If you're like us, there's no better Saturday night than watching a Hallmark original movie in your sweats and with a glass of wine. They have just the right amount of schmaltz to tug at your heart strings and get you to watch the next one (and the next ... and the next). Lucky for you, the network promised to release a new movie every Saturday all year long.
Impressed? We were, too. In 2018, Hallmark released a whopping 80 original movies across both networks (Hallmark and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) — in addition to four original primetime series. Proof that films filled with heartwarming romance and charmingly predictable storylines don't end when the holidays do.
To get the inside scoop on how these movies are made, we sat down with Jen Lilley, who Hallmark fans will definitely recognize. She's been in six movies on the network to date and her most recent flick, Winter Love Story, premieres on January 19 as part of Hallmark's January Winterfest. Here's what the Hallmark star told us about making these iconic films.
There's a "secret sauce" Hallmark uses in every movie.
Winter Love Story follows new author Cassie Winslett (played by Jen) as she navigates her writing career and (you guessed it) ends up falling in love. Sound familiar? That's because the plot follows Hallmark's notable rom-com formula.
"Usually, the romantic partners don't like each other at first — if the two characters like each other from the beginning, there isn't much of a story. We have to have something to build on and root for," Jen tells WomansDay.com. She attributes much of the success of the channel to this formula and says it's the secret behind any successful romantic comedy.
Fun fact! Jen says her on-screen inspiration is Meg Ryan in her '90s cult classic You've Got Mail.
These movies have a FAST turn around.
While some feature-length films can take a few years to make, Hallmark movies are shot in just three weeks, according to Jen. Long days on set mean little time for prep work. In fact, Jen says she often reads lines up until the director yells "action!" It's all hands on deck after filming, too, since the movies are usually released about a month and a half after they're shot. "It's exhausting, but fun," she says.
There's a reason the network uses a lot of the same actors.
Ever recognize the same actors and actresses over and over again? Since these movies are filmed in such a short period of time, fan favorites like Full House alum Candace Cameron-Bure and Lori Loughlin often shoot multiple per year. Jen has worked with several of the same directors and producers over her three movies, and is already slated to shoot movie next month.
Did you know? Meghan Markle starred in two Hallmark movies, When Sparks Fly and Dater's Handbook.
Most of the movies are filmed in Canada.
Winter Love Story was filmed in a town called Sudbury, Ontario, about a 4-hour drive from Toronto, but it's not the only Hallmark movie that's been filmed outside of the United States. The production company behind many of the titles told the Wall Street Journal that they often film in and around Vancouver because of tax incentives. Plus, there are lots of cute, cozy towns to choose from.
There's a genius way to find out if the snow is fake or not.
If you can see the actor's breath, it's definitely really cold out. But as Jen experienced in this most recent movie, spending a lot of time outside can make the long weeks filming even more ta. However, the fake stuff has its own drawbacks: "I learned the hard way not to try to taste the fake snow. It tastes like soap!" Jen says.
People on set really do get along like a big, happy family.
Jen reveals that the cast and crew are as kind and friendly as it appears on screen. And she raves about Hallmark's treatment of its employees, actors, and staff members. It it too late for a career change? Asking for a friend.
Be sure to tune into this year's Winterfest and Winter Love Story, which premieres January 19 at 8 PM/7 PM Central. And keep your eye out for another movie starring Jen in early April.