If you are ever asking yourself if you should write a holiday movie, the answer is YES!
A lot of screenwriters ask the question, “What types of screenplays should I be writing right now?” And the answer to that question can often be found by researching box office/viewership trends, what kinds of scripts are highly sought-after, and the genres that can really help launch careers.
Holiday movies are often overlooked, but they have so much to offer aspiring screenwriters who are looking to make their mark and get hired. So, let’s go over some of the reasons why it might be a really good idea for you to write a holiday script.
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Why You Need to Write Your Holiday Movie
You’ve likely noticed in recent years a rise in the number of annual holiday movies that are released. There are a couple of significant reasons for this.
More Platforms Equals More Demand
The rise in platforms has created higher demand for content, which means those streamers are looking to fill their libraries with a variety of titles to keep up with it. And since holiday films are extremely popular, it stands to reason that streamers and networks are always on the hunt for that type of content.
Watching Movies & TV is a Holiday Tradition
The U.S. (domestic) audiences consistently embrace the holiday season and celebrate in front of the television (or smart device) with these films. Viewership is essentially baked into the genre, which is certainly appealing for networks and production studios who aren’t all that interested in taking huge risks. (Just look at Hallmark, which produces dozens of these movies every year — 80 million viewers in 2018.)
Small Budgets, Big Interest
The third reason and this is the most important thing to consider as you’re working on your holiday film, is the budget. The holiday films that you watch are largely inexpensive. So if you have an idea for a holiday film, consider the special effects that you may or may not need, the size of your cast, and your locations, and see where your budget is at so then you can see if you need to bring it down. The goal is to write something inexpensive that streamers or networks will scoop it up and then families will crowd around the television to watch it after their done opening gifts or as they decorate their home.
Types of Holiday Movies You Can Write
But let’s take a look at the different kinds of holiday movies that you might consider writing.
Adult or Dark Comedy Holiday
Scrooged, Eight Crazy Nights, or Bad Santa would fall into this category. You don’t see comedies this dark surrounding the holiday that often, but when you do, they tend to grab a very vocal following. You could also throw adult holiday films in here that the family could enjoy, but maybe not your youngest kids, like The Family Stone.
The Family Holiday
The most traditional holiday film. These are the ones that the entire family can enjoy like The Christmas Chronicles, Jingle Jangle, and Noelle, or animated films, such as Klaus. Animated films could cost more, as could films that you need to build the North Pole, or have a lot of special effects. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make them for under $10 million (or $5 if you really want to draw in buyers). These kinds of stories reach the widest audience and, therefore, provide the biggest potential return on investment for buyers.
The Holiday Romance
The classic holiday romantic comedy is the genre that has truly exploded in the last few years. What was once the sole territory of Hallmark has been inundated with projects from streamers, primarily Netflix, with films like A Christmas Prince, Christmas Inheritance, and A Christmas Catch. But neither platform, Hallmark or Netflix, is slowing down.
These films have strict rules, including tone, the types of characters, the kinds of locations, the number of “twists” or setbacks, and more that writers need to adhere to. You’ll have to study these movies. Live and breathe them, in order to make a great romantic, holiday script. And there are a lot of young producers who know how to churn out these movies quickly and are constantly looking for new material to take to networks and streamers.
Lifetime or Hallmark Holiday Movies
As mentioned before, movies set during the holidays have a baked-in audience, and to take that a step further — Lifetime and Hallmark movies set during the holidays have a baked-in audience that seems to be even more devout.
So, the demand for these types of scripts is rather high, and if you’re a screenwriter looking to break in, this might be a really great entry-level option for you. Screencraft writer Ken Miyamoto’s breakdown of how to pitch, sell, and write for Lifetime is an essential resource if you want to learn how the process works.
What to Do Once You Write Your Holiday Movie
As mentioned before, there are producers who specialize in romantic holiday movies. Do your research and find the producers that made the films that you love most and query them or look into their submission policies. You can also submit to contests. Netflix has worked with writers on their low-budget romantic comedy submitted to screenwriting contests and then connected to the streamer.
Another option is to film it yourself and submit it to festivals or sell it on your own directly to networks or streamers. This gives you the most control and allows you to not have to wait for the sale to bring your story to life.
In all of these genres, it is concept-first, then create the character for it. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t character arcs, it means that you need a high concept that draws in viewers easily.
But ultimately, nothing should ever stop you from writing any story, especially a hopeful one that brings people joy every season.