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Mastering the Art of Christmas Storytelling: A Conversation with Isabel Dréan


Christmas and holiday scripts are in high demand at Screenwriting Staffing, and they tend to sell and get produced quickly. One of our earliest and most popular holiday films we facilitated was "Bramble House Christmas," which has become a staple during the Christmas season on the Hallmark Channel.


Isabel Dréan, our trusted French-English translator, has a remarkable track record of achieving massive holiday success. Through her innovative approach and systematic methods, she has created compelling and efficient holiday scripts, leading to the production of five movies in just eighteen months.


We had the opportunity to sit down with Isabel and asked her to share her insights with our readers on how they can also achieve this level of success. You can also check out her online classes. A discount code is available at the bottom of the article!

 

What strategies played a significant role in your rapid success in writing and selling numerous holiday scripts?


Isabel Dréan: Before the pandemic, this producer I know asked me if I wanted to try to write a Christmas movie. I embraced the challenge headfirst. Not familiar with this genre, I immersed myself in the world of Christmas movies. I studied as many films as I could, dissecting their structure, themes, and audience appeal. This deep dive allowed me to fathom the underlying patterns and storytelling techniques that make these movies successful.


Armed with this knowledge, I developed a system that enabled me to write holiday scripts efficiently without compromising quality. I discovered the key elements that resonate with audiences and crafted stories that captured the essence of the holiday season.

As a result, I was able to write my first Christmas movie in just two and a half weeks. I turned it in and it exceeded the expectations of the producers. It led to subsequent requests for more scripts, and within a short period of time, I found myself having five movies produced in eighteen months.

How has writing Christmas movies transformed your career path?


Isabel Dréan: Writing Christmas movies has completely transformed the trajectory of my career. It has opened up doors and provided me with incredible opportunities that I couldn't have imagined before. Having five movies produced in just 18 months is beyond what I could have hoped for. It's not just about the recognition or the joy of seeing my scripts come to life on screen.

It's about the fact that I can now make a living doing what I love most – writing. And, to top it all off, I've recently been invited to teach my masterclass in Greece, which was an unforgettable experience, and hopefully, it will lead to me traveling the world and mentoring screenwriters on their screenwriting journey.

The impact of writing Christmas movies has been far-reaching and has opened up doors beyond the genre itself. The success and recognition I gained from these projects have allowed me to venture into other genres and collaborate on a wide range of exciting projects. It has expanded my creative horizons and provided me with opportunities to work with industry professionals on diverse storytelling endeavors. Writing Christmas movies has proven that success breeds success, and it has granted me the confidence and visibility to explore new avenues and make a lasting impact in the industry.


Why should screenwriters consider writing holiday movies as a means to break into the industry?

Isabel Dréan: What sets holiday movies apart is their universal appeal and timeless themes. The holiday season evokes feelings of nostalgia, joy, and togetherness, providing a perfect backdrop for storytelling. By writing holiday movies, screenwriters can connect with audiences on a deep emotional level, evoking warmth, hope, and inspiration. These movies create shared experiences, foster traditions, and leave a lasting impact on viewers.

Additionally, the fast turnaround time in the holiday movie industry allows screenwriters to be prolific and produce multiple scripts within a year. This not only enhances their skills but also increases their chances of gaining recognition from industry professionals.

By embracing the opportunity to write holiday movies, screenwriters can gain valuable experience, build a strong portfolio, and improve their odds of becoming produced writers.


While trends in the film industry may come and go, the enduring popularity of holiday movies remains constant. Tapping into this genre provides aspiring screenwriters with a unique entry point and an opportunity to establish themselves in the competitive industry. By writing holiday movies, screenwriters can showcase their storytelling abilities, connect with a wide audience, and potentially launch their careers in a genre that continues to captivate viewers year after year.


When is the optimal time to promote a holiday script considering the production timeline of Christmas films?


You know, it's all about understanding the rhythm of the industry. The production cycle tends to run from January through to June, with the order of scripts kicking things off and filming happening around April until August.


Now, if you're an aspiring screenwriter with a holiday script, your best shot is to get it out there during the fall. Why? Because that's when you're perfectly synced with the industry's production timeline. It's also a great moment to take advantage of events like AFM (American Film Market) to make some connections with producers who might be interested in your work.


Doing it this way means you're putting yourself one step ahead of the production game. There's plenty of time for your script to be looked over, mulled upon, and hopefully, if the stars align, greenlit right at the start of the year.

As we are currently on strike, this could be a good time for screenwriters to get your holiday script ready for when the strike ends and it’s important to note that most of the production companies producing those movies are non-union.

What are some common misunderstandings associated with writing holiday scripts?


Isabel Dréan: There are a bunch of misconceptions when it comes to writing holiday scripts. You'd think, given the demand for Christmas movies, anything goes, right? But in reality, the kind of script they're looking for is more like a teeny tiny box, something you could call the "Hallmark Christmas" type.


People often tell me about their Christmas screenplay, starting with "Santa..." or "There's an elf," or "There's a guy." All of that is good stuff, don't get me wrong, but it's not exactly what the folks in the industry are looking for.


They're usually after a movie with a female lead, hardly any magic—if any at all—and a good old-fashioned romance. Sure, they make other types of Christmas movies, but those aren't necessarily any easier to sell than any other movie type.

The thing to remember is that not all Christmas movies are created equal. The thing to remember is that not all because there's Christmas in your script that it will be an easy sale.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers hoping to break into the Christmas movie genre?


Isabel Dréan: Aspiring writers should focus on several key aspects to successfully break into the Christmas movie genre. Firstly, it's crucial to generate compelling ideas that captivate audiences, going beyond just a Christmas theme to craft a story that embodies the spirit of the holiday romance.

Secondly, to learn to write within a specific budget, as a well-written script that overshoots its budget won't get off the ground.

Learn to identify the right producers and decision-makers for your script, and understand how to communicate and foster relationships within the industry.


Quickly adapting to constructive feedback and making swift revisions is another crucial skill. Interpreting notes, applying them effectively, and promptly revising the script are part of the process.


Lastly, remember that speed, consistency, and quality can set you apart in this competitive genre.


Breaking into the Christmas movie genre can be challenging, but with the right approach, focus, and tenacity, it's certainly achievable. Best of luck!


Could you share some information about your class and what participants can expect to gain from it?


Isabel Dréan: My masterclass on writing Christmas movies is designed to provide aspiring writers with the tools, guidance, and insights they need to excel in this genre and find success in the competitive market. I aim to demystify the process and share practical strategies that go beyond the surface-level teachings of screenwriting.

Through the masterclass, writers will learn how to generate compelling ideas that resonate with audiences, craft marketable scripts that capture the essence of the holiday season, and navigate the industry to connect with the right producers and decision-makers.

My hope is that through this masterclass, aspiring writers will feel ready to embark on their own journey of writing captivating and heartwarming holiday movies and get their break in the industry.


Screenwriting Staffing readers/members get $50 off with code: STAFFING50


 

Isabel Dréan is a writer-director renowned for her ability to navigate different genres, from thrilling horror to heartwarming coming-of-age. Amidst her diverse range of storytelling, Isabel's exceptional success shines in the holiday genre. With her unique approach and systematic method, she has crafted efficient and captivating holiday scripts, resulting in the production of five movies within a remarkable eighteen-month period. Driven by her passion for empowering aspiring writers, Isabel now imparts her invaluable expertise through her masterclass, offering aspiring storytellers the opportunity to break into the industry and immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Christmas movies.

MASTERCLASS WEBSITE: https://21dayscreenplay.com/


Isabel Dréan on social media: @isabeldrean

 


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