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Living a Hallmark Movie—and Then Writing Two Dozen of Them

December 15, 2023
Julie Sherman Wolfe (R) and Amy Weiss (L)
Julie Sherman Wolfe (R) and Amy Weiss (L)
Presentation view

The Wilde Auditorium on the University of Hartford campus was recently the site of what might best be described as a Hallmark holiday movie lovefest. All that was missing was the fake snow.

The December 11 event was actually a dialogue with Hallmark writer Julie Sherman Wolfe about her work. As approximately 100 diehard fans of Hallmark movies looked on intently, it became more than a conversation—almost a holiday in and of itself. Audience members relished the secrets and sagas of holiday-themed movies, and Sherman was their willing guide.

Sponsored jointly by the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford and Friends of the Avon Library, the event also provided an opportunity for area residents to meet and engage with a highly accomplished local writer. Wolfe lives in Avon, a suburb of Hartford with which she fell in love when visiting a friend in next-door Simsbury a few years ago.

“I’ve always had an affection for New England,” says the San Francisco native. Once she started working on Hallmark movies, the sights and sounds of quaint snow-covered towns intensified her longing for a lifestyle change. “Plus, I’ve always loved the winter holidays. Whenever the world is in turmoil, the holidays seem to bring people together.” She is also a big fan of how Hallmark movies effectively combine religious and secular sensibilities in the unfolding of its emotional love stories.

Combined, Wolfe’s love of the region, the season, and the Hallmark formula is why the network’s holiday movies are the perfect vehicle for her writing skills.

Amy Weiss, director of the Greenberg Center, moderated the presentation, in which Wolfe shared several anecdotes about how Hallmark holiday movies are written and produced, and also about her career track, which now includes more than 25 of the popular films for the distinctive cable and streaming television network.  

“I came to screenwriting because of the worst day of my life,” she explained. “I got downsized at the ad agency where I was working as a copywriter, and my boyfriend left me. Then I met a sitcom writer who said I should move to L.A. So I did.” But that was before she sent a hundred faxes to sitcom producers trying to get her toe in the door. Only two phone calls resulted from that fax-fest.

But that was enough. It did the trick. The rest is Hallmark history. She wrote her first holiday TV movie in 2015, called Hello, It’s Me. Despite the tried-and-true formula, Wolfe has made her mark by thinking outside the box with such fare as A Holiday Spectacular featuring the Rockettes (and set in 1958), and Hanukkah on Rye, which celebrates another special winter holiday. She plans on writing another Hanukkah movie for Hallmark next year.

Prior to finding her niche, Wolfe worked on many of her own scripts, worked on several sitcoms, and was a writer’s assistant on Everybody Loves Raymond, Six Feet Under, Hope and Gloria, and an unsold pilot called Dweebs, among others.

Wolfe sometimes uses her new and beloved hometown, and other nearby towns, as the setting for her Hallmark movies, even though for a host of economic and logistical reasons, many are shot elsewhere, most often in Canada. The town in Taking a Shot at Love was called Avon. A Hallmark Christmas movie from 2022, One Royal Holiday, was shot in Putnam but set in the fictional town of Kentsbury, a name Wolfe created as a combination of Kent and Simsbury.

Had they been able to, the Wilde audience would have hung around for another hour or more to hear Wolfe’s stories from behind the camera. That, of course, was impossible, though the hot cocoa and jelly donuts given out at the end—good props for a Hallmark movie—made the exit a little easier to take.

I’ve always loved the winter holidays. Whenever the world is in turmoil, the holidays seem to bring people together.

Julie Sherman Wolfe, Hallmark writer
Through an introduction by UHart, Julie Sherman Wolfe was the featured guest on the Dec. 16 edition of Spotlight Connecticut on WTIC radio.

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