OSWEGO — A holiday movie co-written by Juliet Giglio of SUNY Oswego’s creative writing faculty, “Christmas Reservations,” will debut at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, on the Lifetime network.
Writing a holiday film for Lifetime is almost turning into a family tradition for Giglio and her husband Keith, who teaches at Syracuse University. Just like last year’s film, “A Very Nutty Christmas,” this project again pairs them with star actress Melissa Joan Hart and with her mother Paula Hart as producer.
The Giglios are big fans of one of the best-known modern holiday-themed films, “Love, Actually,” and how that weaves a number of intersecting plots into the story, which — along with their love of skiing — very much influenced writing “Christmas Reservations.”
Melissa Joan Hart plays the lead role of Holly, whose family runs a ski resort when an old college boyfriend, played by Ricardo Chavira, shows up as a widower with two children. Old sparks fly, complications arise and the holiday spirit brings together the disparate characters and subplots in an expectedly warm embrace.
“It’s an amazing cast,” Giglio said, starting with Hart, best known for award-winning work with “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” but with dozens of movies and TV roles to her credit.
In addition to Hart and Chavira (“Desperate Housewives,” “Six Feet Under”), Giglio also raves about an ensemble that includes Michael Gross (“Family Ties,” “Tremors”), Markie Post (“Night Court,” “Hearts Afire”), Ted McGinley (“Married … with Children,” “Happy Days”) and others.
The movie deals with scenarios familiar to many viewers, where “you come to reflect on your life, whether it’s about getting older or falling in love or giving your kids a dog or being a good parent,” Giglio said.
For the Giglios, an especially rewarding moment was going out to the production phase to find their fictional resort The Treeline meticulously created (right down to merchandise) and their characters inhabited by talented performers. “We got to the set, and it was magical,” Giglio said. “It’s so wonderful to see our words and our ideas come to life.”
With so many new movies coming out this holiday season, and competing with re-airings of favorites old and new (like “A Very Nutty Christmas”), “you need something to stand out,” Giglio said. “We’re lucky because we have Melissa Joan Hart. People love her and she’s so great in this movie.”
Lifetime seems to agree, using a photo of Hart and promoting “Christmas Reservations” as a top feature of their programming recently in a prominently placed ad in People magazine.
Going through the process of writing and developing the movie’s screenplay benefits her students as well, Giglio noted.
“It’s been great to get back into working in the business, as it helps me share the experience with my students,” she said.
“For our ‘Intermediate Screenwriting’ class, our students are writing a feature film, and I’m able to show them how I break my story into index cards and make them into what becomes an extensive outline of eight to ten pages,” Giglio noted. “I was able to use my script as an example of something we turned into producers, and a network turned into a film.”
Giglio also feels like scripting holiday films and other projects she and her husband are working on has benefited from her teaching. “I’ve realized being a teacher has made me a better writer,” Giglio said. “Talking about these concepts all day long, and giving students critiques, make me realize that I need to follow what I tell them to do.”