One Hunky Christmas: My Pitch for a Hallmark Christmas Movie
Hollywood, please accept my pitch for a new and original romantic comedy entitled “One Hunky Christmas” that may be appropriate for the Hallmark channel. “One Hunky Christmas” takes place during Christmastime and involves one hot guy stopping at nothing to woo a woman. I am willing to write a full screenplay for this. I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me. Thanks.
Our Lovers: Brianna and Austin
Brianna: Woman, in her late twenties, early thirties, moves into a small town in New England. She wanted to become a dance major in college but chose to become a business administration major because it had many more career prospects. Note: This story is also about chasing one’s dreams. She walked away from a fabulous career opportunity because it “just didn’t feel right.” She moves back in with her parents with the goal of becoming a wedding planner.
Movie stars who could take this role: Emma Stone, Chloe Grace Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld, Brie Larson. (I’m not picky.)
Austin: Beefy lumberjack of a man, six feet, five inches tall, in his late twenties, early thirties. Wears a red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up and owns a Christmas tree farm. He is an entrepreneur. He is a bit gruff and rough around the edges, but he is a gentle giant. He is also impatient, which will help him pursue his quarry and move quickly from the inciting incident to the climax. This guy is not going to sit about and wait for his love to show up. Businesswise, he is concerned with expanding his Christmas Tree Empire so that, in what could be called an act of charity, folks up north wouldn’t have to drive so far to get a Christmas tree.
Movie stars who could take this role: Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron, Alexander Skarsgard, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Cavill. (Again, I’m not picky.)
Act One: I’m Not Looking to Get Into a Relationship At This Point in My Life, She Says
I’ll throw in some other characters for the sake of establishing a setting. Brianna’s parents are thoroughly rural people because they have to be. This story takes place in a small New England town during Christmastime. Um, her parents both work as farmers and own some horses. Her mom takes charge in giving some kids horseback-riding lessons. This is set up at the beginning with a montage of Brianna moving back into her parents’ house. (This will pay off in the end. Brianna is going to teach Austin how to ride a horse only after he unsuccessfully teaches her with lots of laughter and falling and hugs to keep her from falling how to ice skate.) Austin’s dad is nonexistent. He disappeared years ago, his mom claimed, after but perhaps not because of a fit of rage when Austin was six. All Austin has left of his dad is a crumpled-up photo of him staring at the camera without any expression and the few memories he has of them ice-skating together. The mystery of dad’s disappearance is never really solved or delved into, but it does allow Austin to have a dark past. This kind of characterization kills two birds with one stone. One, this kind of character who had something terrible happen to him when he was an innocent child makes you sympathize with him. Two, it allows you to imagine Austin as a brooding character, sort of like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights but less abusive and sadistic. You know, someone who is trying his best to shake off his emotional baggage. His mother is sweet and kind, but we don’t know what she does besides think about her lost husband.
Uh, throw in some colorful characters. Black guy who serves as the counterpoint for Austin’s ambition. (“We should focus on succeeding locally before we open a new location.”) Black guy is just there to kill off any dumb business ideas Austin has. Throw in a few of Austin’s friends who comment off-hand and apropos of nothing that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. (“When are you ever going to get a girl?” “Ah, cabron,” Austin’s Mexican friend says, “He is waiting for the right one.”)
Inciting incident: Beefy-looking Austin is wearing a red vest and helping his younger brother in middle school measure the circumference of trees in a forest for a science project. Clear indication to the audience that this man has the potential to be a family man. After measuring trees in the park for quite some time, Austin takes his brother Cody to a cafe for a treat where Austin orders hot cocoa for them. What happens next? Oh, my God, it’s Brianna. She’s ordering a macchiato and almost bumps into Austin on his way to their seats. Brianna pleads for forgiveness for being woefully clumsy and the unflappable Austin initiates contact by touching her forearm and saying with a smile, “Don’t worry about it.”
Rest of the scene: Cody’s talking about how much sap you could harvest from a maple tree, and Austin isn’t really paying attention because he’s staring at Brianna as she walks out of the cafe with her drink. He knows he blew his chance and now must go after her. In such a small, quaint town, prospects are few, but the competition is slim. Geography is on this man’s side.
