I have had the unique privilege of reading a great many Hallmark scripts over my vast and storied career, and it turns out they’re really easy to make because they all basically follow the same formula. Below, I’m going to outline exactly how you can make a quick few thousand bucks by writing your own Hallmark Christmas movie.
Step 1) The Setting
The crucial first step is deciding where your Hallmark movie is taking place. Now we already know filming will be taking place in Ottawa, Ontario, so you’ve basically got two options here: New York City, or a quaint small town that your protagonist just moved to because she was tired of living in New York City. And as an extra note, make sure your establishing shot is the sun rising on your location, wherever it is.
Step 2) Where Does Your Protagonist Work?
It’s important to establish your leading character as a strong, independent, working woman. If your story takes place in New York, have her work in some kind of firm, or in any tall office building. If you’re going for that small-town feel, have her run her own small business. I would suggest a flower shop or a bakery.
Step 3) Establish a Tragic Backstory
It’s Christmas, and Christmas is the happiest time of the year. But what’s this? Your protagonist is sad? Yup, no matter what, she’s gotta be sad. But why is that? Did her boyfriend leave her last Christmas? Or maybe her husband died years ago? Whatever the case, it’s important that we know your protagonist will never truly be happy without a man. Also, for bonus points, her parents are dead.
Step 4) Designing Your Love Interest
Now we take a look at your brutally handsome love interest (ONLY HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES ALLOWED)! In Hallmark movies, there are only two kinds of central love interests: bitter rivals, and happy accidents. A bitter rival either works alongside your protagonist in their swanky office job or they’re a competitor in the bakery business. Whatever you decide, the bitter rival and the protagonist have to hate each other, only to slowly come to the realization that their bitter hatred was actually just raw sexual tension. A happy accident, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory. Your protagonist is going to bump into him (and I mean literally) before they fall head over heels (also very literally) and stare dreamily into each other’s eyes as their hands touch. In both instances feel free to make the love interest secretly a prince as well.
Step 5) Best Friend
Your protagonist needs a best friend, and she always must be described as “a firecracker of a woman”. This best friend could be a lot of things; a coworker, a sibling, or a friend from childhood. Those little details don’t really matter because they’re only important for two things: helping them realize they truly love the love interest by the end of the film, and more importantly, setting them up with…
Step 6) The Secondary Love Interest
Who’s this tall, dark, and handsome stranger? He’s more handsome than our other love interest, and he has more money. Making him a CEO or something of the like is a safe bet. The best friend is going to force him on the protagonist because “she has to get back out there”. But this guy’s a real jerk. He absolutely cannot garner more sympathy than our other love interest.
You can switch things around too. Maybe your secondary love interest is going after the primary love interest. You could even create secondary love interests for both characters. What’s most important is that this leads to…
Step 7) The Crisis
You’re nearing the end of your second act now. Your protagonist has been bumping into your love interest again and again and getting all those gooey feelings, but their head isn’t where their heart is, and the walls are still up. This leaves love interest #2 enough wiggle room to ask your protagonist out on a date. The date can go really well, or it could be a complete disaster. The only important thing about this date is that love interest #1 has to see it. This is the crisis. “Is love even real anymore? How could this person — that any other rational human being would qualify as a stranger — go on a date without telling me?” Your love interest is crushed, and they’re not going to pick up their phone when your protagonist inevitably calls.
Step 8) The Big Event
The whole movie has to tie into a Christmas-themed event. An office party, a festival, a gala hosted by a small non-profit, whatever. 9/10 your film title is going to tie into this event. It’s going to be important to either the protagonist or the love interest, and the other will be roped into helping out in some way early on in your story. This is what pulls everyone back together so that love can conquer all.
Step 9) The Grand Gesture/ The Choice
The crisis was a big misunderstanding, so one of your characters has to create a grand gesture to make the other character realize that they weren’t actually mad, they were just horny.
For some extra dramatic flair, you might want to introduce the choice. Make your protagonist choose between their career and the love interest. Usually, though, it’s easier to tie everything together with your protagonist and love interest doing their business together. In most cases both the grand gesture and the choice tie into the big event.
Step 10) The Kiss
All is forgiven, and now they gotta kiss, bro.