like my schedule now because now that I have a kid, you know, I’m helping out with school. It’s great to be able to be at home and get the work done, but still be involved and all that.  Actually, one of the executives at Hallmark is a neighbor of mine, too. We’ve had a lot of meetings here. I love it. I’m so grateful to Hallmark because I love writing for them. It’s absolutely my preference to write romantic comedy–this kind of light drama. I’m already working on the next two films.

You actually answered several of my questions–which is good! 

I did a little bit of what you are doing in college and a little bit after. It’s really hard. I interviewed Ellen Degeneres once–right when she was just becoming big. I was really nervous. She was my comedy icon at the time. And they made me call her at six in the morning, but they forgot to tell her, so I woke her up. And then my editors forgot to put the time and date of her show, so they didn’t let me into the show ’cause she was upset. I love her still, but it’s funny.  But I angered her years ago. It’s not always easy interviewing actors because it’s very delicate. Hallmark people are generally happy, and we all enjoy what we’re doing.

There aren’t that many people who have been working that long consistently doing what I’m doing. There’s sexism–there really is. Things aren’t fair. People lie. Most people would quit. For me, it was just taking a couple days to chill out and then re-dedicate to what I’m doing. Now that hasn’t happened in a long time, but in the beginning, I can see why people say–oh just forget it. So I have a thick skin. My dad was a longshoreman with a master’s degree in theater. I think I get it from him. He’s a tough guy. He was a big theater guy, then he went to Vietnam. And when he came back, he was offered the longshoreman job–they’re actually great jobs. He just decided to go that way to provide for us. Before he passed, he was so excited about what I was doing.

What is the process of taking a book and adapting it to film?

When I am hired to do an adaptation, I base the script on a novel, but taking a novel and condensing it to movie form is very challenging. If I used everything from a book, the movie would be ten hours long, so it’s not so much condensing the novel as it is finding compelling ways to tell the story in ninety minutes. This typically means story changes, new scenes and situations, and almost all entirely new dialogue, as the characters are in situations that were not in the original material. It’s deciding which scenes serve the story better, and which characters you really need to keep.  Hallmark doesn’t like a lot of extraneous characters. They like to keep it kind of tight. You have to make some decisions about that and hope that they agree. It’s still these people the author created, but I have to take these characters and put them somewhere else. I try my best to preserve the novelist’s intentions and character traits, but sometimes the network just wants something that’s not quite what was in the book.

For example, The Convenient Groom is a wonderful novel about a man who steps in and marries a woman he barely knows but always had a crush on, thus saving her career. Hallmark wanted it to change to an engagement, not a wedding. So while the characters are similar to the book, the movie is, on the basis of that change, somewhat different from the book. This is very common and par for the course, and I have been lucky to develop relationships with the novelists so they trust that the movie is in good hands, even if it’s not exactly following the book. Another (just as difficult) challenge is that most novels I adapt are omniscient, meaning the characters’ intentions and feelings are internal thoughts. Translating those to non-expositional dialogue can be hard to do as a writer (and using voiceover to explain it is kind of a big no-no.) As far as Groom goes, I have been in touch with Denise Hunter to assure her that I tried to preserve as much as I could, particularly the essence of her message about love and faith.

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Additionally, in The Convenient Groom, especially, all of their rationalization for doing this–getting engaged–all happened in their heads in the book. So you have to find a way to put that in dialogue and a little bit of stage directions for the acting and convey those thoughts without it being just a boring exposition where they just say exactly what they feel. They can’t say, “I don’t know if I should do this. I’m really torn.”  It has to be natural-sounding and in a conversation with somebody else. So that’s really hard to do.  The whole book is inside someone’s head, and I get to take it out and bring it to dialogue.

In some of the books that I’m given to adapt, it might be a little bit risque. It might be a little much on the romance end for Hallmark. Since these are family-friendly films, you have to pull back on that, too. That’s the hard part–deciding what to do.  I also don’t want the authors to be upset.  But I always try to convey that I know it’s changing, but  I’m saving as much as I can of their vision. While this hasn’t happened to me personally, I have heard that Hallmark will buy a book, and by the time it becomes a movie, it only has kept the title intact. Everything else has changed.