Act Two: Broken-Down Barriers
As he works at the Christmas tree farm, Austin hopes that one day Brianna will show up. She doesn’t for several days. Austin opens up to his Mexican friend about this girl he saw. Mexican friend encourages him to run after her. (“But how? I don’t even know her name.”) Mexican friend suggests that Austin search for her at the annual Holiday Festival in their small downtown and suggests a business opportunity to lure her. Mexican friend suggests Austin to contact the organizers of the annual Holiday Festival to include a Christmas Music Dance-Off with the best dancer of three Christmas songs to win a $100 gift card for Austin’s Christmas Tree Farm. Austin sees where his friend is going with this and agrees this is the best way to rediscover her.
Add a scene where black friend coaches Austin how to talk to the ladies.
Holiday Festival begins. Local business owners hawk their wares. A Christmas tree train pulls into downtown. It’s chilly and people can buy hot chocolate on the street corner. Did I say people can buy hot chocolate? People can buy hot chocolate. Everyone looks like they’re straight out of a Nordstrom catalog with peabody jackets and scarves in neutral colors. Black friend and Mexican friend agree to help Austin search for this woman of his dreams. One shot of Mexican friend mistaking a man with long blonde hair for Brianna. In a last effort to find the woman of his dreams, Austin goes to the town square and says into a microphone that the Christmas Music Dance-Off will begin in five minutes. Lo and behold, out of the shadows, Brianna shows up and dances away, shakes her hips, does the carioca, and wows the judges with not so much her technique but her effort — there is literally a panel of three judges staring at a bunch of strangers dancing to three Christmas songs: Austin, his black friend, and his Mexican friend. They all agree this a ruse meant to locate this mysterious woman. Christmas songs are: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Brianna gives it her best effort, but she clearly isn’t coordinated, which Austin finds endearing. He spots her immediately, within the first few seconds of the first song, but then stares at her. The songs end and Austin awards Brianna with a $100 gift card to come by a Christmas tree at his Christmas tree farm. (“I hope you haven’t bought a Christmas tree yet,” he says. For some inexplicable reason, other than the fact that they are two attractive people in their late twenties, Brianna decides that this is the man for him. She already has a Christmas tree but wouldn’t mind getting closer to this hot hunk.)
Boom! Next scene. Brianna is trying to start a business at her parent’s house. She discovers on Facebook that a couple she knows recently got engaged in Boston — because there is no other city besides Boston in New England. She reaches out to them, asking if she could act as their wedding photographer. The possibility of grad school looms on the horizon when Brianna receives a letter in the mail about Boston University alumni and their new graduate programs. If she got an MBA, maybe her wedding planning business could really take off. All sorts of things are trying to pull her away from this po-dunk town in the middle of rural New England. Brianna is uncertain on how long she will stay in New England. She decides to go to the Christmas Tree Farm because she is “bored.” No way in hell will she admit that she finds Austin hot nor does she acknowledge to herself that her parents already have a Christmas tree set up in their house with lights and ornaments.
Brianna goes to Christmas Tree Farm. Talks to Austin who — what the hell — gives her a half-price discount on her chosen Christmas tree. Everything is going swimmingly. Austin helps Brianna strap the Christmas tree on top of her old car. Pick-up line #1 Austin says after her tree is secure. “You know, if you need any help putting ornaments on your new Christmas tree, just let me know. I also do tree-cutting.” Austin gives a coy smile, hands her a slip of paper with his phone number on it and walks away.
“I know how to bottle my own maple syrup.”
We’re still in the middle of act two (it’s the longest act), but essentially the nature of Brianna’s and Austin’s relationship begins with Brianna’s reluctance to admit she finds Austin hot but her sudden ability to request all sorts of practical help from him. Both play it cool at first. Brianna tries to convince her parents that one of the maple trees in the backyard is about to fall over. Her dad works outdoors and has seen every kind of dying tree, but this ain’t no dying tree. Brianna insists that it is. Her dad shrugs and heads back inside to watch The Price is Right. Brianna texts Austin to see if he could come over and cut down this about-to-fall-over-and-die tree. Austin does and cuts down the maple tree and realizes because the tree is by all accounts healthy, Brianna just wanted to see more of him. He tells her that usually there is a bunch of sap spilling out of such a tree after its cut down, but because it’s cold the sap is frozen. Austin reveals to her that in his youth, his mom taught him how to collect sap from trees and turn it into maple syrup. (The sentence “I know how to bottle my own maple syrup,” wins her over.) He suggests that she come over to his house and they make maple syrup together to pour over pancakes.) Austin smiles and goes, “Well, that’s it! We have a date, then!” Shot of Brianna’s face, beaming and full of joy. Scene ends with Brianna’s dad coming outside and saying, eyes wide in shock, “My God! I didn’t think you were serious!”
