Mercy: Can you share a little bit about yourself?
Nina: I'm a busy screenwriter and a mother of two (ages 10, as of yesterday!! and 7), which, means we have a very busy and sometimes overwhelming life. But, thankfully, my husband and I both work at home, so we have a lot of flexibility to manage our careers with our kids' homework and sports practices and dance classes and sleepovers, etc. We are very family oriented and, in fact, are now getting our house ready for my husband's family from PA to come into town. LOTS of Legos to put away...
Mercy: What started your interest in scriptwriting?
Nina: I've always been a performer - I did a lot of theater and dance when I was young - and had an interest in the entertainment industry, but didn't know I was a writer until I was in college and, as a journalism major, got involved in the school paper. Writing was something that came very naturally to me. When I moved to LA, initially I wanted to act and do theater again but wasn't having much luck, booking jobs, so I wrote a play, rather than sit around and wait for someone to invite me to act. I ended up getting it produced and the response to my writing was overwhelmingly positive, while I received virtually NO compliments on my acting. 😂 So I decided to pursue the writing, which filled me up creatively AND felt like the path that could lead to a successful career, doing what I loved. I wrote scripts for TEN YEARS, while working a few day jobs in entertainment, including personal assistant to comedian Jeff Foxworthy for two years, assistant to the show runner on a sitcom and then as a department coordinator in development at a TV network for 7 years, which was an incredible education for me. However, working a day job and writing at night can be challenging, so in 2007, my husband encouraged me to quit my job and really give the writing a go, full-time. It took 18 months of writing and writing and writing until finally Liz Yost, one of the senior execs at Hallmark mentioned they were looking for wedding movies. So I sat down and wrote one called BACKYARD WEDDING, which, thankfully, they bought from me. And from there, I wrote up ideas and pitched and looked for new material and for the past ten years they've kept me very busy. I know how lucky I am that I had an incredibly supportive husband who afforded me the opportunity to follow my dreams. I'm happy to say that a few years later, I was able to return the favor when he wanted to start his own business. To date, I have 21 movies on the air for Hallmark, including a few uncredited rewrites, and 8 others currently in various stages of development.
Mercy: Can you share a little bit about Double Holiday?
Nina: Double Holiday was a major labor of love. I've long wanted to do a Hanukkah movie for a while, so I was honored that Hallmark entrusted me with it. When we learned Hallmark wanted to add a Hanukkah element to Countdown to Christmas, my producer and I enthusiastically threw our hats in the ring. Hallmark was so wonderful and allowed us free reign to come up with a story and, along the way, they excitedly embraced every element of our religion, traditions and the personal stories that we incorporated into the film. It's the story of a Jewish woman who is given the task of throwing her company holiday party, with a coworker who is up for the same promotion. Tracking the timeline with the 8 days of Hanukkah, our heroine is forced to juggle her professional goals with the importance of this precious time, celebrating Hanukkah with her family, thus the coworker comes along for the ride. In the process, not only does he fall in love with her, but with her family and how they celebrate, which is something he lacks in his own life. This is Carly Pope's first Hallmark movie and she is so wonderful in it. She's just a beautiful, incredible person, inside and out, not to mention a spectacular actress. I can't wait for the Hallmark fans to fall in love with her like I have! And what can I say about Kristoffer Polaha that hasn't already been said? Aside from things we all know; he's charming and gorgeous and so fun to watch, there is also a light in him. Watching him interact with everyone on set and off, he's someone who makes people feel special; like they really matter, and that light also comes through in his performance. I couldn't be happier with how this film turned out and the team we assembled.
Mercy: Favorite Christmas memory/tradition?
Nina: So, the favorite tradition and memories are sort of the same answer. Since I grew up Jewish, I didn't get to celebrate Christmas until I married my husband, who isn't Jewish. We've been together a long time, so I've got quite a few Christmases under my belt now, but the best of it came in 2009 when my daughter was born and then in 2012 with my son. My favorite memory seems to happen over and over, every year, and that's seeing Christmas through my childrens' eyes. We're creating new memories and traditions together, now that we have kids and that's been really fun. We go to the candlelight service at my mother-in-law's church on Christmas Eve and they turn out the lights and everyone sings SILENT NIGHT by candlelight. It's so beautiful. I always say to my kids, who are being raised with both religions, we may call things by a different name, but we're basically saying the same thing. Be grateful for what you have. Give back to others. Be kind. As for this year, I bought the entire family (including grandparents) matching Christmas pajamas and we're all going to wear them Christmas Eve, whether they like it or not!! Stay tuned for some potentially horrid pictures.
Mercy: favorite Christmas movie?
Nina: Elf. It's one of those movies that I watch any time it's on. Only now, my kids join in. It never gets old and I love that we can watch it as a family.
Mercy: Favorite Christmas song?
Nina: Winter Wonderland. We sing it in the car, at the top of our lungs. (Yes, of course, we listen to Hallmark Radio on Sirius - shameless plug) Then my kids like to tell me that I don't sound as good as the people on the radio. I mean... tell me something I don't know, kid.
Mercy: Favorite Christmas book?
Nina: My husband's grandmother bought this book for the kids, where she records her voice reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. As you turn each page, it follows her telling the story. Our kids absolutely love it and we make sure to listen to it every year. She's not doing very well right now, so I know it's something we are going to keep and cherish forever.
Mercy: What exactly does scriptwriting entail? Can you tell us a little bit about the process?
Nina: Well, the first step is getting the project in development. I generally write up a one page with the general story beats and send it in for consideration. Either they decide they want to do it or they pass on it and you move onto the next. If they pick it up, we will have a kickoff call, I'll get some direction from the network and then write a very detailed outline that breaks down the entire story, act by act, sometimes with a bit of dialogue added in. For a 9 act movie, that's anywhere from an 18-20 page document. Once the network has read it, we'll have a notes call, where they tell me what works for them and what they'd like me to change. Then, with their feedback in mind, I'm sent to draft, where I write a 104-107 page script. I work from home so I'm able to write pretty much any time, as long as someone is running interference with my kids. They LOVE to come in the room and ask me what page I'm on and when I'm going to be done... Hallmark is very involved in every aspect of the script so there tend to be a lot of revisions on the script, but we are collaborators on these movies and it takes a village to pull it off. They're really great partners. I usually work between 6-8 hours per day, but sometimes you have to power through, even if the creativity isn't coming. I always say, get something down on the page - ANYTHING - and you can change it later. Writing is rewriting. Then rewriting what you've already written. Then eating lots of candy. And then rewriting again.😜
Mercy: Any upcoming projects you can share about?
Nina: I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say, but I have 8 projects in development right now. Two are for next Christmas (2020). One is a sequel to a wedding movie that aired recently, which I'm REALLY excited about. I have one of the Scholastic books that was just announced in the press. Another wedding movie. A spring and a summer and a movie without a season that I'm waiting for them to slot, called BREAKUP BOOT CAMP. It's very busy, but I've been on the other side of the coin, where I was hustling to find work and this is definitely the better of the two. It's just a matter of prioritizing and taking my cues from Hallmark as to which projects are most pressing. It's a great gig, for sure, and I'm lucky to have it.
Nina Weinman Swift's Links-