I’ve had great books to work with, too. I can’t tell you whose my “Christmas” book is, but it’s great.

So how long does this process of taking a book and adapting it to film usually take?

Wedding Bells was a rewrite. But for Convenient Groom, I had the book from the beginning, so this is more indicative of what I do. I got hired in June of last year. I was told that they wanted to adapt this book, and they asked what my ideas were. And then you go in and talk about how you see it. Then they try to decide if they want to make a deal with you or not. So then you need to write a treatment or outline for the network, producers or anyone else to read. This just makes sure we’re on the same page with the story as well as the tone and everything else before you write the actual script. The outline, to me, is more of the heavy lifting, to be honest, than the actual script at times because you really have to figure out the “act breaks.” There’s nine acts in a Hallmark movie–nine commercial breaks. There has to be something compelling at the end of each act. It doesn’t work like that in the book. It’s not written to be broken down in nine equal portions. To me, the hardest part is writing the outline. It ends up being about fifteen pages or so, single-spaced. That goes to the network and however long it takes for them to give notes. They might give notes on it, and you might have to redo it. Or redo parts of it. Actually before you turn it into Hallmark, let me back up. Before you turn it in, the producers see it and give me notes. And then I do the notes. When everyone’s happy, then it goes into Hallmark. They always have notes. Sometimes they make you rewrite the treatment, but other times they just say “with these notes in mind, go ahead and start writing the script.” The treatment itself probably takes two or three weeks. Normally, you get eight weeks to write the script. A lot of writers are known to be procrastinators, but I’m just not one of those people.

The Convenient Groom Final Photo AssetsWhat’s interesting is that once you get the script written, things can happen. My first draft of Groom involved a wedding. People made decisions, things changed, and some alterations occurred. It’s just the nature of the business–no big deal. Rewrites do happen frequently, but in the end, everything worked out the way it should. While it can take a few months to get the script the way it needs to be, in the end, it’s so worth it. Groom didn’t get green lit to get made till about two weeks before production. Things often go right to the wire. But once it’s in production, I’m pretty much done. And I always tell them that if they need line changes to please call and let me know. I’m happy to do them.

Nick and Molly, commitment-phobic and busy professionals with little in common, are asked to be the best man and maid of honor at the wedding of their mutual friends, Amy and Jamie. What they both assume will require a few hours out of their hectic lives quickly turns into a full-time job - and a life-changing romantic experience -- when they end up organizing the wedding for the squabbling and ill-suited couple at a rustic hotel owned by Nick's father. It becomes increasingly clear Amy and Jamie shouldn't be getting married, but the joyful and romantic mood created by a wedding encourages the blossoming of new love, re-establishes heartfelt family connections and gives rise to the possibility of new lives. Photo: Tammy Gillis, Danica McKellar, Kavan Smith, Christopher Russell Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Eike Schroter

As far as Wedding Bells goes, the original writer had the idea, but the script wasn’t exactly what Hallmark needed. So, I was hired essentially to do a rewrite and do a different take on the original idea. And that’s what I did for Wedding Bells. It was still quite a bit of work, even though I wasn’t with it from the very beginning.  On credits, it is listed as the idea of the original writer that Hallmark bought and their premise, and I didn’t change any of that. I just changed a little bit of the execution. I try not to bash other writers because we’re always in the same boat. We’re either the rewriter or the rewritee. I actually haven’t been rewritten in movies yet, but I’m sure it will happen eventually.

Have you ever had this happen–the film is in production and they decide something is not working and they need a change?

