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TV Movie Goodness Interview: Gary Goldstein Talks Hallmark Movies [Exclusive] 

Photo Credit: Gary Goldstein
Photo Credit: Gary Goldstein

The Hallmark Networks have a farm team of sorts — a stable of actors, writers, and directors who are their go-to players for their movies and series. Screenwriter Gary Goldstein is firmly one of them, writing a handful of films for both networks in recent years. This weekend and next weekend, you can catch his two latest movies. Sunday night, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries christens its rebranding with Along Came a Nanny,  a mystery centered in the suburban world of nannies and mannies. And next Saturday, My Boyfriends’ Dogs, a romantic comedy about a woman who unspools tales (or tails) from her love life, will air on Hallmark Channel. We recently chatted exclusively with Goldstein about his projects.

Goldstein was working as a film publicist when he reached a point where realized it was time to follow his bliss and take a chance on a writing career. “I left my job and started writing spec scripts for TV and a got a couple of assignments on a couple of shows. I pitched  a lot, and [kept writing TV specs],” he explains. “I segued into stage plays and screenplays. I sold some scripts, sold some options, and had a few independent films made. Because I continued to write [film] specs, I had amassed a good supply of scripts. When feature films slowly shifted to tent poles, comic book adaptations, and occasional big star vehicles, there was less of a place for high-concept, character-driven, and romantic comedies. And ultimately Hallmark became a home for them.”

Photo Credit: Alexx Henry/Crown Media United States, Inc.
Photo Credit: Alexx Henry/Crown Media United States, Inc.

The Hallmark relationship began a few years ago with a film called The Wish List. “I had written it [as a feature spec] and it didn’t sell, but…it made its way to Hallmark and they picked it up as a movie. It was a time when they and some other TV networks realized there were some very good romantic comedy spec [feature] screenplays floating around that would work with a little tinkering [for their programming],” he says.

That was the beginning of an uptick in film production at the networks, that continues today, and Goldstein launched into several projects. “The Wish List came out really well. They hired me to rewrite another film and it kept going,” he recalls. “I sold three original screenplays to them or production companies that worked with them, that were based on my spec screenplays–The Wish List, Hitched for the Holidays, and This Magic Moment, which is one of my favorite scripts. We re-adapted them for the Hallmark audience and they were successful. Along the way, I’ve gotten assignments. It’s been a great grounds for seeing movies made and telling good stories.”

Photo Credit: Carin Baer/Crown Media Holdings, Inc.
Photo Credit: Carin Baer/Crown Media Holdings, Inc.

Now he has an ongoing relationship with them that keeps him busy. “They’re doing more and more [films]. They come to me on some things; I bring them some things. I pitch a lot of ideas. There will be cycles where they’re looking for [certain things],” he says. “I also have a relationship with producers who may have a deal with them. They may bring me in on an idea they have or a property they own. It’s a great relationship and it’s been very gratifying.”

Along Came a Nanny was born out of one of Goldstein’s feature spec treatments, Man Maid. “I’d envisioned it as a high-concept, fish-out-of-water comedy and pitched it around. It didn’t get any traction but I held onto it,” he says. “Barbara Fisher, a producer I had worked with before, came to me and asked if I had any good comedy ideas for a film for a slot she had. We batted around a few ideas and she mentioned she liked the Who’s the Boss idea, and we hadn’t seen that in a while. I mentioned Manmaid and she read the treatment and loved it we presented it to Hallmark and they liked it and a few months later they bought it.”

Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/Crown Media United States, Inc.
Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/Crown Media United States, Inc.

Since he had a relationship with Fisher, and the film’s director Michael Scott, who directed Hitched for the Holidays (and is also very busy for Hallmark), Goldstein was involved all the way through production and visited the Vancouver set this summer. He’s very happy with how the film came together and praises Scott for being a collaborative filmmaker. “I love Cameron Mathison. I think he did a fantastic job. After my first draft, the [network rebranding] became a reality so we amped up the mystery and made it more focused, added more twists and turns and red herrings. [It] was fun to extrapolate what was [originally] there and make it more of a comedy mystery,” he says.  “I love the Hercule Poirot/Columbo moment at the end when [the crime is explained]. It’s challenging to write because you have to sum up everything you’ve seen and don’t leave any loose ends. I think it came off really well.”

My Boyfriends’ Dogs was an adaptation of Dandi Daley Mackall‘s YA novel by the same name. “The producers who had rights to the book had a script that had initially been commissioned. After a certain process, they felt it needed to be rewritten and an exec I’d worked with at Hallmark asked me to take a look at it and see what I thought,” he says. “[I wanted] to go back to the book and start over. I loved the book. We aged the character from 16 to 30 for the Hallmark audience, but I wanted to honor as much of the book as I could. The author did a great job, and it’s a really fun, charming book.”

Photo Credit: Brenda Falvey/Crown Media United States, Inc.
Photo Credit: Brenda Falvey/Crown Media United States, Inc.

He says one of the challenges was to keep the plot intact–one woman, four guys, four dogs–and convert it for an 87-minute movie.”You have four, or three and a half, romantic relationships that you have to create, give them a beginning, middle, and end, and be believable and credible, and [have her] end up with the dog at the end of it,” he points out. “One of the main focuses was to find a  way to compactly tell the same story as the book. You could have time pass between each boyfriend that felt natural because she’s telling it in flashback. [I wanted to create] Bailey as somebody that you relate to and love…and make each guy feel unique and different. I loved Erika Christensen and I was thrilled when I found out she was doing it. It was amazing to have her in the lead. I think she does a great job.”

While he didn’t collaborate with Mackall on the adaptation, they were in contact. “I had very nice communications with her. She loved the movie and was very complimentary. You hear so many horrible stories about movies that [botch a book adaptation]. Just because it works as a book doesn’t mean it’s cinematic. If it has a good story and if you can retain as much as possible, that’s the best thing,” he says. “There’s some dialogue from the book that I kept. I wrote the dogs as they were in the book and they found the actual dogs. I [really liked] the ending when everybody realizes who’s meant for who. And I loved the relationship between [Bailey and her mom]. I thought chemistry between Teryl Rothery and Erika Christensen was great.”

Goldstein is already at work on his next script–his ninth for the networks–a holiday film for 2015. Along Came a Nanny premieres Sunday night on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. My Boyfriends Dogs premieres next Saturday, the 18th on Hallmark Channel.

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