Interview With Writer Marcy Holland, “The Christmas Cure”

By Ruth on July 15, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
0
0

I always have an affinity for writers, and if it happens to be a writer that is collaborating in some way with Hallmark, then I am extremely excited and honored to feature him or her. In this case, screenwriter Marcy Holland, who has several successful projects to her name, has had the privilege of working with Hallmark for the first time on the new Christmas film which will premiere tonight (July 15th) on the Hallmark Channel. It is entitled The Christmas Cure, and recently, I was able to chat with this established and gifted screenwriter about how she got started in the industry and specifically about how she helped bring this delightful story to our television screens.

RH: Marcy, I’m so glad that it worked out to get to talk to you. Many times when I interview writers, they prefer to do everything by email–which is fine.

MH: I gotta tell you I spend all my time writing, so I prefer being able to speak with you, Ruth.

So how long have you been writing? 

I’ve been writing professionally for about five years.  I got my master’s degree in screenwriting in 2008. Then I got my first professional job in 2012, which was a Lifetime movie. Since then, I’ve been writing pretty consistently, which has been really excellent for me.  That first movie opened a lot of doors for me. I think it was only about a year and a half where I was working on TV and movies, but I had to also have a second job. A lot of people in this industry have to work multiple jobs, at least for a while. So I was teaching SAT prep. Then I think about three years ago, I was able to go full-time and make this my actual career, which is really exciting.

Have you always been interested in writing?

Yes, when I was growing up, I was always really passionate about movies and television. We had this local video rental place back when there were video rental places. It was called The Video Barn, and it was this tiny hole in the wall. It was so small that they didn’t even have shelves that they could put movies on, so they would cut out the front of the VHS covers and hang them on pins.  You’d walk in and there’d be walls and walls of pins of these movie covers. I used to beg my mom to take me at least
three or four times a week. She was really cool about it.  I watched quite a few movies that I’m pretty not sure were completely appropriate for my age, but you get to that point where you’re just like, “I want to see everything. Show me everything!” And that’s the great thing about movies that they expose you to all these different worlds and people and things that you don’t see in your everyday life. That was always really important to me.

I wasn’t sure if writing was a particularly practical career path.  I grew up in a small fishing town in Massachusetts, so there were not a lot of people I could look to and say, “Oh, they went off to Hollywood and started making movies.”  But I got to the point where I was just writing so much in my free time because I was passionate about it. I was working and then coming home and writing. I thought,  “You know, I’m gonna apply to film school–one film school–and if I get in, then I’m gonna do it. And if I don’t, I’ll just take it as a sign.” And I got in. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. I think if you really love something, you give it a shot, and you can always correct it if it’s not really what you’re meant to do. But luckily, I’ve been able to carve out a little place for myself and it’s a really exciting.

Well, I was I was impressed when you said that you’ve got a master’s degree because I’ve interviewed enough writers in this business, and lots of times, it just doesn’t work out for them to get a degree in journalism or writing or whatever. So for you to actually get a master’s, I find that rather impressive. 

My undergraduate degree is in English because, at that point, I knew I still would love to write professionally,  but again, I didn’t know how practical that was. So I felt that at least with an English degree, I would be doing what I loved and I would be able to maybe go out and teach in order to support myself.  Actually, that’s what I did when I graduated. I went to UNH, and I got out and I taught for a year. It was the special ed department and I taught fifth-grade math and English. When I was considering if I could really take that leap and attempt to try this as a career, I almost had to get a master’s. If I was gonna go back to school, that’s where it would have to be.

Some people can just go out to LA, and that’s certainly the way a lot of people do it.  That’s the crazy thing about this profession is there’s so many entry points. If you want to be a lawyer, there’s a very clear path to be a lawyer.  Do you want to be a doctor? There’s very clear path to be a doctor. But with writing for TV/movies,  there’s just so many ways to do it.  I knew that if I went to film school, I would have a support system built into that where I would get to learn the craft from people who actively work in the industry and I could learn to navigate that. The great part of that program is that I did a post-graduate semester out in Los Angeles.  So I went out to Los Angeles with a bunch of people that I had become friends with and we were all interns together.  It was kind of like “LA with training wheels.”  We went out with people who knew you and you’d spent two years with and we were all in it together.  It was really valuable in that way, but certainly, there are plenty of different ways to do this job. I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me what my degree was in before I got a job.  But it was a great two years.  I definitely I think it was a worthwhile pursuit.