No, once it’s in production, that’s pretty much it. They make sure before production that everyone is happy, and everyone is on board. It’s always important to make sure that even when the main characters are going through some kind of crisis that they are still likable and people you want to hang out with for two hours.  That’s the kind of thing you also have to address in editing. And on the set, it’s just keeping the tone Hallmark-friendly. Lifetime’s not Hallmark, and Hallmark’s not Lifetime. Those movies typically cannot be on each other’s networks. I have a Lifetime movie from back in the day, i me wedI Me Wed, and it’s funny. It still gets an article about being one of the top five most outlandish Lifetime movie premises. I actually have the article on my office wall. (laughs) I think it’s funny. Lifetime is typically edgier than Hallmark.

I was reading through another Q & A you did on facebook, and you said mystery is something you wouldn’t do?

It’s not that I wouldn’t do it. I just don’t know that I’m any good at it. I think if I tried to make a mystery story, that my mystery would be the most obvious ever, and you’d see the twists coming in like five minutes. I just don’t write in that style. I would never try to write a mystery novel. I’ve done so much more stuff in so many other different genres that I’m okay saying that mysteries are not really for me.

But maybe if you had a good book to work with?

Oh, totally! If someone else wrote the story for me, I could absolutely adapt it. I would need someone else to figure out all the crazy plot points. What I’m known for and what I get hired for is RomCom with comedy thrown in there and the cute, quirky banter between the leads. That is my absolute strong suit. It is the Com of the RomCom. While that’s my bread and butter, I feel like I could take any book that’s been written and adapt it. But I just haven’t been given the opportunity to do mystery. I wrote a zombie movie for Nickelodeon, and that’s the closest I came to anything like that. And you didn’t see it, so there you go. (laughter) That shows you how well that went.

I will also freely admit that writing screenplays is absolutely 180 degrees different than writing a book. I would never try to write a novel. That’s just not how my brain works. I’m so in screenplay form in my mind, and I’m so dialogue-based that I don’t even really like writing the stage directions that are supposed to describe things in a sort of a lyrical way. Most book authors don’t like to write screenplays, and most screenplay writers don’t like to write novels. We all respect each other. That’s why I really respect the authors whose books I’m adapting because I think writing books is way harder.

Although I had not read the book Hello, It’s Me, I was certainly impressed with how that movie all came together. What struck me about that film is that although the premise at first seemed weird, I found that as it went along, I began to buy into the whole idea.

That was hard, though. The story does sound kind of outlandish when you first hear about it.

kavanBut you had fantastic actors–

Oh yeah. I’m so happy Kavan {Smith} is in the new one {Weddding Bells} because he is amazing. He does my snarky stuff great. I will say, he totally gets where the comedy is. All of the actors made me happy, but the little, subtle things he did in Hello, It’s Me really made me so happy. I loved it.

By the middle of Hello, It’s Me, it didn’t seem strange anymore.

I’m sure Kellie {Martin} helped a lot with that, too. She’s great. I can’t imagine anyone else doing that role. She was amazing.

I don’t know if I would have thought to put Kellie and Kavan together, but once I saw them, they really worked well together.

Hello, It's Me Final Photo AssetsThat’s the beauty of these casting people. They know what they’re doing.

And Hallmark does a great job with chemistry casting. At least nine times out of ten, they nail it. And all without the addition of sex.

I’m a huge fan of the older, romantic comedies. They didn’t have to use sex as a crutch in the stories. And there are ways to convey passion and sparks and all those things without having it go that far. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I think Hallmark wanted The Convenient Groom to be an engagement rather than a wedding. It gets a little more complicated as a married couple and living together. And there was a lot in the book about sharing a bed and all that kind of stuff that just wasn’t going to fly. So I think that was part of the reason Hallmark made that change.  We can still plan a wedding, and he can still step in and save her career. but now we see them planning this wedding and falling in love instead of already being married. In the essence of it, it’s still two people who came together in a crazy way, finding that they actually do love each other. That’s what her book was, and that’s what the movie still is, too.

When I’m watching a film or television show, I really don’t often find myself thinking about the writers.

Oh, you and everybody else. (laughs)

And that’s terrible because I am a writer!

