Hallmark Delivers a 'Christmas Card'
Hallmark Channel would like to inspire viewers to do something about that.
On Saturday, Dec. 2, Hallmark premieres "The Christmas Card," a tale, inspired by real-life situations, that looks at the unlikely romance between a soldier serving in Afghanistan and a woman from a small
John Newton ("The Untouchables") stars as Army Sgt. Cody Cullen, who can't stop rereading the handmade card from Faith Spelman (
When a sad errand for a fallen comrade takes him back to the states at Christmastime, Cody visits Nevada City and meets Faith. After performing a heroic act, he winds up practically adopted into the Spelman family and even takes a temporary job at the family lumber mill. Although Faith's parents, Luke and Rosie (
"The Christmas Card" is an old-fashioned heart-tugger, and that's fine with Newton, who says, "I've probably only cried two times reading a script. ... But when I got to the end, I was so caught up in the story -- it sounds cliche, but I really was -- I cried a little bit.
"We all hunger for that connection with one person, then when all is lost, and it's not going to happen, and it happens ... you forget that it's Hallmark, because it's going to happen with Hallmark. I forgot. I got so lost in the story that I forgot how it was going to end."
The positive nature of the story appears to have infused the production of the film, which actually took place in Nevada City, a preserved Gold Rush town that is also the hometown of the parents of producer Lincoln Lageson.
"Nevada City does not have a film commission," Lageson says. "So I called the chamber of commerce. I got a hold of a lady who's the head of the chamber of commerce. I said, 'Do you guys have postcards of Nevada City?'
"The next day, I was inundated with a box of postcards, pictures and brochures of their little town. It's about a 45-minute drive northwest of
"Normally they get about four or five days of snow a year. It'll snow a couple of inches, then the next day it's gone. We happened to get there ... ."
"We really got a miracle," Newton says. "It snowed for a day. There was a day we couldn't shoot because of the snow." "It was, like, a foot," Lageson says. "It was a hundred-year snow."
With its carefully maintained Victorian homes and buildings, the town provided a perfect look for the film. And although production didn't begin until after the first of the year, the town kept up all of its traditional Christmas decorations.
The next challenge was finding the Spelman home. According to Lageson, there are plenty of beautiful log homes in the area, but many are owned by urban expatriates whose interior decorating sense was a little too minimalist to offer a homey feel.
"With the character that Ed Asner played," Lageson says, "being this gentleman who had this family-owned lumber mill, they would have things in their home. They would have stuff."
Finally, the right house was found, and that left the lumber mill. With many mills now owned by conglomerates ("It's all steel-corrugated buildings," Lageson says), the producers began to worry that they wouldn't find the right location and might have to change Luke's profession. Then the lady from the chamber suggested Kubich Lumber Company in nearby Grass Valley.
"We saw the mill," Lageson says, "and we knew it was the place. It's a family-run mill. They've been there for about 70 years."
Before long, Newton, who lives on a wooded patch of land in Virginia, was feeling right at home.
"We went down and spent some time," Lageson says. "I look over, and John's running the forklift, picking up some logs."
"I've operated heavy machinery," Newton says. "They were the coolest people, so unpretentious, so open."
As comfortable as he was in the role (Newton comes from a family with military ties) and in Nevada City, Newton isn't quite sure how he'll feel at a screening with the big brass.
"I've been around quite a few military guys in my life," he says, "but I don't know what I'm going to feel. It's an honor to have the opportunity. What a great country we live in, where six months ago I never would have even dreamed that this was going to be an opportunity to go to the Pentagon and possibly the