EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director and Writer Christie W. Wolf Breaks Down Hallmark’s The Secret Gift of Christmas!

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Meghan Ory and Russell Christopher will star in “The Secret Gift of Christms a new, original movie premiering Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m. on Hallmark Channel. We at Survived The Shows had the incredibile chance to chat via email with director and writer Christie W. Wolf and discuss the movie and her on-set experience. Check out the full interview below!

What drew you to the storyline of “The Secret Gift of Christmas,” especially in portraying the bond between Bonnie and Patrick?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: I’ve done variations of this particular story before, because like many of my protagonists, I was orphaned as a child and it’s readable for me. Within the Secret Gift of Christmas story, Bonnie Parker (played by Meghan Ory)  is struggling with the loss of her Mom while equally Patrick (played by Christopher Russell) is coping being a busy single dad, as he lost his wife years earlier to cancer. But more, his daughter Phoebe (who I very much relate to) equally is struggling missing her Mom around Christmas. So as you can see, working with this premise allowed much for movement and story about LOVE  and LOSS – and specifically, how it’s one “Presence” at Christmas that matters so much more than physical “Presents”. 

Meghan Ory and Christopher Russell bring a unique dynamic to their roles. How did you work with them to capture the essence of their characters’ relationship?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: Chris is a wonderful and loving father in real life, and thus he portrays one within the characters  he  brings to life quite effortlessly. He and I spoke about feeling the struggles of being a single parent, and ultimately how difficult it can be (more so when under pressure at work). And then Meghan of course is a natural fashionista – so that element of her character was immensely collaborative. But more, we spent a lot of time developing and arching her character delving into the role social media plays these days within mental health. The severe highs – and crushing “lows” that come from finding one’s self worth derived from “likes” on posts. Megan so beautifully made a lively and colorful character complicated and self explorative. And the end result was that we  developed two opposite characters, who – being present – learn that there is more to life than what each of them thought when first meeting. 

The film emphasizes the importance of understanding others’ perspectives. How did you approach showcasing this theme throughout the movie?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: This is an interesting question, and one that I delved into extensively. Our “quasi” antagonist is Fiona Appleby (played by Canadian musician Jenn Grant). I wanted to paint a more accurate type of “other woman” than I have in the past, and did so by allowing Bonnie to see that she (Fiona) is actually quite a lovely and generous person. Instead of Bonnie’s perception be negative – I made it more realistic. But more on this topic – Phoebe (played by Ellie Cluett) perception about Bonnie is skewed by what she sees on social media – the idea that it is reality.

When Bonnie realizes that someone as young as Phoebe is being so dramatically affected by social media – it moves her in a significant way. Further, we see how her perception of her fathers life is equally skewed- as she see’s videos on social media. So ultimately, I suppose I really leaned into how our fake lives alter everyone perceptions – and how we really (as responsible  humans) need to be more considerate and aware of that. 

Could you share any behind-the-scenes anecdotes or challenges you faced while filming some of the key shopping scenes, considering the contrasting shopping styles of Bonnie and Patrick?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: I would say that my cinematographer Becky Parsons was integral in helping me balance the bright colorfulness  of Bonnie juxtaposed to darker colors of Patrick. We equally collaborated with our costume designer Beth Briffet on this- and ultimately I think the three of us found some exciting photography and fashion that complimented the story. 

The theme of holiday spirit and generosity is prominent. How did you infuse these elements into the storytelling without being overly sentimental?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: I leaned into spirituality and and the real spirit of Christmas. I tried to infuse these elements authentically but also playfully. Santa, for instance, gives us the real message of the movie… And for me, he  represents what  all ANGELS (loved ones gone by) would want us to know and feel from them during the holiday season. 

The film has a strong focus on holiday traditions. Were there any specific traditions or aspects you aimed to highlight or create within the narrative?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: I wanted to highlight the Christmas tree tradition – how some love real ones, and some fake ones. Putting up Christmas ornaments that we’ve collected for years upon years… And more (Rudy’s seafood shack) how the little things you do with your wee children really live on within their minds all their lives. In this movie, we see that. 

Bonnie’s profession as a personal shopper plays a pivotal role. How did you approach depicting this profession authentically while integrating it into the heart of the story?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: We interviewed and talked to several personal shoppers, and based it off that. 

Music often enhances the holiday movie experience. Can you discuss the role of music in “The Secret Gift of Christmas” and how it complements the narrative?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: The composer of the movie is Blaine Morris. He composed the movie absolutely beautifully & brought to more to life than I could ever have hoped for. And more, we are so luckily to feature music from Jenn Grant. I literally wrote the movie around her fantastic holiday song “Downtown on Christmas Eve”. All in all, music played a significant part of the Secret Gift of Christmas 

What message or feeling do you hope audiences take away after watching “The Secret Gift of Christmas”?

CHRISTIE W. WOLF: This — “Just remember, it’s not presents, but your presence  that matters most for Christmas”

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Desirèe

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