We’re the invisible ones. Unless you’re a showrunner like Shonda Rhimes, we just realize that nobody cares. But that’s okay.

The only time I complain about the writers is if I didn’t like the story.

In LA, everybody thinks about everything. Here, it’s completely normal, and there’s writers everywhere. We’re all over the place.  Then when I go hang out with my friends on Disney cruises, everyone else is normal, mid-Westerner–not LA, not New York. And these are the women who have actually become really good friends with me because it’s not “Who are you?” and “What can you do for me?” and “How much money do you make?” These women are really good people, and they remind me that people do really love these movies and they are even more excited about them than I am.  I was really grateful to be asked for an interview because I don’t always get to see the response people have to the films and storylines. It’s nice to be able to hear how much people liked it and if it affected them in any way. It bothers me when people in LA discount everyone else in the country. These people are just as savvy and as discerning as anyone else, and that’s why I really like writing, not just to be hip and win awards. You know, I don’t need to win anything. I just love doing this and doing something I’m proud of  and something that everyone can watch without kicking their kids out of the room.

Well, after talking with you, I do believe I will be thinking about the writers a lot more. I do try to be aware of everything, and I do think about the writers when I’m doing a review.

Erin Pitt, Kellie Martin, Jack Fulton, Kavan Smith

Erin Pitt, Kellie Martin, Jack Fulton, Kavan Smith

You know, when people were tweeting about Hello, It’s Me, and people were tweeting lines of dialogue and some were really funny, that was the best. It made me so happy. That made all the hard work so worth it. You know, the one thing about this job, and you probably know this as a writer, is that it is a job where you tend to feel insecure and unstable. The biggest challenge to me is being able to ride the waves so when you’re up, you’re up, and when you’re down, you’re down. The hardest part is making sure you get through this one and believing you’re going to get the next one.  Because of the years I’ve been in the business, it’s gotten easier because I have connections, and they know what they’re getting in me. With any kind of writing, the hardest thing is knowing if you’re going to have a job in six months.

Another thing is that people always think I must be really rich, but I assure you, I’m middle class. We aren’t getting rich. But for me, the fact that I’ve gotten to do this as my job for twenty years is worth it.  Some years are great, and some are terrible. Overall, there’s only been one year I haven’t worked.  And the year after that, I got a movie and all was well again. I’m just glad I get to make a living doing this. I still do pull all-nighters to get everything done, and it does take a certain kind of personality to sit in a chair for twelve hours. Mostly, I get three or four hours of solid work in per day, but when a deadline is approaching, I might go for fourteen hours to get everything done on time. You get in that zone where time flies, and all of sudden, you look up, and it’s three in the morning. They call it “the flow.” You’re so into what you’re doing, that you lose track of the time. They say that’s one of the rarest things to have happen, but it’s one of the greatest things for your brain to happily be in that flow.

It’s good to hear that you’re not a procrastinator because I’m not either.

You know, I never have been. And I guess if you are one, your career might not last too long. If you wait till the last minute, you’re turning in your first draft. If you give yourself the time and really give yourself that time, you’re turning in something that you’ve done several times. And I’m punching it up. I’m making sure it’s really tight and making sure it’s not too long, and it’s the best version of it. Rather than waiting till a week before it’s due, which I know people do.  In the long run, not procrastinating is going to mean more work.

Even though you can’t talk about the Christmas movie you’re doing, it’s great that you’re doing one. 

Writing a Hallmark Christmas movie was my bucket list assignment. I really wanted to do one, and I’ve been trying to do one for three years. I think it’s going to be great. I turned in the outline just recently, and I’m really excited about it. I am so grateful that I’m in that established place, but I know I won’t always be there. It won’t last, but while I’m here, I’m going to maximize my opportunities and do the best I can for as long as I can. Look at Nancy Silver. She’s my longevity inspiration. Being able to put out quality over and over. I actually want to try to meet her. We have a lot of mutual friends. She’s pretty much the grand dame of TV movie writing.  She’s awesome. So that’s what I’d love to be–like her.