I would agree. Many times, I’m interviewing actors, and while no one is anti-film school, I think that there are a lot of successful people in the business who have not gone to film school. But basically, if they haven’t gone to film school,  they are still taking classes. Like you said,  I think there are a variety of paths within this career. 

I kind of was also thinking towards the end of my career, I might want to teach. I really do like teaching and the collaborative workshopping processes that go along with that.  Having an advanced degree would help with that.  Maybe I’ll go back to my alma mater.

As I looked over some of your past works on IMDB, I noticed a couple Christmas things in your credits, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of them. I think I recognized some of them, but I’ve not officially seen them. There is so much out there, and I feel like I’m always playing “catch up” when it comes to what I need to watch and what I should be watching.

I totally understand. I don’t even think my mom has seen all my movies. {laughs} It’s always tough when you’re doing all these network movies because they’re always producing so much content. Hopefully, your movie doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and you find a little way to make it stand out. I certainly do not expect someone to look up my entire catalog of movies.

 I believe the Christmas movie that’s coming up is called The Christmas Cure.

Yes, and actually the original title for The Christmas Cure was Home For the Holidays which is very similar to the other new Christmas movie coming out called Home For Christmas Day–which looks really good, by the way. I’ll be watching that one too, but I’m not affiliated with that one.

Now, this is your first Hallmark movie, right?

Yes, it is.

That’s what I thought. Have you been a fan of Hallmark movies for a while? Was this something you had wanted to do for some time or was it rather new for you?

Well, I think that I can answer that in two ways.  I’ve wanted to write for Hallmark for quite a while because one of my favorite genres, just to watch and read, is romance. And if you want to write romance, I feel like Hallmark is the place to do it. As for being a fan of the movies, yes, but I have to say–and I think a lot of people are like this–for me, it was always tuning into Hallmark during Christmas. Although I will say that Hallmark movies are my mom’s absolute favorite. When I visit with her and I go over and have lunch with her, usually Hallmark is on, and we watch a Hallmark movie. So Hallmark movies are something I’m very familiar with and have a lot of affection for. I would say that I am a fan. I enjoy them.

Hallmark was a part of my childhood, and my dad loved the channel, so at first, I was dead set against the channel and its shows and films. But ever since the original shows premiered on the channel, I gave the movies a chance, and now we almost always have one of the two channels on. 

I think one of the great things about Hallmark is you know what you’re gonna get when you sit down. A lot of times, you’re just in that place where you just want to spend two hours watching a very sweet movie, and that’s what Hallmark is gonna give you. It’s comfort food, and we all need that. I think that’s the best part about the network–you always walk away from a Hallmark movie feeling really good. They’ve created this community where you’re not just passively watching a movie like enjoying it and then moving on. You’re watching the movie and you’re live tweeting with people who are like you and watching it with you. You’re enjoying it together with this community and going and talking about it on message boards or the Facebook groups. And that just takes it to the next level. There’s this whole community of people that love the same thing you love and you can enjoy it together. That makes it a big communal experience. It’s really special.

I think that that’s what did it for me too. Once you start connecting with the other fans and then even actors and even the crew members and the directors, and when they begin to interact with people who are watching it too, it makes you want to watch it more than if you have no connections. Live tweeting did it for me, and now we never miss anything Hallmark and always watch as a family. {pause} So going back to The Christmas Cure, where did you get the idea for this film?

Photo:Brooke Nevin, Patrick Duffy Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Shane Mahood

When I came on to the project, there was a one-page summary. A lot of the parts of the story were already there. There was the idea of this doctor coming home for Christmas and her father’s closing their family clinic. She reconnects with her high school boyfriend who’s a contractor, so there were a lot of pieces already on the board. I  took that and I expanded that one-page summary into a full outline that went to the producers and the network. In that process, I was filling out the subplot. I had to establish the family dynamics. I think in that original pitch, he had a really big family with
sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews, and one of the things I pitched to them right away was the idea of a smaller family so that each of the family members could have a really strong subplot instead of spreading it over a lot of different people. They were definitely enthusiastic about that.  So the premise was there, but I was given a lot of freedom in terms of how we get from A to B. I was able to create a cute subplot for her brother so he could get his own little romance as a fun parallel to hers.

When you’re a writer, you can come on in all different stages. I’ve come on when there’s a one-line pitch, a full outline, a full script that needs to be rewritten… you can really come in at any stage. But with this one, they had a good idea of what the premise was, and I got to go off and take a stab at it. With the Hallmark network, collaboration and support are so wonderful. The producers and network executives and everyone are all around you to support you even when the process moves quickly as it often does on these kinds of films. Hallmark is like a really well-oiled machine and they have excellent quality control. They have people running the show that are incredibly creative and generous with their time. So I think that when you have a system set up like that, you can move a little quicker.

