Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on a movie set? What about filming a TV show? Put those two experiences together and you have a TV movie. Kind of.
It turns out that making TV movies like Hallmark is quite a unique experience. The films don’t have very high budgets and they generally shoot in three weeks, plus they are rich in dialogue. The fast pace tests the actors’ memory skills and sometimes they have to be nimble and improvise if something goes wrong, as if they realize there’s a plot hole in the script. or the weather isn’t cooperating, so the movie lasts a few minutes.
We caught up with seven Vancouver-based actors who are seasoned pros in Hallmark filmmaking for a new series called “Meet the Hallmarkies.” We asked them what it was like to shoot a Hallmark and here’s what they had to say about the differences between shooting a Hallmark movie and a feature film or TV series.
Adil Zaidi (The perfect recipe/Welcome to Mama’s, A Christmas with you, My best friend’s bouquet)
“There are pros and cons in how [Hallmark] their formula works. Their budgets aren’t huge, but they do a lot of work.
There’s a possibility that the scripts don’t end up being entirely super fleshed out when you’re on set and so that leads to a funny situation where sometimes you get to improvise a bit, you can play around a bit. They might give you some insight to let you do whatever you want, you can delve into the story a bit more. Whereas in network TV that I’ve done in the past, everything is so well thought out through a writer’s room that once on set, the plot and the story are set in stone. You have to work, you have to work around what the writers room gives you.
I’ve definitely been on Hallmark before this…if you think something isn’t working, chances are you can get a hold of doing it your way. Which I find amusing. There’s definitely a lot more fun to be had. Whereas a lot of other things on the network that I’ve done are business.”
Cardi Wang (christmas forever, My best friend’s bouquet, Christmas always and forever)
“It’s interesting because when I was in this area booking a bunch of Hallmarks in a row, I found the formula for what Hallmark wants, and what’s been described as before is that they want the characters to be aspirational. There has to be hope and there has to be a feeling that something is going to work out for the best for everyone. So that’s kind of the approach I’m taking. I’ve adopted for every audition, but the problem with doing this for every audition outside of Hallmark is that the same formula might not work for a CW show, that aspiration might not work for a CW show, or it might not work for this movie is about something else so it took me a little while to figure out the tones and tempos of how you should play different roles but that being said even though I’m on another movie that is outside of Hallmark, it’s still part of the same team, so it’s a very small community that way.
And then when you’re not doing Hallmark and doing other projects, it makes you appreciate what’s easy and fun with a Hallmark and vice versa.”
Donna Benedicto (Matching Hearts, jingle bell bride, Sweet Carolina)
“Hallmark movies and TV movies, it’s a little less serious, the ones I’ve been on, because the material is usually lighthearted and romantic and heartwarming. So on set, it’s really fun. And most of the time, we’ve worked with the same crew members that we’ve worked with before. I’ve worked with the crew more often than with other actors. So there’s a sense of family. I feel really, really comfortable on the set of the Hallmark movies. , I’m most likely to see a handful of familiar faces at first with me as a crew. And then the US networks, we usually meet a few members crew that we’ve worked with before, but much more serious, especially on something like super girl or shows that have heavier hardware, like the good doctor.
And then usually with the Hallmark schedule as well, because sometimes they shoot these movies in a short amount of time. Then you might have to dodge a few things, like making a scene shorter or making a scene longer.
Once I was shooting a movie that was mostly outdoors and was supposed to be a summer movie, but it was snowing in February. So we were minutes away from the movie, because they couldn’t use any of the outdoor shots because it was snowing. So the director, who was also the writer at the time, wrote a scene at the last minute on set, and they had to shoot this four-page movie on set just to make up more minutes of the movie. So that’s a lot of that.”
Fiona Vroom (Nantucket Christmas, Deliver before Christmas, The Wedding Veil Trilogy)
“TV movies, because it’s kind of this half-movie, half-TV world, they have to shoot really fast. So it’s very similar to the model of TV shooting. You have a 112-page movie, and you have to shoot it in 15 days, usually. So it works really fast. A lot of actors, I think when they do their first or their first couple, they’re like, ‘Wow, that was a whirlwind.’
The world of feature films is very different from television, you usually have more time. You’ll shoot one scene a day, two scenes a day, and you’ll shoot it over longer periods of time because it’s usually a bigger budget, right? Time is always money. It’s a totally different way of working on a film when you have so much time to digest the material. It’s a very different way of working. On TV, you have to be fast, you have to digest fast, you have to memorize fast, and you have to be able to deliver generally in a take two takes. »
Matt Hamilton (Christmas Campfire, North home, Fashionable)
“That’s an interesting question. It also depends on the type of Hallmark movie. I just finished a shot on Vancouver Island. And it was like a camp. So it was kind of like a set. There had six main cast. it’s fun because there’s not one super dominant story arc, there’s three or four of those kind of matches. So it’s interesting and it’s fun to play with other people, but what that means is it’s very crowded, that means there’s a lot of cover There’s a lot of long days, especially considering that when you have those 15 days, you have to do it all in three weeks.
Whereas when I was doing Turner and Hooch, there were long days but they were different long days. I worked with dogs and only did three to five pages a day. Whereas for Hallmark movies, you sometimes do eight to 11 pages a day.
I remember I did this one with this actor, and he hadn’t done any of those movies, he had been a model, and then he had done a military show on NBC. And so he came into this Christmas movie, I worked the first few days with him and a lot of our scenes were four or five pages and it was all dialogue and he was floored. I remember he said to me ‘I used to like to work a week and one day, I was like, ‘Okay, the top helicopter is full, let’s go’ and that’ is my only line for the day and then I have two the next day.’ But the first day with me, we had a back-to-back dialogue. It’s tricky and if you’re new to it, it can be an eye-opening experience.”