MADISON – It takes a lot of work to produce a feel-good vacation rom-com for the Hallmark Channel.
45-year-old filmmaker Matthew Brady had a lot of homework to do on his latest project. As executive producer on the upcoming Hallmark film, “An Unexpected Christmas,” Brady watched about 30 hours of Hallmark films to learn about their format.
“An Unexpected Christmas,” part of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas, will air on Friday, November 26th at 8:00 pm on the Hallmark Channel.
Unsurprisingly, Brady looks forward to seeing the finished film on TV. “Oh yay, Friday should be fun !!!” he said in a text.
Film stars Bethany Joy Lenz, who played Haley James Scott on “One Tree Hill,” and is currently involved in the iHeartRadio podcast “Drama Queens,” and Tyler Hynes, who has appeared in other Hallmark films such as “Roadhouse Romance” and “Sweet Carolina.” “
Hynes portrays Jamie, who drives home for Christmas without telling his family that he and his girlfriend Emily (Lenz) have split up, according to Hallmark. Emily is also in town on a business trip, and the two meet again when Jamie offers her a deal: he helps her with her work project while she pretends to be his girlfriend over the holidays.
Brady said that this film differs from many other Hallmark productions in that it is more from the perspective of Jamie (Hynes) since Emily (Lenz) is at home with his family. Most Hallmark films are made from a female perspective.
“This is something we don’t see much of in Hallmark and we look forward to trying something new,” said the Madison native.
“I actually found the project and took it to Hallmark and developed it for three years,” he said. “It took a long time.”
Additionally, Brady was proud to include a lesbian couple in this film.
“We have a little side romance with the main character’s sister and she has a girlfriend,” he said. “Hallmark strives for inclusivity, so we were really excited to come up with a little gay subplot in this case.”
His mother, Eloise Brady, spoke about how she has changed Hallmark over the years.
“It’s so exciting because you can see how Hallmark has grown over the years and they’re so inclusive now and you just feel good,” said the Old Lyme resident.
Brady talked about what he loved most about working on this movie.
“I love the idea of doing a romantic comedy,” he said. “These are the movies I just love – ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘Love Actually’.”
“Love Actually” is a wonderful example of an amazing Christmas romance, “he said. “It worked and that was really my goal – to do something that was wonderful but could also be shown year after year.”
As a Hallmark fan, Eloise Brady is excited about her son’s work on this film.
“I think it’s just fantastic,” she said. “He’s done so many different things in his working life and it’s so much fun.”
She added that she and her husband Michael played on Hallmark films during COVID.
“We must have seen one every night,” she said with a laugh. “Well, maybe not that many, but we’ve seen a lot and we’ve already started seeing them this year.”
While she doesn’t have a favorite Hallmark movie, she said that “An Unexpected Christmas” will be very special when it debuts.
Brady worked with Vancouver, BC-based Front Street Pictures on this film
Working on this project was a departure from what his company MRB Productions, Inc.
Since its inception in 2001, MRB Productions, Inc. has produced the ESPY Awards for ESPN on Marvel’s Hero Project for Disney +. Brady’s work spans genres and digital platforms.
He compared “An Unexpected Christmas” to his 2020 documentary “Escape from Extinction”, which focuses on the work of zoos and aquariums saving animals around the world.
“That was a lot more creative,” he says.
“Doing comedy is very different,” he added. “It’s all about the timing and if you screw the timing up by a beat or half a second you lose the whole joke and we really wanted to get the comedy right.”
Then it came down to the actual filming and post-production, which is moving forward quickly, Brady said.
“It got faster and faster and we got the green light this year and we did it,” said 1995 graduate Daniel Hand.
Matthew Brady, who shot the winter film in British Columbia that summer, remembers how hot it was during the 15 days of shooting.
“The Pacific Northwest had this incredible heat wave,” he said. “It was pretty hot and then we all have to film the actors in their winter jackets and scarves and hats and of course there is a lot of snow in the film. Sometimes it was 90 degrees. “
Then it was back in Los Angeles for post production.
“You do things very quickly at Hallmark,” he said. “It’s really exciting, I’ve never done a movie like this before. You shoot them very quickly; they process them very quickly.
“So we finished filming in September and we’ll be broadcasting on November 26th,” he added. “Most films have three or four months of prep and then a month or so to shoot and then three or four months of post-production and that gets cut off.”
“It’s amazing,” he said. “They have this formula that really works there and it was fun to fit in.”
Brady talked about preparing for film production and watching about 30 Hallmark films with his friend and daughters Javier, 9, and Bryce, 6.
“It was just the perfect program for kids and for us to see together,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect and they were really cute films, but my kids really cared about them and it’s really something you can do with the whole family.”
Brady is very excited about his latest project.
“It’s really cute how it turned out,” he said. “The actors just threw it out of the park and it just feels like a really well put together project.”
“The job I had the most fun with was because I did so much that it felt like a real triumph when we finished,” he added.
“An Unexpected Christmas” will air on Friday, November 26th at 8pm on the Hallmark Channel.
Contact Sarah Page Kyrcz at [email protected]
Nicole Funaro contributed to this story.