Interview With Screenwriter Julie Sherman Wolfe, “The Birthday Wish”

By Ruth on January 21, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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Last summer, I had the opportunity to interview a screenwriter named Julie Sherman Wolfe, and for me, that will always be a special interview because she was the first writer in the entertainment industry with whom I had ever chatted. Julie is one of those special people with whom I have a lot in common, and I appreciate every opportunity I get to connect with her as a writer, a person, a mother, and a friend. Just this week, she and I briefly discussed her new Hallmark film (premiering tonight, January 21), and she detailed the circumstances surrounding her inspiration for this film as well as her future aspirations.

RH: When I first saw the ads for The Birthday Wish, I’ll be honest, I thought, “Oh no, another time travel one.” That was my first thought.

JSW: It’s really not even time travel.

I know you’re right. And shortly thereafter, I saw that you were connected with it, and I told my mom, “We don’t have anything to worry about because it’s written by one of the top Hallmark writers. I know it will be good.”

Oh, that’s so sweet.

And then we noticed there were some good actors in it. Marcus Rosner is in it.

Oh yes, he sure was. Marcus had the tough job of being a sort of “bad guy,” but he still had to be a good enough guy that we believe Jessy Schram’s character would want to be with him. Oh, and I told Marcus one of these days I would write him a part where he actually GETS the girl! And Jessy Schram is fantastic! Oh my gosh, she is so good in it! She’s so funny, but she rarely does comedy. I’m not even sure if she thought she could do comedy, but she’s awesome. Also, Luke Mcfarlane is such a great actor. And then Peter DeLuise just killed it. He’s amazing. More than anyone, he gets what I was going for at every turn. This is actually the first original Hallmark movie of mine that is airing. The first few I did–a couple were books, and one was a rewrite. This is the first one that from the very beginning is completely my own idea. So this one is a little bit more meaningful to me.

I noticed that. So where did you get the idea for this one?

One of the producers, Jean Abounader, said they really wanted something having to do with a birthday. That was the only parameter. So I was thinking about birthdays and what that means. I know the general age that Hallmark likes for these kinds of movies. So I knew the main character would be around thirty, and I thought about what our expectations are when we’re around thirty. Certain things should have happened in our lives already. And it just went from there. It just flowed out. I always like a little supernatural stuff in mine for whatever reason.

Don’t you just love that as a writer? You have one little idea. You’re not sure where it’s going, but then it kind of writes itself. 

Exactly. I think it just started out as a little kernel, and it grew from there. Sometimes you have something that you think is a great idea, and you start outlining, and halfway through, you realize there’s nowhere to go. But this one worked out. Hallmark executives are always great, and their notes are always good and make sense. And everyone is always working together to make it better.

How long did it take you to write this one?

I wrote it over the summer. Probably a couple months or so. I had other stuff going on in between, so it’s never just one at a time. There’s always other stuff happening at the same time. The outlining and all, that was in the spring. I wrote it in the summer over the course of a couple of months. We quickly did the second draft so that they would be able to greenlight it for the fall. They wanted to shoot it so they could get Peter DeLuise. They knew they wanted it for January. It was a narrow window. They shot it around Thanksgiving. Sometimes it takes a long time to get a green light. This one took less time because they really needed to get it going.

I wrote something else over the summer that hasn’t been greenlit yet. They’re hoping to start shooting in March, but I can’t say what it is yet. I wrote it around the same time, but it’s not their priority because it’s for Christmas. They’re trying to get it done now so they can shoot it when there’s still snow on the ground in Canada. I really wish I could tell you what it is, but I can’t. And I’m also writing another Christmas one right now. Let’s put it this way. There’s a lot happening none of which I can talk about. I have a few irons in the fire over there. I’m very grateful to be working this much for them. The real reason I love writing for Hallmark is that I love writing things that make people’s lives better or happier for a little bit instead of making things that are more cynical and dark.

Jessy Schram Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Did you visit the set at all for The Birthday Wish?

I absolutely intended on going up there. I wrote a scene with ten puppies specifically for myself because I wanted to be able to go up there and have that happen. I’ve always wanted to do that. They ended up shooting it right around Thanksgiving, and I have a family and had people coming over, so I couldn’t do it. So when I watch that scene, I think, “Aw–” What’s also very funny and ironic is that I love rain more than anything, and it was apparently torrential rain up there at that time. {laughs} I would have had the best day ever! But it’s all right. Seeing the scene made it fun.

I know Hallmark always promotes their stuff, but I’ve seen Hallmark tweeting or retweeting about this one quite a bit.

I know John Tinker has been tweeting about it which is a great compliment. I respect his work so much. I’m secretly hoping Saturday is a cold, winter night for the country and everyone stays in and watches it. I also realized just recently that food is in this movie a ridiculous amount. There’s twenty-four food items in this movie. I did not realize how food-centric is was until we started talking about it on the fan page. It’s pretty funny actually. {laughs} I’m sure it means something deep down that I’m trying to watch what I’m eating and living vicariously through the story.

My goal for my movies for Hallmark is that they are just different enough to keep your interest. Hopefully, if it’s one of my movies, you’ll know it’s got a certain comedic aspect to it that’s a little bit different and a little less of what you’re expecting. I think people will get that from this one. I know a few people were worried that this was the same old, same old, but I said that I promise it’s not. I promise there’s stuff in this one that you haven’t seen.