Date #1: Brianna and Austin make maple syrup and buttermilk pancakes together. Austin playfully hip checks Brianna with his side when she insists he not put too many chocolate chips in the pancake batter. End scene with Brianna reaching for the chocolate chip bag that Austin is holding just out of her reach as “Jingle Bell Rock” plays in the background.
Date #2: Austin teaches Brianna how to build a birdhouse. As he saws wood in some hunky outfit, Austin gives Brianna some boring speech about how building a birdhouse is like building a home. You have to lay a foundation (the floor) and you need support (the walls) to make sure that you stay protected (the roof) from any harsh winds. Austin communicates this idea to the audience more so than to her that you build a home with someone by laying down a foundation of trust in your relationship, followed by support of the other person’s endeavors, artistic, business, and whatever else, capped by the protection he could provide to her, the security and stability she needs in her life during this emotionally turbulent time she’s in in the middle of changing careers. Austin works this extended metaphor to death while simultaneously sawing wood, forming holes with a power drill, and pounding nails into 2 x 4s.
“You’re more graceful than you think you are.”
Date #3: Austin teaches Brianna how to ice skate and makes sure to compliment her a bunch on how skillful she was at dancing at the Holiday Festival so that she doesn’t feel clumsy about falling down so often. Austin encourages her to trust herself. (“You’re more graceful than you think you are.”) Cut to lots of shots of Austin rescuing Brianna right before she’s about to fall. Cut to shot of middle schoolers whizzing past them effortlessly on their ice skates. This scene is just more about building trust between the two. Unnecessary character backstory to make you root for Austin, this unlikely boyfriend for Brianna, someone who is just totally out of her league and who supposedly doesn’t have the chops or eloquence or privilege to work in the corporate world like she is:
“How did you learn how to ice skate? You make it look so easy!” says Brianna.
Cue touching backstory.
“My Dad taught me how to ice skate when I was five.”
“Five?” says Brianna in disbelief.
“Yeah, just a few years after I learned how to walk,” Austin says.
They both laugh.
“You’re a natural,” says Brianna, then asks a dumb question: “Is your dad an ice skating coach?”
“No,” says Austin and hesitates. “Here, I’ll tell you once we get to that bench.”
The two skate over to a bench where Austin then reveals to Brianna that his dad disappeared when he was six. Brianna is clearly emotionally touched by this story, puts her hand on his shoulder, and clumsily tries to relate to his grief. And then Brianna realizes that actually she was born to a life of privilege and has never had to deal with any major trauma or setbacks in her life. Her eyes well up. They both whisper. Brianna talks about unfair the world is, and Austin presents a strong and stoic front. He is so used to the loss of his father in his life that he believes it no longer affects him. But then dating Brianna these past few weeks has opened with him some tender feelings and makes him wonder what it would be like to be a father. At this point, Austin and Brianna are boyfriend and girlfriend.
Date #4: At this point, Austin has taken the initiative in building this relationship and has taught Brianna how to make maple syrup, build a birdhouse, and ice skate. Brianna feels like she has nothing to offer in this relationship. She doubts her ability to make a difference in anybody’s life or to become a successful wedding planner. Emotionally fraught conversation with mom frustrated with the bird not leaving the nest: “How could you become a great wedding planner when you’ve never been married?” Brianna storms to her bedroom, feeling trapped living with her parents once again as an adult.
In an act of defiance, Brianna, an equestrian at heart, invites Austin to come to her parent’s farmhouse when they are out of town visiting friends. Austin shows up and Brianna teaches Austin how to ride horses in the wintertime. My, oh my. How the tables have turned. Now, it’s Brianna teaching Austin how to do something new. Austin gets bucked off a young horse whose impatience matches Austin’s own. (See how the personality of the horse and the personality of Austin match?)
At this point, both Austin and Brianna know they can trust each other, but in this scene Austin is debating whether trusting Brianna’s horseback riding advice is worth the risk of getting thrown off the saddle again. This is symbolic of the lengths couples will go in expressing their trust in their lover’s abilities. Will Brianna be as successful at wedding planning as she is at teaching Austin how to ride a horse? Or is Austin just a dim bulb who can’t grasp a horse’s natural rhythms and fails to respond to its movements accordingly? Nevertheless, Brianna leads Austin to a wooded landscape where they crest a hill and look at her farm.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” remarks Brianna to Austin and says nothing more.
