Vermont-produced Christmas movie still a holiday favorite
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — Ten years after The Hallmark Christmas movie, “Moonlight Mistletoe,” was released, it remains Edgewood Studios’ most popular production, still airing on the Hallmark Movie Channel.
“It certainly wasn’t my idea,” said David Giancola, president of Edgewood Studios, with a laugh. “Karen Arthur and her husband, who was the cinematographer, they have a house in Weston and had always wanted to make a family movie in Vermont.”
The movie, nicknamed “M&M,” stars Candace Cameron Bure, from “Full House,” and Tom Arnold.
In the movie, Arnold’s character owns an amusement park called Santaville and Bure plays his estranged daughter. By the end of the movie, lessons are learned about the holiday, father and daughter have renewed their bond and Bure’s character has found true love after returning to Vermont from the big city.
“These movies do well, and they have a great following,” Giancola said of its ongoing success. “I know people who don’t know anything else I’ve done, but they know I was involved with ‘Moonlight & Mistletoe,’ and they want to talk about ‘Moonlight & Mistletoe.’”
Giancola said the only other movie from Edgewood with similar “legs” is his first movie, “Time Chasers.”
“But that was a movie that had a cult following. (M&M), people just love it. It has a timeless quality,” he said.
Giancola said he believes the appeal of M&M and other Hallmark Christmas movies is “they give people what they want out of the holidays that the holidays really aren’t.”
“Let’s face it, the holidays are really stressful and frenetic, and frantic and never quite live up to what you want it to be, but on the screen in these Hallmark movies, they live up to everyone’s sentimental vision of Christmas,” he said.
The movie took about three years to develop. Arnold said a lot of work went into making sure the script met the specific requirements set by Hallmark, Giancola said.
“If you’re an independent filmmaker like me, learning to work under Hallmark, which is essentially like working for a studio, is always a challenge because you want to do it your way, and they have their ways of doing it,” he said.
Giancola said he produced the movie until it was sold to Hallmark, when his credit became “line producer.”
“My job was literally everything from hiring all the cast and crew, working with the director to secure locations, keeping it in Vermont, pitching Vermont... The budget was my responsibility, the cast was my responsibility, the crew, keeping the director happy, the cinematographer, the equipment. The producer’s job is hard to define because it’s basically, everything that needs to be done to get the movie done is what you do,” he said.
Many of the movies made by Edgewood are action movies or science fiction, but Giancola said the studio has also done family movies in the past and continues to develop family movies. What family movies, action and science fiction have in common is that they translate well in foreign countries, according to Giancola, who has been making movies in Rutland since he was a teenager.
Like other Edgewood movies, however, M&M was made in Vermont — in Chester, unlike many of Giancola’s directorial efforts, which have been made in and around Rutland.
“Chester was really the right fit. It was what the director had in mind. You can’t quite pull off ‘small town’ in Rutland,” he said.
The Vermont location kept things authentic in some ways except, oddly, in one way: Because the movie was produced in June but took place during the Christmas season, the snow had to be faked. Giancola said one background actor actually had to be treated for heat exposure.
The legacy of M&M for Edgewood includes spending about $600,000 in Chester in early June.
“We’ve proven time and time again, we can bring small productions into the community that have a lasting effect financially,” he said.
Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/