Hallmark writer settles in Avon and falls in love
By Natalie K. Pollock
Three and a half years ago Julie Sherman Wolfe and husband Greg Wolfe, both writers, moved to Avon with their son. The family moved here from Los Angeles.
Greg Wolfe is a humor writer. His children’s picture book, “Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf,” is one of their son’s favorite, and he wrote a tongue-in-cheek man’s guide to the fertility treatment process called “How to Make Love to a Plastic Cup.” He teaches middle school in Litchfield.
She has written 14 movie scripts for the Hallmark channel that have been produced, the most recent was “Take a Shot at Love,” for which Avon was the inspiration. In 2011 her movie for television “Avalon High” won a Writers Guild Award.
Julie Sherman Wolfe grew up in San Francisco and attended the University of California at San Diego. She became involved with television production by working on sitcoms, animated features, and selling her writing for romantic comedies (rom-coms). She was also the writer and co-producer of Breadwinners, a made-for-television comedy movie.
Before writing her own scripts for television movies and series, she worked as a writer’s assistant on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Six Feet Under,” “Hope and Gloria,” and “Dweebs,” among others.
Julie Sherman Wolfe has fallen in love with Avon much the same way as her movie characters find love in picturesque small towns. We sat down to talk to her about the town and her writing career.
Q. What prompted you to move to Avon from Los Angeles, where you had been living and working in the television business for 20 years?
A. My husband and I talked about moving to New England. We picked Avon because we love it. I wanted to move somewhere that’s my own version of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Right now I am looking out at the yard with snow and I love it. I am trying to give the town more of an identification, especially with the construction of the new town center.
Q. Have you become involved with the community?
A. I serve on the Avon Newcomers [and Neighbors Club] board, and when we can relaunch events, I hope to help make it even bigger. I am in charge of communications. Right now, we are finding ways to do virtual events, like virtual gift-giving. We’re talking about a virtual trivia night. There is no membership fee. We are also updating the website (avonnewcomers.com).
Q. How did you get your start in writing for television?
A. I was a copywriter and doing standup comedy after I was dumped by my boyfriend and lost my job. Then I began as a writer’s assistant and was able to be in the writers room. I made connections there and eventually got an agent. In 2014 I started writing for Hallmark. It’s my favorite. And I also love writing for tweens.
Q. Hallmark holiday movies all seem to follow the same formula. Is that true?
A. Yes, the formula is that there is a conflict in the beginning, and the characters help each other grow. Then there is a conflict in the middle. It looks like the leads are breaking up toward the end. There used to be a kiss at the end, but now there is more reality. The cast is more inclusive now, so it’s fun to write. My stories are now deeper and balance comedy with drama. They are all family-friendly and G-rated.
Q. What changes in the scripts are obvious?
A. They cast the best actors for each role in color-blind auditions. The difference is fine but incidental. Now I write about a world that reflects the real world. But [always] the characters have a loving family that is understanding, and they help each other grow.
Q. What values does Hallmark direct you as a writer to reflect?
A. Showing how people grow is the biggest mandate from Hallmark. We show how falling in love helps. They want to see the journey. That is my favorite thing about the job.
Q. Why do you think Hallmark holiday movies have become so popular, especially during this year of the pandemic?
A. Hallmark movies have become a cultural thing because they make people happy. Sometimes people want a happy ending. I think Hallmark movies are a positive experience – a nice break from the real world. You can decorate the tree or bake cookies with the family while watching.
I try to show people in the winter for two hours in a snow-globe world where their biggest problem is that the cookies are burnt. My job is to get to a happy ending that has not been seen yet.
Q. Where do the story ideas come from?
A. Some ideas come from a book they have optioned, and they ask me to write the script for Hallmark. Sometimes I come up with a kernel of an idea from a book. In “Taking a Shot at Love,” my most recently aired movie, I took someone else’s script and made changes. That’s why the credit says it was co-written by Laura Grant with me. They always credit the original writer in that kind of situation.
Q. What can you tell us about your most recent Hallmark movies?
A. “Taking a Shot at Love” was set in Avon but shot in Vancouver [Canada] and aired recently. [A former professional dancer applies ballet techniques to help an injured hockey player get back on the ice.] The story involves hockey, so we got permission to use Hartford Wolf Pack stuff. I put in some of my friends’ names. I created the Avon Ballet and an Avon Winterfest for the story, which I would like to reverse-engineer [and make happen].
“One Royal Holiday” was my first Connecticut project. It was shot in the summer in Putnam, Hartford and Woodstock. We could not do it here because of logistics resulting from COVID. I usually go to where they are shooting with my friends. [According to IMDb, a mother and son are stranded in a blizzard when she finds out they are members of a royal family. She shows the prince how they celebrate Christmas in her town.]
“Wedding Every Weekend” was also shot in Vancouver. [Nate and Brooke are going to the same four weddings four weekends in a row and decide to go together as friends to avoid being set up, as per IMDb.]
Q. What story are you working on now?
A. It’s a combination of an original idea and something that was brought to me. I have a couple of big things on the horizon. Hallmark is now open to more reality-of-life stuff. VL