Did you go to set at all when they were filming? 

I did not because they film in Canada.  I think I’ve only been to three sets, and that’s because they filmed in Massachusetts.  Usually, I’m invited, but…the thing about going to set is that it can be fun, but a lot of the time, it’s also like you’re the one person with nothing to do. Everyone’s working really hard and you know they’re so busy. As a writer, you’re off to the side, trying not to get in anyone’s way If I visit the set, I’m usually like, “Can I carry something?” {laughs}”Why am I just standing here?”

I have heard that some writers go to set and they end up with little cameo roles.

That happened to me on my first movie. They were filming in a high school, and they wanted to give me a backpack and be one of the kids.  At that point, I think I was twenty-six or twenty-seven, and I was like, “I’m gonna play a high school kid?” {laughs} “I’m gonna be walking the halls like a high school student? I don’t know, guys. Thank you, but I think I’ll pass.”

I know there can be a lot of downtime on set, especially for the writer who doesn’t have a specific job to do, like you said. I know in this business it’s a lot of “hurry-up-and-wait” for everyone involved, so I do understand and appreciate what you’re saying. 

It also can be a weird dynamic . Sometimes people will think,  “Oh, the writer’s on set,”  and people wonder if they are judging or something like that. I don’t ever want anyone to think I’m there in any other capacity than I just want to hang out on set. So I think that’s another thing you have to think about.

Yeah, I can see that. People might be a bit on edge if they think the author is there to complain or judge, but you’re really there for no other reason than just for the experience.

Yeah, the times I have been on set, the thing that I’ve been most interested in is just watching functionally how it runs.  When you’re writing a script, it’s a blueprint for people to follow.  You want
the blueprints to be as smooth as possible.  Watching how they set up takes, watching how much time it takes to move to a different location, paying attention to how much time it takes to do this stunt–all that stuff you can then process and put into the next script and say, “Oh, I know when we did this, it was a big nightmare for production so let’s do this instead.” So that’s the thing…it’s taking it as a learning experience. I’ve worked with a lot of directors who’ve been extremely generous with their time, explaining the process and what they need out of scripts, how things go through an editor, how things go through the DP and all of that kind of stuff. So that’s usually what I try to do is find out functionally how I can be a help next time.

Have you gotten to see any of the film yet?

I have not. And it’s not abnormal for things to be this way. Usually you don’t see it till it’s one hundred percent done, and usually, these movies aren’t one hundred percent done until it’s getting closer to the premiere. Then I’ll often be sent a screener or a physical copy, and that’s always fun.  But there is something kind of fun watching it with everyone else for the first time. There are plenty of places for me to be surprised because actors sometimes ad-lib or directors approach a scene in a different way. That, for me, is the fun of watching it.

I’ve been on projects where I saw a rough cut, and it always blows my mind how it transitions to the final product. Between color correction and ADR and all that kind of stuff–suddenly it feels cinematic. So sometimes I do prefer to wait. I’m honestly fine either way.

Did they ask you to make any changes once it was in production?

Yes, but just production stuff. And this happens on every script. Suddenly they’re at of location and
they realize, “Oh, no, we can’t shoot it like that,”  or “We only have this actor for so many days and we need to move them to this location.”  While it didn’t happen on this one, I’ve even been contacted to write an additional scene for a script. What they do is they time a script out, and even though the timing may be right when they initially time it out, sometimes it moves faster when they are filming.   When that happens, they will get in contact with you and say, “You know, we’ve filmed these scenes, and we need you to look at the remaining scenes and see if you can add to them.” Usually, you can’t add whole new scenes because things are already set, but I’ve definitely had to expand scenes before.”
Some of it is my writing style. I write really quick. Essentially, I use a lot of dialogue and very little scene description so you can move through it.  My scripts always time really fast. So a ninety-five-page script might time at eighty-two minutes or something like that.  That’s something I’m always trying to be conscious of is putting in those couple extra pages because I know it’s gonna move quickly.

Right because I know that they always want to have too much rather than not enough. 

Absolutely.  You always want to have a little bit of freedom when filming these scripts, and giving them too much is always preferable to not enough.

Now we’ve already covered The Christmas Cure. Are there any other works coming up that you can mention?

