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Brittany Bristow Talks A Tail of Love 

Brittany Bristow Talks A Tail of Love

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

Saturday night’s Hallmark Channel premiere is a family affair as Brittany Bristow and Chris McNally headline A Tail of Love, written by Brittany’s mom, Agnes Bristow and directed by her dad, Leif Bristow

In the film, Brittany plays Bella, who runs her namesake dog rescue with her beloved grandma, Lily (Jayne Eastwood). When a lost deed threatens to force them off their property, they activate to save their business, with a little help from next door neighbor, JR (McNally), a soldier home on leave. That joint mission turns into something more personal as Brittany and JR spend more time with each other, and with Indie, the newly arrived retired military dog who bonds with them. This week I chatted with Bristow about the film, and working in the literal family business.

A Tail of Love

Given her parents’ long tenure in the film and TV industry, it might have been a no-brainer to assume Brittany would follow in their footsteps, and while she did log her first on camera job as a little girl, she pursued formal training to learn the craft of filmmaking.

“A number of years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to school to study film and I went to the University of Toronto and studied through their film specialist program, which is essentially a specialized bachelor’s program. They direct the program in a way that it’s more like a master’s in that most of your studies are within the film realm, so you actually graduate with a specialty in something.”

“That was, for me, an interesting foray into understanding film from a different perspective. I was at the school that’s considered the critics school, so you learn about film history and film theory and all of the different aspects of film. And when I left that program, I started working as a junior producer for a film production company that a friend of mine was in charge of and had started a number of years prior.”

“I learned the ropes through that and then started working with my parents a little bit more. And I started doing script coverage and helping with the budgets for things. All the while, of course, my true passion was acting, and I was hopeful that that would be my career one day.”

“My mom is a writer, both in film, and she’s also written a book and a number of educational series for high school students. My dad was once upon a time an actor and an opera singer. He was doing Broadway musicals and even had a pilot of a TV series once upon a time. It was sort of just a natural thing.”

A Tail of Love

“We all loved the industry and we are all so involved and we’re so close, my sister included. I think the first time we thought of doing something where I would step in as a producer and be a big part of it was when we decided to do a wildlife series for National Geographic. And that was the first big foray into all of us having a really big role in it.”

“We just loved working together so much that we thought, ‘Okay, we just need to try to figure out the ways in which we can continue doing this.’ I’ve done some small parts in films for my parents over the years, but this is the first time that I’m the lead in a movie that they’ve been so integral in creating. And it’s a special one. I feel like it was the perfect film for us. We’re constantly trying to find ways to be together because we just love spending time together. And it’s pretty special that we all really love what we do.”

In the film, Bella is at a crossroads only in terms of saving her rescue, but she’s firmly rooted in her sense of purpose and owning it. Bristow says Bella’s strength originates with her mom. “My mom is, in my opinion, a great writer, and she’s always been interested in writing really strong female characters. And as a mom, she always inspired myself and my sister to be strong, to know what we want, and when we don’t know, be willing to explore what that looks like,” she shares.

A Tail of Love

“She’s an incredible mom. A lot of how she’s navigated her own life shines through in how she writes female characters. In the back of her head, I think she was hoping that I would play Bella. So she definitely wanted the script to be a reflection of qualities in me that she likes and little things where she could give me an opportunity to play somebody so strong.”

“For her, the story just kind of just kind of evolved on its own and had a life of its own. [Once it was greenlit], it was a really collaborative experience. We sat down, myself, my dad, my mom, and Chris, and we did a read through of the script, just the four of us.”

“And we talked through scenes. If we felt like something was sticky, or if we felt like maybe there was a better way to navigate an issue or something, we had an opportunity to sit down and make notes together [and say], ‘Let’s figure this out, let’s make this the strongest project possible.'”

“She doesn’t have any ego attached to what she’s written, either, which is wonderful, because she’s open to hearing what could be better or could make the characters stronger or more lovable. She was open to any notes that Chris and I had, to slight changes of words or choices of reaction or whatnot. Bella’s just such a great character. She really is sure of who she is. It was fun to play a leading lady who’s not figuring anything out [about] herself.”

“She knows what she wants. She has this incredible relationship with her grandmother. Those things matter to her, and she’s not really willing to subside that for anything. It’s a pretty great role to play. I’m not sure how much of it was brought on by me but my mom definitely likes writing strong women. So I think that’s really where that strength came from. And my mom is a very strong woman. She’s very sure of who she is and she doesn’t buckle for anybody.”

A Tail of Love

Bristow loved the special moments she shared with both her human and canine co-stars. “Working with both Chris and Jayne was just such an absolute treat. I’ve admired Jayne my entire life. I think she is so incredible and to have an opportunity to play her granddaughter and showcase a relationship that is so special was something that I will hold dear to my heart forever,” she shares.

“There was a really beautiful scene between Jayne and I, where we’re talking about what it is to let go, but know that somebody will always be with you. It’s a beautiful moment because it’s an honest moment that I think at some point in life we all go through, whether we lose a partner or a loved one on any level. It’s being willing to let them go but knowing that you are the one who gets to carry them moving forward.”

“There were some beautiful scenes as well between Chris and I. I love the ending so much. I also love the fun scene when we’re having lunch and starting to get to know each other [and] doing a little bit of a redo. There is some genuine vulnerability that opens up between the two characters that’s a beautiful starting place for the two of them. They’re both coming forward and saying, ‘Okay, let’s clear the slate and get to know each other as people.’ It’s really nice and I think the relationships are relatable, which I love.”

A Tail of Love

“The dogs were all so cute and so lovable and so lovely. I knew all 17 names of the dogs by the last day of shooting. I wanted to take all of them home but I don’t think it would’ve gone over very well with the owners. I did send a number of pictures to my fiance asking, ‘What about this one? Can I bring this one home?’ and he’d say, ‘Doesn’t it have an owner?” and I’d respond, “Yeah, but…'”

“There’s a moment between Moxie [who plays Indie] where my character is a bit emotional and she came over to comfort me and it was caught on camera and it’s pretty beautiful. It was a very honest moment.”

To celebrate the film’s premiere, Bristow and co-star Humberly Gonzalez are amplifying Toronto animal rescue Peanut Mutter on their social feeds. “It’s a small rescue, in my mind, it’s almost like the real Bella’s Rescue. I only found out about it after the film, but we wanted to do some fundraising in preparing for the film, just spreading the word and encouraging people to donate to shelters to make themselves aware of the fact that there are so many shelters in all of these cities,” she explains.

“It’s a completely independent rescue. It’s run by women. They shelter all the dogs in their own homes. It’s all volunteer-based. Humberly, who plays Maddie in the movie, knows them quite well [so] we put a link in our [Instagram] bios to see what we can do to help just raise awareness and some finances for a small rescue that needs it maybe more than some of the bigger ones.”

“Of course, all rescues need finances, all rescues need support. But I think it’s really special when you have the opportunity to help somewhere really small that’s trying to do something really good to make it a little easier to save some puppies and kittens.”

A Tail of Love

It’s a busy time for Bristow. You can also catch her right now in The Story of Love and Love in Whitbrooke, both streaming on UP Faith & Family. And she has a couple more projects releasing this year and four projects in the works that will begin rolling out next year.

A Tail of Love premieres Saturday at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel in the US and W Network in Canada. Bristow will be live Tweeting the East Coast airing and posting throughout the day on Instagram. Here are a couple of sneak peeks of the film.

Photos and video courtesy of Crown Media.

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