When I spoke to Hollywood screenwriter Christine Conradt in 2010, she told me she eventually would like to write a Christmas movie.
“I would love to turn my TV on at Christmas every year and see it come on,” Conradt, who grew up in Lincoln and graduated from Lincoln East High School in 1992, said at the time.
On Sunday, it finally will happen when “12 Days of Giving” enjoys its premiere at 6 p.m. on the UP network (Spectrum channel 124) and repeats periodically throughout the month.
Starring Ashley Jones (“True Blood,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”) and David Blue ("Star Gate Universe," “Ugly Betty”), the holiday film tells the story about a photographer, who after winning $50,000, becomes the Secret Santa for his town. In doing good deeds, he meets the single mother of a boy he helps, and falls in love.
Conradt, 44, not only wrote the movie, she directed it, too. And here’s the best part -- she filmed it entirely in Fremont, with shooting taking places in February in a variety of the city’s locales.
“It was fun coming back to Nebraska to shoot this,” said Conradt, who makes her home in Los Angeles, where she’s become quite prolific as a screenwriter with more than 80 scripts to her credit, including several thrillers for Lifetime and LMN.
“I’d been wanting to do a movie back home for a long time and the financial incentives put together by the Eastern Nebraska Film Office are what convinced us to it in Fremont.”
During a phone interview, Conradt said the film brought in more than $65,000 to Fremont businesses and $140,000 to Nebraska businesses during its four weeks of production and gave several college students at Midland University (Fremont) and Metro Community College (Omaha) internship opportunities.
Conradt also provided acting jobs for locals. Fremont residents Linda Cutts and Heidi Melcher make their film debuts in supporting roles, and Conradt used many of her Nebraska friends as extras.
“We had other people who came from as far away as Kearney just to be in the background,” Conradt said. “It’s a fun way to experience what it’s like to make movies.”
But filming in Nebraska didn’t come without a few issues -- like a lack of snow, which, well, is important for a holiday film. Conradt said it snowed (and melted) the day they arrived, and once more during what was supposed to be a day off for the crew. Instead, Conradt and her team filmed locations day and night to get what she needed.
“We used everything we had with snow in it,” she said. “We had to make it look Christmas-y.”
For Conradt, who’s been screenwriting regularly since 2005, “12 Days of Giving” is her third directorial effort. The other two, 2015’s “The Bride He Bought Online” (aka “Flirting With Madness”), which she also wrote, and 2017’s “Killer Mom” were thrillers, her most familiar genre.
“Most of my career have been crime thrillers, so it was nice not to kill somebody in a movie for once,” she said with a laugh.
In the spring, she'll become a published author. She's expanded scripts from three of her movies with "at 17" in the title into young adult novels for HarperCollins. The first is expected out in May -- the same month she'll marry her fiance, David Baker.
"Novelization is a very different experience from adaptation," Conradt said. "You're taking something that's bare bones and fleshing it out instead of paring it down."