The actual blatantly obvious cross-border alternative location for the filming aside, I asked Katie if the movie remained true to her screenplay.
Katie confided that while production was moving along, there was a bit of ad libbing, which she embraced. As the actors became more comfortable with the characters and the story, they starting interacting with each other slightly differently than the script.
Movie making is “a team sport,” said Katie. “I loved that they were bringing something extra to the story.”
Katie herself did some tweaking to the story along the way as the characters developed, including some script revisions after Filipino actress, Nikki McKenzie, was cast as Heather, the main character. Katie and Nikki were both immediately on board with introducing some traditional Filipino foods into the FriendsChristmas segment.
“Nikki started calling relatives for recipes,” said Katie, and was delighted to integrate her own heritage into the storyline.
Who are these people really?
If the screenplay’s setting was the result of a tremendous amount of research, then the inspiration for Heather was literally standing right of front of Katie. Heather has many traits in common with Claire Coppi, a friend of Katie’s, who is an actress turned sommelier, turned host of a social media wine show.
In addition, the character of Shannon is based on Katie’s own best friend, Jessie. It made for a fascinating yet familiar character, like working with a member of the family.
With the setting in place and the characters outlined, the story began to just flow like, well, like wine.
The finished product is a charming story where family and friends, and new relationships, form the backbone of a tight-knit community with a wine-industry flair.
“So what’s next?” I asked.
Katie said she is currently working with her writing partner of about 10 years, Amy, on a new screenplay. In contrast to the wholesome constraints associated with holiday romance movies, this new concept has some “grit” with topics that include a strong female character moving within the world of legalized weed. Katie feels if this project is picked up by a film producer, it would probably earn a PG-13 rating, possibly even an R rating.
As our conversation was winding down, Katie took the opportunity to rave about the bond formed by the cast and crew during the filming. She said the casting was simply marvelous, the production crew was great, and everyone had a lovely time working together.
Which prompted my next question: “Any talk of ‘A Vineyard Christmas’, Part 2?”
Katie laughed! “Funny you should ask,” she said.
While she hasn’t been approached by the production company about a sequel (yet), several of the actors expressed enthusiasm for another film, reinforcing the idea that there’s so much more story to tell.
With Katie’s apparent determination to be authentic and her propensity for research, I pointed out it’s pretty much a given that working on a sequel would demand she experience the Lake Chelan Valley in person to absorb first-hand the genuine community vibe.
I assured her that several dozen grape growers and winemakers, along with members of the community she already loves without ever seeing, would be waiting to welcome her with open arms.
Just like one of the family.