Well, you’re on your way.

We’re getting there.

One step at a time.

avalon highExactly. I’m happy that I can adapt a book and people aren’t angry about it. That that did happen to me when I adapted Avalon High, which was a Meg Cabot book for Disney Channel.  But these are tween readers, they are very possessive of the characters, and they’re really into it. I was really mad about how we had to end it. Again, that was the Disney Channel, and I had a thing I had to do. So I got lots of hate twitters. (laughs) but Meg was happy with it, and it actually did end up winning a Writer’s Guild Award. Guess it wasn’t that bad.gty_julie_sherman_wolfe_amy_talkington_wga_jt_110206_ssh

It’s best to come into the Hallmark movie with an open mind. Because you never know how it’s going to change. But this one (Groom) hasn’t changed that much.

One of the reasons Hallmark is absolutely leading is that they are hiring women. You know, not just because they’re romantic comedies. They hire a bunch of men, too. It’s not an issue with them. Part of the reason I was happy to leave sitcoms is because they would say they already have a woman on staff. And I actually heard last year–I was thinking about going back on a show that I like and it’s a cute show. I thought I’d meet with the director, and we had this nice meeting, and we really seemed to get along. But he was very new to the politics of what you say and don’t say. He actually told my agent that we already have a loud redhead. So I would have gotten the job if I was a blonde or didn’t talk? What do you mean?!?

No, you CERTAINLY can’t have TWO loud redheads!

That’s not an uncommon thing to have happen. When they have diversity hiring–“Well, we already have an African American. and we really need a Hispanic.” You know, it’s very much like that. I would say it’s half talent based and more politically correct.

Unfortunately, that’s still something Hollywood is fighting. 

Well, women need to support each other, too. Back to the It List. The director is a woman. All four producers are women. Then there’s me. A lot of the crew. It was really cool. The problem is they shot it last summer, and even if they wanted to do a sequel, those kids are all growing up quick. Some of them are going to be famous next year. But we’re going to enjoy this one while we can.

What do you do to relax?

Okay, you’re gonna laugh. I love doing photoshop and graphic design.

Oh no, that’s great! 

That uses the completely other side of my brain. It started because we were going on this Disney cruise, and everybody puts magnets on their doors that either they or someone else makes. And I was making all these funny, cool Disney magnets, and I really got into it. I actually opened an Etsy store just for fun, but it did help out with some vacation funds. I love doing all the graphic design stuff, and any time I can use photoshop for anything, I’ll volunteer to do it. And I’m obsessed with my Silhouette Cameo machine. I really love to make stuff with vinyl. I design wine glasses for my friends or signs or anything like that. If I have time. But that’s like more if I have a week off.  I’ll take out the Silhouette and just start making stuff. Crafting. I don’t scrapbook. I just can’t make myself scrapbook for some reason. You would think I would.

I’m not really into scrapbooking either, but the past couple years, I have done some fan art with all the different shows.

That’s funny. We’re kind of similar in what we do to relax. I am obsessed with fonts.  I honestly could look at fonts all day long. Sometimes I struggle to decide what kind of awesome font I want to use. But I’m really into chalkboard fonts. You know how Comic Sans is the most reviled font? I actually got a Comic Sans joke into It List, and it made it into the cut of the movie. I’m so happy it made it! I thought for sure it would get cut!

So far, in most  of my movies, there has been a coffee shop with a whimsical chalkboard menu. That always happens because that’s always how I describe it because that’s what I like. “Quaint coffee shop with whimsical menus.”  I managed to get it into Groom, but I didn’t get it into Wedding Bells ‘cause they aren’t in one, and there was no way to have one. But I try really hard.

Hello, It's Me Final Photo AssetsIn Hello, It’s Me, there’s one when she opens the bakery. The stage direction is “We walk into the cafe. It’s quaint. It has lots of vintage stuff and a chalkboard menu.” And then it happens, and it magically appears. You don’t realize it when you’re writing one little sentence that it’s somebody’s job to make that happen. They take that very seriously, so I try not to write something ridiculous that they can’t possibly do.

