Brian Bird, co-creator of Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart,” recently looked back on how the series almost didn’t happen. He revealed that the movie that pre-dated the series was once a “broken dream that we had no clue how to fix.”
He Said Looking Back at a 2009 Trailer for the Movie Gave Him a Good Cry
In a Facebook post, Bird shared a memory he originally posted in September 2009. He said that at one point, they had no idea if the dream of “When Calls the Heart” was going to ever come to fruition. But now, years later and working on the ninth season, he can see how everything worked out.
#Hearties this memory from Sept. 3, 2009, came up in my feed a few days ago… and it gave me a good cry… because of all the fears and feelings it brought back. When we went through this crucible back in 2008-2009… there were no such thing as the Hearties… not even a glimmer in our eyes… or nine seasons of a TV show. It was a broken dream that we had no clue how to fix. But 12 years later… God has used the Hearties to restore that dream in a bigger way than we could ever have imagined. I hope this little video is a blessing to you today!
In his original post in 2009, he had shared a sneak peek of the movie that ended up being shared years before its debut on The Hallmark Channel.
He wrote at the time: “As some of you may have heard, Michael Landon, Jr., and I were in the middle of shooting a film last year when the meltdown happened. We would appreciate all your prayers as we work to finish the last 11 days of production, Lord-willing, this fall. It is the first of of what we hope will be a brand new franchise of films from best-selling author Janette Oke, who you may remember was the inspiration for the “Love Come Softly” series of films. Here now… a 3-minute sneak peak of ‘When Calls the Heart,’ starring Maggie Grace, Stephen Amell and Peter Coyote.”
Although he shared the sneak peek in 2009, it wasn’t until October 5, 2013, that the movie finally debuted. It preceded a January 2014 debut of the new series.
Their Financing for the Movie Fell Apart During Filming in 2008
Bird shared in an article he wrote in 2014 that they had a $4.8 million budget for the movie, which was filming in Calgary, Alberta, in 2008. But with the Lehman Brothers’ and others’ financial meltdowns, they lost their funding in the middle of production and were left with a half-finished movie. They couldn’t find a solution for three years and were still looking for one when he posted the original sneak peek on Facebook in 2009.
Bird shared that after the movie shutdown in September 2008, he wasn’t even sure if his filmmaking career would survive at all. He said his own pastor asked him why he thought the project would be easy and that he should persevere.
Ultimately, The Hallmark Channel expressed interest in having the movie serve as a backdoor pilot for a six-episode first season. The rest of the movie was filmed in Romania.
For the first part of the movie that they filmed, Maggie Grace played Elizabeth and Stephen Arnell played Wynn. However, they couldn’t return to finish the movie. Their stories served as a backdrop — tales in a journal that inspired Aunt Elizabeth’s niece, also named Elizabeth and played by Poppy Drayton. Erin Krakow would later take over Drayton’s role as Elizabeth for the series, and Daniel Sharman’s Mountie character would be replaced by Daniel Lissing’s Mountie.