Yes, I have a bunch sort of trickling out over the next few months. I have another Christmas movie coming up called Spruces and Pines.  It’s this cute little “Romeo and Juliet” story that is set at rival Christmas tree farms. What’s really cool about this movie is that we actually filmed it on real Christmas tree farms. So it’s really beautiful to look at.  I don’t know when and where you can see it yet. If you follow me on Twitter, I try to update as often as possible when I have more information. But that is in the can; we filmed that a couple of months ago.

The SyFy Channel has an event every summer called Sharknado Week where they premiere a couple of new shark movies and then end with the new Sharknado.  I have a movie coming out called Mississippi River Shark during Sharknado Week. That should be the first week of August.

Then there’s the films I can’t talk about quite yet, but again, follow me on twitter and you will be the first to know when I can. I always update once I am able to.

I notice that you are listed as a producer on a couple of movies on IMDB. Is that accurate?

Yes, in the past year, I’ve been able to take on more of a development role where I’m helping to generate the ideas. I’m also getting some input with the cast and all that. I definitely want to do more producing.  Now there are producers, and I certainly wouldn’t want to say I’m a full-fledged producer. The workload that they juggle is mind-boggling.  But I would love to transition more into that kind of role. I’ve been able to work with some production companies and start to take on different levels of responsibility there, so I’m not just a writer that jumps on a project and then jumps off a project. I’m somebody that is doing other things for them. I’m helping develop and pitch to the network, which is really exciting.

So do you plan to just keep screenwriting, or do you have plans to eventually write a book?

Oh yeah, I would love to write a book.  I have a couple of ideas in various stages of development. But I don’t think it would ever be an either/or situation. I really love screenwriting, so it would be a complement to it, not a diversion from it.  I love books; I love reading. I read probably three or four books a week. It’s true that writing scripts and books are both totally different languages. It’s like I always tell people: “If you want to write books, read books. But if you want to write scripts, read scripts.” But I do think there’s a lot of crossover. If you love stories, it’s just a different way to tell stories.

Was there anything you wanted to be sure to say that we didn’t talk about? 

Well, again, I would just like to give a thank you to you for this interview and helping promote the movie, and another thank you to the Hallmark Facebook group. I was really bowled over by the
welcome they gave me. I posted this little, “Hey, I’ve got a movie coming out,” and just the amount of likes and messages was really nice and I appreciated it. I also want to be sure to say that I will be live tweeting during the movie, and I’m gonna hop over to the Facebook page and chat with people there too. I’ll be around and we’ll all watch movie together.  Hopefully, people like it and have a good time and I’m pretty excited! And we really lucked out with such a fantastic cast!

Throughout my extensive and enjoyable chat with Marcy, it didn’t take long for me to discover that her passion for writing infiltrates everything she does. She is a grounded individual that is intrigued by all aspects of film, but writing is and always will be her first love. She writes for all the correct reasons. It’s not about notoriety, money, nor instant fame. She is humble and pragmatic, and her only concern is ensuring that her stories get told in a manner that truly connects with the audience. While she had begun to take a more active role in the production portion of movies, that is merely an outgrowth of her enthusiasm for the written word. 

In this world of social media mania, she is also savvy enough to comprehend and recognize the significance of fan interaction. While some writers prefer to keep the old school approach and shroud themselves in the shadows, Marcy is one who will take the initiative and reach out to fans to include them in the storytelling experience. In so doing, I believe the stories that she has the opportunity to tell are going to continue to be relevant and entertaining for her viewers because she is making a point to tap into that “fan element” and pay heed to commendations as well as suggested improvements.

Please be sure that you tune in today (June 15th) to the Hallmark Channel for the premiere of The Christmas Cure, as it is a perfect way to get those holiday juices flowing even in the middle of July. Additionally, please consider checking out her works at the links below, and perhaps even grant her a follow if you are so inclined. While this movie will be the first of Marcy’s that I have seen, I have no doubt that this will become an instant favorite and a new classic to add to the every-increasing repertoire of Hallmark holiday films that we will continue to relish year after year!

FOLLOW MARCY

Twitter

IMDB

 

Interested in subscribing to all my site's updates? Subscribe below!

Subscribe to My Devotional Thoughts

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

0 Comments

Add comment

Leave a Reply

Please know that comment moderation is in effect on this site. Comments may not appear immediately. Also, please note that any negative attacks on people, networks, or other comments that are deemed "inappropriate" or "overtly negative" may be removed and/or edited by the administrator.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

CommentLuv badge