Hello, It’s Me had a big cardboard rocket ship. I just said, “He builds a pretty cool, cardboard rocket ship,” and I showed up on set when I went to visit, and I just about died.  You write about it, and it happens. Sometimes. Sometimes they call you and say, “We can’t afford that. It’s crazy. Change it.”

So let’s talk social media.

I am trying to get better with twitter. The kids on It List  have really helped me. So I don’t get distracted, I actually have an app called “Self-Control” that will make it impossible for you to get on any kind of social media on your computer for however long you say. So I’ll do it for four hours so I can get a break and check everything. But the hardest part is hitting enter–“yes, I want to begin.” The four hours of not being on social media. It’s the best thing ever. I wouldn’t get any work done. I used to go to a cafe that didn’t have internet access because it didn’t have internet access. Now that’s where all the writers get stuck. You could do it all day.

Now, I try to live tweet, and I’m always happy to answer any questions people have about the movies. In fact, I hope that people will have more questions for me after reading the interview.

You’re actually the first person I’ve interviewed who is only a writer. I’ve interviewed actors who want to be writers.

A lot of actors decide to become writers because they want to make something that they want to do. Typically, it doesn’t always work. They say in LA that everybody has a screenplay idea, but only one out every one hundred will actually sit down and do it.  Same is true for books. As soon as someone finds out I’m a writer, people will say, “Oh my gosh, my life would make such a funny sitcom or a great Lifetime movie.” And I always say, “In everybody’s life, there is enough drama to have a movie written. You just have to figure out what the hook is.”

My other obsession right now is Hamilton the Musical. I haven’t seen it. I just listen to it. A lot of the teenagers are into it, which is kind of funny. It’s like a hip-hop musical. I thought it was going to be awful, but it is amazing.

I’m also the mother of a seven-year-old boy. We had a lot of fertility issues. We did a bunch of different procedures, and it took us a long time. I started at a “normal” age–33 or 34. My husband actually wrote a book called How To Make Love to a Plastic Cup. And it is a man’s book written for men going through fertility treatments. It’s pretty cool that he wrote that because he did a service for the guys, I think.  Writing with all those hormones was not an easy thing either. Our son is a great kid. We got lucky. My husband is a history teacher, and we don’t like it when his kids realize the title of the book he wrote. They’re high school kids, and you can imagine.

Julie, you have been just awesome. I want to thank you for all the tidbits you shared today.

I’m not used to talking about myself that much.

Well, that’s the way interviews are. Anything else to add?

I love the rain, and my production company is called Chance of Rain. Whenever it’s raining, people know I’m happy. My husband and I have thought of moving to the Pacific Northwest because we seem to have reverse seasonal affective disorder, and I’m not even joking. Whenever the temperature is above 75, we are just unhappy. We know we’re about to get in the time of year we hate. We just turn on the air, and I don’t care how much it costs.

I don’t know if you agree, but I do believe Julie is an exceptionally gifted writer who does something that is often overlooked in many circles. What so many of us viewers don’t realize is that she is an integral part of the process without whom we would not have the wealth of stories available on screen that we relish so readily. After talking with Julie and hearing the passion in her voice and her true love for what she does, I am going to purpose in my mind to seek out the writers whenever I can and attempt to give them the feedback that only sporadically comes their way. So if you happen to catch The Convenient Groom on June 18th on the Hallmark Channel, or if you have seen her past works, be sure to send a little love her way. And also be certain that you follow via the links below. After all, she did mention a Christmas film, and if Julie is excited about it, you know it’s going to be phenomenal!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

2 Comments

  1. Linda Manns Linneman June 18, 2016 Reply

    It sounds like she has an exciting and interesting job. She is definitely great at what she does. I love Hallmark movies. Thank you so much for sharing

    • Author
      Ruth June 18, 2016 Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the interview Linda. And thanks for stopping by.

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