Austin says nothing.
They ride through a gorgeous winter wonderland.
“You have opened my eyes to all the beauty in this world…”
This scene is all about Brianna trying to get Austin just to accept a little risk and open his eyes to the beauty of the world. In fact, this is something that Austin thanks her for later when he proposes to her. (“You have opened my eyes to all the beauty in this world that I hadn’t seen before but was right in front of me.”)
Austin and Brianna get indoors and they drink hot chocolate. They bake Christmas cookies together and watch an old black-and-white movie together. It is important for the audience to learn that Austin and Brianna are by no means typical people. They have many eclectic interests, one of which they discover the both share. That is, watching movies with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They pop in a DVD of Swing Time and cuddle. At this point, Austin says something really dumb and offensive to Brianna, something so offensive that it causes her to sit in sullen silence and wait for the date to end. Really, Austin is teasing Brianna, but she takes offense to the joke. They’re watching Fred Astaire sweep Ginger Rogers off her feet and twirl her around and Austin says, “That’s the only kind of dance we could do. You’d have to let me move you around because you’re so clumsy.” The insult is like a knife to the heart and Brianna bites her lip so as not to cry.
Next scene, literally the next day: Brianna gets a job offer in Boston to work in human resources. She’s talking on the phone with some clam who was “very impressed” by her application. It isn’t the wedding planning job she was hoping for, but she lets her parents who happen to be sitting a few feet away and who overheard the conversation know. “Mom? Dad?” she says. Relays the same information. Parents act like they hadn’t heard the other end of the phone conversation even though they’re sitting a few feet away from her. A few more scenes where Brianna is looking at a photo on her phone of her and Austin laughing together in the kitchen as they made Christmas cookies. Photo description: Austin has peanut butter on his nose and is trying to lick it off. Brianna is amused by this.
Brianna set the photo to become the wallpaper for her phone during the date, but after Austin made that callous comment about how ungraceful of a dancer she was, Brianna changed her phone’s wallpaper. She stares at photo, stares at job offer email, stares at photo, bites her lip, looks offscreen and worried. Subtext: Perhaps I can leave my insensitive boyfriend behind. After all, I only went out here in this po-dunk town to reevaluate my career prospects in a quiet place free of the hustle and bustle of city life.
Act Three: Apologies for Everyone
Austin doesn’t hear back from Brianna after he continues to joke about her dancing for days. She no longer responds to his jokey texts. He thinks she’s mad at him. What basically follows is punctuation; that is, the inability for people in a relationship to see what caused what. Austin gets mad at Brianna for not responding to his text messages. She doesn’t text him back because she doesn’t think she should be asked to laugh at all of his jokes. Some of them are really unfunny. Austin continues to send more jokey texts in an effort to get Brianna to respond to him. There’s a breakdown in communication. Austin’s black friend and Mexican friend see that Austin is moody on the Christmas Tree Farm. (“What’s wrong, man? We gotta inject you with some Christmas spirit!”) Austin is morose and doesn’t want to be bothered. Shot of him looking forlorn as he’s dragging a Christmas tree he just cut down for a couple who talk enthusiastically to one another. Gee, I wish I could be like them, he must be thinking.
Brianna’s parents tell her that they are throwing a Christmas party and that neighbors and guests are invited. This means, Austin, too. Brianna desperately doesn’t mention her fallout with Austin to her parents. Brianna’s dad happens to bump into Austin in a grocery store and he invites Austin over to their Christmas party taking place in a few days. Brianna’s dad extends this invitation unbeknownst to the current status of their relationship. Brianna’s dad casually remarks to Brianna at dinner that night that he came across Austin in the grocery store and told him he could come to their Christmas party. Brianna gets upset. She throws the towel that was on her lap onto her dinner plate.
“You what?” Brianna screams.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” her mom says.
“You are not allowed to talk to him without my permission!” says Brianna, although it sounds oddly like Brianna is becoming possessive of Austin. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Brianna storms into her bedroom.
Dad says, “I don’t see what’s wrong. I was just being friendly.”