I think that’s how my mom and I are. We go into the movies just hoping for something a little bit different. We know what we’re getting in a Hallmark movie, but we’re just hoping for a fun and entertaining ride.

That’s the challenge for me is that we all know they’re going to get together, but we don’t know how. So that’s the challenge. Make it believable and make it different enough that you’re enjoying the process. It’s not just waiting for the end and waiting for them to do it. It’s been really nice to create these characters and see them come to life. I really wish I had gone up there, to be honest. I’m hoping to go up for the next one.

Going back to Jessica Darling’s It List, how did that one end up doing?

It did pretty well. It did better once it went on Amazon Prime. It’s been getting a second life because the lead gal, Cloe East, is on Liv and Maddie now. So people are starting to look her up and wonder who she is and what else she’s done.

My favorite kind of writing is romantic comedy. When I sold movies, that’s what they were. It’s a joy to write them and get paid. The challenge as a writer is you’re kinda going back old school in the ’30’s, ’40’s and ’50’s where you have to write sexual tension without anybody touching. In my opinion, that’s much harder than what we usually see when they’re already “doing it” five minutes into the movie. It’s a challenge and sort of the lost art of romantic comedy, if I may say. I could not be happier right now doing what I’m doing.

With her husband Greg at TCA 2017

So maybe you’ll be instrumental in bringing romantic comedy back to the theaters. 

I would love to be one of the people who brings romantic comedy–that isn’t raunchy–back to the mainstream movie theaters.

Hallmark certainly has moved up in the world. Their growth has been amazing!

That is so true. It is no longer an uncool thing to like Hallmark movies. People are admitting they watch them. It’s more in the zeitgeist now. It’s trendy, even for younger people, to spend a Friday night watching a Hallmark movie. It’s nice and fun. It’s nothing that’s going to offend anybody, but it might make you happy for a couple of hours.

Absolutely. I know some people call it cheesy, but you can escape reality and all your troubles for awhile. You turn on all the other stations, and they’re often so dark. I’m not saying it’s all bad; there’s some good stuff out there. 

Dark comedy and all that has its place, but sometimes you just wanna have popcorn and ice cream–

And you don’t have to think! You don’t have to sit there and over-analyze anything. We love Hallmark for the romantic comedies, and we love the mysteries over on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. And it’s family-friendly! You don’t have to worry about your kids seeing something you don’t want them to see.

That’s what makes me proud to do it. It makes people happy. It’s an escape. And everyone kinda wishes they lived in a nice, little town and a nice, little house and everything’s colorful. sweet, and works out.

And you do a good job writing comedy.

Thank you.

Sometimes the Hallmark stuff is sweet and nice, but not as funny as I might want it to be. 

This one is definitely funnier than the other stuff I’ve done. And the guy who plays Bruce, who is a character actor, he took that part that didn’t have that much going on and made it his own and made it just spectacular. Peter had a lot to do with that, too. The actor’s name is David Lewis. Amazing actor. I don’t think he normally does comedy either . He was the evil mayor in Monsterville, as a matter of fact. He made everything more colorful in the movie and his role. Be sure to check out my site tonight during the premiere because I’ll be posting little tidbits along the way.

As usual, it was a delight to have a second interview with someone like Julie, who is always willing to connect with her fans and share behind-the-scenes information that is pertinent to the story and her writings. While writers rarely ever reach the status of well-known actors, Julie is one who is willing to put herself out there regularly and be accessible to the Hallmark fans. In so doing, she is becoming such an integral part of the Hallmark family that I do believe that we will continue to see her name in more and more of their works in the near future. After all, she has also aligned herself with the one of the finest directors who exists today–Peter DeLuise. Notwithstanding, in spite of any recognition or accolades she may receive, Julie remains committed to excellence and always raising the bar, so to speak. If anyone can bring back romantic comedy, I would venture to say that Julie can do it, and I fully support her in her quest. I invite you to tune in tonight (January 21) to the Hallmark Channel to watch her newest film, The Birthday Wish, as it’s certain to be a veritable delight filled with expertly-written comedy and phenomenal acting. Furthermore, be sure that you check out all of Julie’s links below and follow her via social media so that you can be notified the moment that Julie’s dreams of bringing back RomCom to the cinema come to fruition!

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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

5 Comments

  1. Dena @ Batch of Books January 21, 2017 Reply

    What a fun interview! I love Hallmark movies. They’re so sweet and happy.

    • Author
      Ruth January 21, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Dena! Me too

  2. Josee January 21, 2017 Reply

    I just googled “screenwriter for ‘The Birthday Wish'” because I enjoyed it so much! I watch ALL the Hallmark movies and this one is definitely in the top 3 for the past several months. I’m a Romance novelist and appreciated Wolfe’s unique storyline. It was also very well acted. It got me thinking outside the box for my current WIP.

    • Author
      Ruth January 21, 2017 Reply

      Josee that is awesome! I’m going to pass your comments on to Julia. I wish you all the best with your current work. Be sure to keep us in the loop!

  3. Sherry Fram January 26, 2017 Reply

    Great interview! I have that movie on my record list on my DVR!! Can’t wait to see it!

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