Lifetime’s ‘Forever Christmas’ Screenwriter Shares Stories from Behind-the-Scenes

Lifetime

Forever Christmas, a unique story about a man who celebrates Christmas 365 days a year, is premiering on Lifetime on Sunday night, October 25, at 8 p.m. Eastern. Gary Goldstein, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, spoke with Heavy and shared his experiences with the movie and his thoughts on the explosion of Christmas movie popularity in recent years.

Forever Christmas is based on a novel by Ruth Clampett, a USA Today bestselling author. The movie stars Chelsea Hobbs as Sophia and Christopher Russell as Will. The movie originally aired on Passionflix as Mr. 365, which was also the name of the novel it was based on. Then it aired abroad last Christmas under the name Forever Christmas. This year it was picked up by Lifetime for the network’s slate of 2020 Christmas movies.

Goldstein said he couldn’t be more excited about having Forever Christmas air on Lifetime.

“It fits right in with the tenor of the Lifetime Christmas movies,” he told Heavy. “And I’m excited about it! (Although) we got a pretty good audience on streaming, this way we get an even broader audience and get to introduce it to people who may not know about it.”


Goldstein Says Christmas Movies Are Extra Popular Right Now Because People Really Need the Positivity

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

Goldstein has written numerous screenplays, including Hallmark movies like Hitched for the Holidays, Summer in the City, and some movies in The Flower Shop Mysteries series. He’s sold half-hour comedy pilots to NBC and Warner Bros Television, and has written a string of episodic TV credits. He also has numerous LA stage credits too.

Goldstein told Heavy that Christmas movies have exploded in popularity since he wrote his first Christmas movie, Hitched for the Holidays, for Hallmark in 2012.

At the time it did well. The ratings were good for its time. …  But as well as it did, the difference between the ratings for Christmas movies as far back as 2012 to what they are now is really different… The audience is so expanded and it’s no longer a guilty pleasure, it’s just a pleasure. People love watching them and they keep them on all the time. It’s become such a huge thing, which is great… Right now people really need positivity in their lives.


The Actors’ Chemistry Drives Home the Movie’s Authenticity

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

Goldstein said one of his favorite scenes to write in the movie takes place when Will welcomes the reality crew into his home, which is essentially a Christmas wonderland. Goldstein told Heavy:

Will so hates having to do this until Sophia finds a way to make him more comfortable for the camera — and he nails it. I was inspired, of course, by the scene from the book, but also just knowing how awkward it can be to be in front of a camera when you’re not prepared for it. The moment also made Will realize, maybe for the first time, how Sophia had his back, which was an important step for them.

Goldstein said that Hobbs’ and Russell’s chemistry was amazing and really drove home the movie’s authenticity.

“You don’t always know these things when you first cast actors but they turned out to have an amazing chemistry,” Goldstein said. “They’re both really attractive people, but in a natural, accessible way, so it’s easy to see how they’re drawn to each other —emotionally and romantically. Both Chelsea and Chris brought an honest, everyday quality to their characters that I think made them enormously likable and relatable.”

Christopher Russell went on to do several more TV movies with Forever Christmas‘ director, Christie Will Wolf.


Matthew Kevin Anderson Was Nominated for a Leo Award Based on His Performance in the Movie

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

Matthew Kevin Anderson played Chelsea’s boss, Paul, which earned him a big award nomination. He was nominated for a Leo Award in Canada for best supporting performance by a male in a television movie.

“He was really fun in it,” Goldstein said. “He did a great job…  It was very funny. He’s now shown up in a lot of stuff.”

Anderson was a regular on Hallmark’s The Gourmet Detective series, along with appearing twice in Ruby Herring Mysteries and appearing in Hallmark’s Mystery 101.


Clampett Told Heavy that a Reality Show & Her Love for Christmas Inspired the Book

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

Clampett, the author of Mr. 365 upon which Forever Christmas is based, is a USA Today bestselling author. Her books infuse humor, drama, and passion into the romantic lives of strong heroines and heroes and their counterparts. Clampett told Heavy that it was her love for Christmas and a reality show her daughter watched that inspired the book.

“I’m a self-professed Christmas nut and decorate my house to the nines every year,” she said. “Then one holiday season my daughter, who loves reality TV, started watching a show about Christmas fanatics that made my decorating look low-key. From there I started imagining a behind-the-scenes love story during a reality show.”

Clampett told Heavy that she first got started writing after a friend introduced her to a website where authors were posting one chapter of their book at a time.

“I found the medium very inspiring and became an active author and was posting for a few years when the indie publishing market exploded,” she said. “I had friends who encouraged me to take the leap with them and I’ve never looked back.”

Goldstein said a friend recommended the book to him as a possible adaptation, but it took years of perseverance to get to where the movie is today. He showed it to people for nearly four years before meeting with an executive at Reel One, who loved it.

“They loved the story and we just went from there. It was very fortuitous,” he said.


Goldstein Strives To Infuse His Christmas Movies with a Deeper Lesson

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

Goldstein told Heavy that one of the toughest parts of writing a Christmas movie is making it fresh and unique.

“There’ve been hundreds of hundreds and hundreds of these (Christmas movies),” he said. “They’re always drinking hot chocolate and going ice skating and chopping down a Christmas tree. That’s just what you do over Christmas. And why not? So it’s about, how do you make those things a little bit different? I don’t think anybody’s looking to reinvent the wheel, but they certainly want things to seem fresh. You have to keep it fresh and fun.”

He added that saying something deeper about the holiday is important to him.

For me, (it’s important) to be able to say something about the holiday. What do the holidays mean to people and to family? What is the lesson we learn every year from the holidays? We change at the beginning of the year and then we get back into our bad habits as the year goes on. Then it goes back to the holidays, where you’re supposed to learn things. What do we learn? The last two weeks of the year, people tend to be working less or they’re home more. And it’s such a good time to really rethink your life and say, ‘OK this is the end of my year and I have time to think about what I want my next year to be like…’

So I think anytime you can put some good life lessons into a holiday movie, it’s important, and maybe lessons that we haven’t always heard.


He Hopes To Make More Movies with Clampett in the Future

LifetimeA scene from Forever Christmas.

“I was so glad that Clampett was as happy with (the movie) as she was,” he said. “She was great to work with and really understood how we needed to adapt her story to make it more cinematic and hit more the beats that these Christmas movies need to. It was a great collaboration.”

He said she’s written several other books that could make great TV movies too.

“We’ve actually been trying to collaborate on a few of her other books to try to get those set up,” he said. “She has a couple of other books that could be really great TV movies or romantic comedies. So hopefully we’ll be able to get one of those going.”

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