BWWTVWorld Interview: Screenwriter Gary Goldstein Chats Hallmark's HITCHED FOR THE HOLIDAYS
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by Caryn Robbins
Talented screenwriter Gary Goldstein penned the upcoming Hallmark Channel Original Movie HITCHED FOR THE HOLIDAYS, premiering Sunday, November 25 (8p.m. ET/PT, 7C). The movie stars five-time Golden Globe® nominee Marilu Henner (“Taxi”), Joey Lawrence (“Melissa and Joey”) and Emily Hampshire (“Ruby Gloom”).
In HITCHED FOR THE HOLIDAYS, when commitment-phobe Rob Marino (Lawrence) breaks up with his girlfriend before Thanksgiving, he is criticized by his big Italian family about his inability to keep a relationship through the holidays. Wanting to prove them wrong and fulfill his dying grandmother’s (Paula Shaw, “Mr. Young”) wish to see him happy in love, Rob goes online and finds Julie (Hampshire), another single New Yorker who’s meddling Jewish mom (Henner), has driven her to seek a temporary boyfriend. Rob and Julie agree to pose as a couple through the holidays to get their families off their backs. But things get complicated when Rob’s Catholic clan and Julie’s Jewish family get involved. With Christmas coming and Hanukkah around the corner, they double their efforts to keep the charade going, only to discover their fake feelings may be a little too real.
Goldstein spoke exclusively to TalkTVWorld about why he believes the romantic comedy will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with the pressures of family, friends and significant others during the holiday season.
Can you tell us the back story on how you came to write 'Hitched For the Holidays'?
I was at a Christmas Eve party some years ago and noticed how many people were there solo. Long and happily partnered off myself by then, it reminded me how much more I enjoyed the holiday season now that I had a permanent “date.” It was just my thing, but it hit me. The holidays can be such an emotionally loaded time of the year.
Anyway, it triggered a movie idea for me: How far would two single, romantically challenged people go so as not to be alone over the holidays, especially if there were some extra pressures on both of them. The story rolled out from there.
What aspects of the story's characters will viewers relate to most?
I think Rob’s fear of commitment and Julie’s overwhelming need to please will feel real for many. They’re both good, caring people but have some life issues that need to be dealt with, which, in the bigger picture, is why they’re brought together.
I also hope viewers relate to Rob and Julie’s interactions with their families: loving and concerned people who drive Rob and Julie crazy in, I think, pretty recognizable ways. And, how sometimes, the relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent can be so much simpler and rewarding than between a parent and child.
The movie is very unique in that it encompasses both Christmas and Hannukah. What lessons can viewers come away with as far as what is most important about the holiday season?
That the holidays aren’t going away so, if they’re a tough or complicated time for you, it’s probably best to just dig in and find a way to enjoy them--and maybe learn something about yourself in the process. Most importantly, if you do have friends and loved ones to celebrate the holidays with (no matter how annoying they may be!) consider yourself lucky.
Much of the humor arises when the main characters are put into a 'fish out of water' situation. Were any of those moments based on personal experiences you've had?
Not specifically, but I think we’ve all experienced trying to be something we’re not to impress other people, or at least to make someone else feel more comfortable around us--and vice-versa.
You've partnered with The Hallmark Channel on several other original movies. Why do you think you are such a great fit for the network?
I've written a lot of romantic comedy scripts, or comedies where romance ends up driving a part of the story. I enjoy writing about opposites attracting or odd couples thrown together and having to deal with each other. It's so much of what life is about.
Hallmark does well with these kinds of stories and I’ve been fortunate to find a home for the ones I want to tell, in addition to being asked to work on ones they’ve already had in development.
Once your screenplay is picked up, are you involved at all in the film's production?
Yes, though I’d say more in the pre-production phase, that is, rewriting the script to satisfy scheduling, logistics or casting issues. Once shooting starts, I’m less involved though am often asked to make quick script revisions based on some late-breaking variable.
Did you have any particular actors in mind when you were writing?
Not really. There are so many fun, talented actors who could play these kinds of parts. Besides, whoever you think of probably won't get cast anyway! I will say, I think "Hitched" was cast particularly well.
Along those lines, was the final product what you envisioned when you were writing the story?
Very much so. Though the original script, which was written as a feature film, went through typical changes to work as a TV movie, we (including my director, producer and the Hallmark execs) worked hard to maintain the first script’s story and characters, tone, humor and warmth. I’m enormously happy with how the film came out and really proud of everyone’s work in it.
Don't miss the Hallmark Channel Original Movie HITCHED FOR THE HOLIDAYS, premiering Sunday, November 25 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7c.
About Writer Gary Goldstein:
Gary Goldstein has written numerous Hallmark Channel Original Movies including the comedies “The Wish List,” starring Jennifer Esposito and David Sutcliffe and “A Crush On You” with Brigid Brannagh and Sean Patrick Flanery. For Hallmark Movie Channel, Goldstein wrote “The Cabin” starring Lea Thompson and Steven Brand and most recently, the country-western themed “Strawberry Summer” with Shelley Long and Cindy Williams.
He also recently adapted his romantic comedy screenplay "This Magic Moment" for another upcoming Hallmark telefilm, to air in 2013.
Goldstein’s indie feature "Politics of Love," a romantic comedy set before the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, was released in summer 2011 (it is currently available on DVD with frequent cable airings on Showtime). He also wrote the feature romantic comedy, “If You Only Knew,” which was produced by Eternity Pictures and Moonstone Entertainment, and starred Johnathon Schaech, Alison Eastwood, James LeGros and Lainie Kazan.
The writer has sold or optioned a number of original screenplays to various studios, production companies and independent producers, has a string of episodic television credits including “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Saved by the Bell,” and has sold half-hour comedy pilots to both NBC and Warner Bros. Television.
Goldstein has written several comedies for the Los Angeles stage including “Just Men,” at Hollywood’s Stella Adler Theatre and “Parental Discretion” and “Three Grooms and a Bride,” which both enjoyed long runs at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood. His family drama “Curtain Call” premiered in November 2008 at Carmel, California’s Pacific Repertory Theatre, where it was selected as the winner of PacRep’s 2007 Hyperion Playwriting Competition.
Photos courtesy of the Hallmark Channel