by Daina Leitold
Winnipeg plays host to many a holiday movie production. Most often made for TV and airing on Hallmark, Lifetime or W Network, these super sweet holiday films don't shy away from the reds and greens and Merry Christmasses. I'd like to share some of my thoughts on this holiday season of movie making.
HEY! I KNOW THAT JENNA RAE CAKE!
Movies are great for our economy, employing lots of locals and supporting many businesses, in Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities. After watching a few this season, it seems to me most of these stories include bakeries and baking, or chocolates and chocolatiers, and so I hope and imagine our local artisans sometimes get to showcase their offerings or store fronts sometimes, too.
SNOW . . . IN JULY?
And it was surprising for me to realize we don't just film these winter movies in winter, while there's snow on the ground, but often in the fall, spring, or even summer. It's both charming and ridiculous to pass by a Christmas movie set, complete with faux snow and giant candy canes, on a hot summer's day. But then I imagine there's some fun work for the special effects folks.
SUCH A TREAT!
I've only worked on one Christmas film, and my experience was lovely. It's a treat to be on a set that is all about being merry and bright. The costumes, props and sets were a celebration of colour and festive nostalgia, creating a world that was so unreal, it was hard not to feel something. As someone who doesn't get the warm and fuzzies with the mention of Christmas or sight of a decorated tree, I was a little surprised how giddy I felt on set. The conflict in these stories is soft and simple (no climate crisis being discussed here), characters are generally fun and maybe sometimes quirky, and there is often a magical element to these stories. Just plain pleasant. There was something about making a magical story about love and light-hearted folks that allowed the vibe on set, between crew and actors and everyone else, to be relaxed (as much as a film set can be) and fun.
HEY! I'VE SEEN THAT PROP BEFORE!
And here's another positive I see to doing so many Christmas movies in the same town : the potential to reuse is great. As someone who is often frustrated by the waste the film industry generates, I was happy to see the production company had bins of Christmassy props and set decor that are organised, labelled and kept on hand to be re-used in the next holiday film.
AND A CHRISTMAS DRINKING GAME (not for all ages)
A Christmas Movie Drinking Game : take a sip each time someone says "Christmas". You might not last through the second commercial break. Equally dangerous : take a sip each time someone says "home". It seems these films are often about a character returning Home for Christmas, or selling their family's Home around Christmas, or returning Home for Christmas to find their ageing parents want to sell the family Home, but then as a Christmas miracle unfolds, that Home is gifted to the show's lead character and they move back to the quaint little town they call Home.
But, possibly the most fun—and dangerous game—for those of you living in Winnipeg: take a drink every time you see a place, or an ACTOR you recognise.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone, wherever your homes may be. Sincerely, Daina Leitold (and, in case you weren't counting, that's three drinks right there).
Daina is a Winnipeg-based theatre and film artist. In her fifteen+ years with Green Kids, she has produced 12 tours, developed 6 new programs and co-written 6 plays, while working as a director, designer and performer on these and other Green Kids projects. She also produces and creates theatre with Theatre by the River, and is the recipient of an Evie Award for Outstanding Design (Red Earth - One Trunk / Theatre Projects Manitoba) and an ACTRA Award for Outstanding Performance (The Interrogation, M.A. - Sweet & Sour Films).