In the spirit of the holiday season, we’ve gathered some tips and tricks from our 2019 “Writing in a Winter Wonderland” panel on how to bring audiences together through the power of storytelling.
“Some of the most powerful stories have been told at Christmas. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is my- one of my favorite movies by far. You can really hit a theme and a message in these movies, I think it really will resonate and you can get to be a part of the pantheon, that- the kind of movie that people tune into every year and they cherish and it becomes beloved.” – David Berenbaum (writer Elf, The Haunted Mansion, The Spiderwick Chronicles)
2. Becoming a Tradition
“Doing 24/7 Christmas movies, people have jumped in pretty hard because there’s money to be made, and you have to have the heart in the right place. Christmas is a sacred holiday. So many of us have personal connections, memories, and if you can tap into that nostalgia and love and be true to Christmas, that’s the kind of story that will, like ELF, stand the test of time and that people make part of their tradition. “ – Karen Schaler (writer A Christmas Prince, Christmas Camp, Every Day is Christmas, Rediscovering Christmas)
3. Christmas as the Starring Character
“The number one rule is Christmas- Christmas has to be the character. Christmas is the starring character, and if there’s ever a question in the script about something Christmas [?] and I think it’s for writers jumping in thinking, ‘Oh, it’s- I can sell a Christmas movie! Everyone’s buying them,’ and if you take an average story and just try to sprinkle in some Christmas lights, an Elf, or Santa, it’s not gonna work. It has to start with Christmas, the heart has to be there.” – Karen Schaler (writer A Christmas Prince, Christmas Camp, Every Day is Christmas, Rediscovering Christmas)
“I think my rule is, like, give them what they want but not what they expect. Really, the whole fun of it for me, was dialing down, like, ‘How does this really work? How- how does he have a sack of presents that’s- that’s endless?’ Like, ‘Oh, it’s a tie’- you know. There’s magic involved, and we’ve really had to dial in on what’s the myth- I mean, Kurt Russell has a thirty-page, handwritten download on the history of Santa Clause.” – Matt Lieberman (writer The Christmas Chronicles, Free Guy, Playing with Fire, The Addams Family, Meet the Machines, Scooby Doo, Monster on the Hill)
5. Bring Something Original
Christmas is hard to write, every story it seems like has been done. . I think you just kind of take the pieces that are honorable and you’re saying, “These are classic Christmas tropes,” and then try to bring something yourself original to it that people will connect with. – Karen Schaler (writer A Christmas Prince, Christmas Camp, Every Day is Christmas, Rediscovering Christmas)
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