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Gary Goldstein Talks Summer in the City and For Love and Honor [Exclusive]

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Hallmark Channel’s Summer Love movie series rolls on this weekend with Summer in the City, starring Julianna Guill (GG2D) and Dark Matter‘s Marc Bendavid in a tale about a small-town girl who finds herself flailing in Manhattan when she tries to fit in instead of stand out with her true personality.

Gary Goldstein wrote the movie, and shared a writing credit on last weekend’s For Love and Honor. I last chatted with him about My Boyfriends’ Dogs and Along Came a Nanny, and in the intervening two years, he’s worked on several other projects for the Hallmark networks, including the first two Flower Shop Mystery films, and last winter’s Angel of Christmas. We hopped on the phone last week to talk about his latest projects, kicking off a franchise, adapting books to screen, and what’s next.

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer/Crown Media United States LLC

For Love and Honor grew out of Hallmark Channel’s desire to mount a vehicle for Jamie Denton, who was interested in doing something with a military theme. Goldstein was brought in to help conceptualize the film. “I came up with the idea of a military academy, thinking it could be a good contained environment, which could establish a particular relationship and put him in more of an iconic role, and it evolved from there,” he says.

“I [wrote] the first two drafts and I had to go work on Summer in the City and another writer [Mark Amato] came in and did a really good job. I wasn’t involved after I handed it off. I did see the script before it was shot and it came out really well. I’ve done 13 movies for Hallmark and the circumstances are always different in terms of content and timing and production. They each take on their own story.”

Photo Credit: Gary Goldstein

Photo Credit: Gary Goldstein

Summer in the City came about when Goldstein was pitched the producer’s idea through Hallmark. “They liked it and asked me to meet with him to develop the story and we worked on that over the course of a [year and a half] until we finally shot it,” he explains. “It evolved, too.”

“It was Sweet Home Alabama in reverse. Some of these movies are about women who leave a small town and come back. This was…a woman who comes from a small town to the city and it’s always been her dream to live in Manhattan, and when she gets the opportunity, she’s thrilled.”

“She jumps in over head and tries to navigate by being true to herself. [She starts] off in a way that isn’t who she really is and then she realizes what worked for her and made her successful and happy [at home] can make her the same in the city. It’s not the location you’re in, but the person you are.”

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

The movie filmed in Vancouver but Goldstein was pleased that the production was able to bank the final two days in New York with Guill and Bendavid. “I had written the script with very specific locations with geography they could match between Vancouver and Manhattan to make it seem as realistic as possible. The director [Vic Sarin] did a great job melding the two worlds,” he says. “The last two days, they were able to shoot around the Chrysler Building and the High Line without having to duplicate. Visually, it looks really good.”

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Goldstein wasn’t on set for the shoot, but was available from California during production as the need arose. “I worked really close with them through the shooting drafts and on set. There are always changes and compression and things and I was able to work long distance in making script changes, [seeing what was] working or not working, alternatives, opinions about things, and lines that needed to be shifted,” he recalls.

“It was a very good working process. The director was great and we were really a team. It was a great experience. I hadn’t worked with this director or producer before. [The director] has done documentaries and got an artist’s eye and that helped with the look of the movie.”

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Alec Watson/Crown Media United States LLC

Goldstein wrote the first two Flower Shop Mystery films, “Mum’s the Word” and “Snipped in the Bud,” and enjoyed the challenge of adapting the Abby of the book to fit Brooke Shields. “In the books, Abby is [in her twenties], so we had to age her up and create a whole new history. That meant creating a whole new foundation for the main character,” he points out. “That was the biggest challenge…making that all work, and laying the groundwork for however many they were going to do. You definitely approach it differently. You have to look at the potential longer picture of it.”

Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/Crown Media United States, LLC

“With the romance, it has to be a slow boil. If it was a single movie, you’d have them get together. Here you have the luxury of letting it build and grow and organically come together. It was a really fun challenge. I enjoyed writing them. It was fun writing the mystery and finding the movie within the story of the books.”

“Hopefully some strong groundwork was laid so the other writers have a model to work from. I think it was helpful writing…and shooting the first one to see what worked best. It really helped to go through one and then write the second one.”

He adds that it’s always a delicate balance to adapt from another medium and preserve the key thing that made it so desirable to adapt. “I’ve adapted books [before] and it’s basically making sure not to throw out the baby with the bath water but to find the core of the story that will make the best movie. Try to stay true to the story and characters and honor the novelist but also make it work in term of the casting and what we’re able to do in the movies.”

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States, LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States, LLC

“I had adapted Angel of Christmas [from Jane Maas’s ‘The Christmas Angel.’] It was a really beautiful, complex story. To tell it exactly as it was in the book would have been too overwhelming. We kept the guts and what we loved the most and reconfigured it to be a more traditional romantic comedy.”

“The authors understand that when they sell the book, it’ll have to serve as the basis of the movie as opposed to the entire movie. I as a writer like to honor the other writers and keep as much as I can of what their intentions were and what [Hallmark] liked about the book that made them pick up the book in the first place.”

Next up, Goldstein has two more adaptations in the works, as well as a play to be staged in Los Angeles. “I’ve optioned a Christmas-oriented book called “Mr. 365” about a guy who celebrates Christmas all year and a reality TV producer who decides to make him the focus of her TV series for the holidays and sparks fly,” he shares. “It’s a really cute story. I’m hoping we can do it [at Hallmark].”

“I’ve optioned another book I’m trying to set up called “Rescuing Riley,” about a man [Zak Anderegg] who rescued a dog who was abandoned in a canyon in Arizona. He has to physically rescue the dog, which is a giant crucible and he kind of rescues himself. The whole experience helps him resolve his own past, It’s a great star vehicle. It’s got so much meaning to it, it’s pro-animal, and anti-bullying. I’m trying to set it up as an indie feature.”

His play is called “April, May, & June,” and it’s set to run next March at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. “[It’s] about three sisters who convene to clean out their late mother’s home and what they discover upends what they thought about their mother,” he says. “They’re a year apart and have all had very different lives and perceptions of their mother.”

For Love and Honor repeats Saturday at 1 pm/12 c and Sunday at 7 pm/6 c on Hallmark Channel. Summer in the City premieres Saturday at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel. Here’s a sneak peek.

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