Despite the difficulties of filming during a pandemic, Lifetime Movie Network has the most holiday movies of any single network, with over 30 new premieres and are now in production for next year. Take that Hallmark.
During the new network’s Women of Winter panel, Melissa Joan Hart, who is the director of Feliz NaviDAD, star of Dear Christmas and a producer on Once Upon a Main Street, talked about her love of doing holiday films.
“I love doing them because they do give people a good happy feeling,” she enthused. “You know, I would love to infuse them with a little bit more comedy or a little bit more drama, but the demographics sort of says that people want this season to be a season of easy, happy joy. Whatever is going on in our real lives, whatever is going on in politics, whatever is going on in the pandemic world, we can come to this safe place.”
Hart added: “And while we’re making cookies or sitting on the couch with hot chocolate with our kids at night, we can watch these movies and feel like it’s going to be OK. I think that’s why I like being a part of it.”
Hart’s first movie in 1986, was a Christmas film with Sid Caesar and Catherine Hellman called Christmas Snow.
“I got to shoot that in Vancouver. And as a New Yorker, I went to Vancouver and it was very exciting… very fun. All the fake snow and we filmed it in a fake candy store. And Catherine Hellman and Sid Caesar–just knowing that I was working with them even at only 10 years old. I was just amazed by that.”
Feliz was the first union show up and running for DGA, Hart said.
“I believe we were the first maybe to complete for SAG, so it was a big deal. All eyes were on us. We were starting this protocol. We were being watched and I took that very seriously, as a director and as a producer. We had some snafus on set, we were held up for a few days, but we had our medic and protocols in place, working with the unions closely. We worked with the state in Nevada. The governor came to visit. And we were able to get this movie up and made, which was amazing.”
A More Diverse Holiday
Jacky Lai, who stars in Lifetime’s A Sugar & Spice Holiday, is thrilled to see the network’s diversity initiative.
“I think it’s such a gift, and long awaited, that we’re finally being able to showcase different cultures and backgrounds,” Lai enthused. “Because we all celebrate Christmas and it brings everybody together. You know, I love this movie. Actually, the script did a really great job in exploring the traditions and the family dynamics of the Asian culture, and to be able to, portray this story, it was unreal. Every day I felt like I went on set and I couldn’t believe that this is happening, that we were finally able to showcase the culture for Christmas and I got to be a part of that. It is incredible.”
Lai is thrilled to be a part of Lifetime’s first Christmas movie centered around a Chinese American family.
“I’ve never seen that before,” she acknowledged. “I’m getting a lot of feedback that people are so excited to be able to see someone that looks like them doing normal things, celebrating Christmas. And for me, the story was so different and very funny. The characters were very endearing.”
This is the third Lifetime Christmas project Tiya Sircar, who stars in Christmas on Wheels, has been involved in. “The first one kind of came out of the blue and I was less familiar with this genre of films. And I read and love the script and thought, this is such a nice thing to do.”
Sircar appreciates how the network is “thinking outside the box” adding her to the cast.
“I’m Indian American; I had never heard of or seen of Christmas movies starring an Indian person, a South Asian American before and I just love that you know. Every character that I played in each of these movies that I’ve done so far are not stereotypical in the least. I’ve not played a doctor in any of them, which would be also fine…it’s just such a refreshing thing to not be pigeonholed and that’s a great feeling.”
Susan L. Hornik is an active contributor to Los Angeles Times, Grammy.com, Shondaland.com, InStyle, SFGate, LA Weekly, Irvine Weekly, MensHealth.com, AARP.org, Los Angeles Blade, Washington Blade, Industrym.com.com, Videoage, Alo, Discover Hollywood