She opens the muffin tray and throws a banana nut muffin at Austin’s head, intending grievous bodily harm.
Basically, then the story takes on a deus ex machina ending: something that comes out of nowhere to save the ending. Austin’s black friend and Mexican friend create an elaborate plan for Brianna and Austin to cross paths. Austin’s Mexican friend’s aunt runs a bakery selling Mexican pastry like pan dulce. Mexican friend mails Brianna a gift certificate to Brianna for her to pick up some tasty muffins only at a specific time at his aunt’s bakery. Black friend calls Austin and pretends that he got in a car accident right outside the Mexican bakery. Could he please come pick him up? His car is totaled. Austin agrees to come over right away that Sunday afternoon. As Brianna walks out of the bakery, with a tray of muffins in her hands, she sees Austin talking to his black friend and sees that Austin is confused and a little angry as to why his black friend would pull this prank. His car is in perfect, working condition. In fact, it has subwoofers that blare out the song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” just as Brianna steps outside. (“Ay! Que bonita!” exclaims the Mexican friend who pops out from behind a bush, recording this chance encounter on his phone. Austin gives a sheepish grin and Brianna isn’t having any of it. She opens the muffin tray and throws a banana nut muffin at Austin’s head, intending grievous bodily harm. She throws another one. Another one. Austin bobs and weaves and pops right back up. He’s on his toes like a boxer, ready to parry her punches. But Brianna screams in frustration and walks away quickly. Cue the typical apology scene:
Austin runs after Brianna. He grabs her hand. She flicks his hand away and keeps walking. He apologizes profusely about teasing her for her dancing. In fact, he says:
“I fell in love with you when I saw you dancing to that song. I thought it was cute.”
She stops walking.
“You thought it was cute?” she says.
“Yeah, because I knew that if I could dance with somebody as fearless as you I wouldn’t have to worry about how badly I dance,” Austin says.
This admission that he is a terrible dancer sort of repairs the relationship a little bit. He is completely serious to her for only the second time in the film (the first being the time he told her about his dad). Austin reasserts his love for Brianna. Brianna reflects on how much fun she has had for the first time in years and makes that confession to him. Austin and Brianna agree to take things a bit slow after having met each other three weeks ago.
Scene that might get cut for time: Austin is having a deep conversation with his black friend about time.
“When do you know for certain that it’s the right time to do something?” says Austin. (Austin speaks a bit cryptically.)
Black friend assumes he is talking about expanding his Christmas Tree Empire, but really Austin is talking about proposing to Brianna.
Last scene: Austin is celebrating Christmas with Brianna and her family. When Brianna’s dad hears that Austin is coming over, he hangs mistletoe above every doorway. Brianna tells her parents as they munch on ham and potatoes that she has accepted a job offer to work an ill-defined role in human resources for a shipping company in Boston. Austin is stunned to hear this and panics. He has to replace the Christmas gift he gave her, a wedding ring, with something else. He brings his phone out on his lap to text his friends for help. Brianna sees this and whispers through clenched teeth, “No texting at the table.” Austin immediately puts his phone away.
They finish dinner and Austin promises to meet them at the house tomorrow on Christmas morning so they could open presents together. The morning arrives, Austin looks queasy but confident and sits on an armchair as Brianna opens her parent’s gift to her. Time is running out and Austin is still uncertain if this is the right decision. She finally opens his present. Austin gets on one knee, takes the ring from her, and recounts their short time together.
Brianna says no and pounces him, the two rolling along the floor littered with Christmas wrapping paper and empty boxes. She grabs a tuft of Austin’s hair and pulls hard on it. She attempts to claw his eyes out. They roll about on the floor and tip over the Christmas tree. The angel blowing a horn on top of the Christmas tree lands on Austin’s head. Brianna grabs a box of chocolates from the coffee table and whacks Austin in the head with them. Austin blacks out. Brianna rises from the scraps of wrapping paper and presents and blows a loose bang out of her face. She exits the house and drives straight to Boston for her human resources job. Austin recovers and vows to never use gift cards in a relationship. In Austin’s memory of the incident, he tells his psychiatrist he heard several headless cats screaming as they wrestled. The psychiatrist does not question how the cats could be screaming if they were headless but indicates in his notebook that the patient is disturbed.
Okay. So that typically isn’t how Hallmark Christmas movies end, but — I don’t know — it felt more natural for Brianna to beat up Austin.