"It's a Wonderful Movie" is delighted to bring to you today, an exclusive interview with Writer, Producer, and Director Jake Helgren, who has two movies premiering on our TV's this Christmas Season. The first movie is “The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas” which premiered November 28, 2014 on UP, and will have additional airings throughout the holidays. The second film “A Belle for Christmas” will premiere on Starz near Christmas. See details below on both movies in my interview with Jake Helgren and future Christmas Movie Projects, as well!
1. Thank you, Jake, for joining me for this interview today. First of all, how amazing is it for you, to have not one, but two Christmas Movies, Premiering this Christmas Season on TV?
I'm very excited about the movies I have airing on TV this Christmas! My family and I have loved watching Christmas movies since I was a kid growing up in Texas -- the Home Alone movies, Prancer, and Love Actually amongst my favorite feature films; and A Mom For Christmas, Holiday Switch, and Finding Mrs. Claus among my favorite made-for-TV films. I love that these networks still continue to provide quality holiday films each and every year to our homes, and I am so honored a couple of mine were finally produced and chosen to air on TV. This year both films happen to feature dogs at Christmastime, and I have two dogs of my own, so I am really looking forward to going home for the holidays and watching these films with my family, who are all equally excited to see them (but not too happy right now since I'm making them wait 'til I get there to watch them, haha).
|“The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas”|
Sure. 12 Dog Days Till Christmas was originally a story conceptualized by my producing partner and another talented screenwriter, Bret Kofford. They had a great idea about this kid Jack, an angry foster kid who gets into trouble before the holidays, who is forced to volunteer at a closing dog shelter with a trio of plucky girls, where all the remaining, unwanted dogs there--who have about as many problems as Jack does--will be sent to a kill shelter on Christmas Eve if the kids don't find homes for them first. Bret and I co-wrote the script together, and then I co-produced the film with my producing partner in South Carolina. We got a great deal of feedback on the script from our distributors at Marvista-- who have a great track record with these kinds of films--and from the UPtv network, in order to make a great film, and we really hope it is well-received by audiences on TV.
| “The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas”|
We have a great cast in the film, including Vincent Giovagnoli ("3 Times A Charm"), who plays troubled Jack, Reginald Veljohnson of "Family Matters" who stars as Jack's probation officer, newcomer Grainne McDermott, who stars as a girl Jack loves to hate; and Lexi Giovagnoli ("1 Chance 2 Dance"), who plays the spirited girl who runs the shelter. The film also features Petunia, a sweet dog our trainer really found at a kill shelter and rescued (and who was eventually named Petunia after her character in the film), and my dog Piper is also featured as one of the pups (she's the hairless Chinese Crested Sadie :).
|“A Belle for Christmas”|
4. How would you describe the plot of your Christmas Movie, “A Belle for Christmas”?
"A Belle For Christmas" is also a great holiday movie for the whole family, but this is one kids will also want to watch over and over again. It's a holiday adventure film, and I've always described it as sort of a cross between "The Goonies" and "101 Dalmatians." Here's the basic plot line for the film: When a sweet young boy and his precocious kid sister discover their newly adopted puppy Belle has been nabbed by the beautiful gold digger dating their widowed dad on Christmas Eve, the kids recruit their neighborhood friends and set out on an adventurous rescue mission to save her. So there are plenty of holiday thrills for the kids, but also romance thrown in for the adults.
|“A Belle for Christmas”|
5. I am so excited to hear that actor Dean Cain, who I’ve liked since “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, and who has been in a wide variety of wonderful family Christmas Movies, will star in your movie “A Belle for Christmas”. Please share what it was like to work with him and the rest of the cast.
We had a really great cast in this one, too! In addition to Dean Cain, who obviously has an insane track record with these kinds of holiday films, it also stars Kristy Swanson (Operation Cupcake) and Haylie Duff (Christmas Belle), who have starred in a ton of these TV movies as well. And of course, the kid stars, including Jet Jurgensmeyer (Little Rascals Saves the Day), are great and definitely hold their own alongside their more experienced adult co-stars. And last but not least there is of course the beautiful white Shepherd puppy star herself who plays Belle, who I originally based on my other dog Riley. When I first wrote the script, I always thought Dean Cain would be perfect to play the father, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear he was onboard the project! And although I've always been a huge fan of Kristy Swanson, I had no idea how hilarious she could be playing a villainess you can't help but love. That aside, I am so sad to say I was actually overseas when this film was being shot, so I didn't have the luxury of meeting any of this awesome cast or crew yet. But if the film does well, we hope to do a sequel, and I will definitely plan to get to the set this time and meet the entire Belle family, because the producers are really sweet, wonderful people and I can't believe I still haven't had a chance to meet them yet!
6. What was the filming process like, for both movies, working with dogs?
I can only speak for "12 Dog Days Till Christmas", of course, but in that one we were working with twelve starring dogs (plus a number of extra dogs who are featured in other scenes), so needless to say things got a little crazy sometimes! Fortunately we had some great trainers onset, and our Humane Society representative was such a sweetheart, that it made our lives as filmmakers much easier. Just like with having kids onset, though, you always have to put the dogs' needs first, but fortunately our entire cast and crew is full of dog lovers (and at this point, they've gotten used to dogs being onset since my Chinese Crested is usually always with me on whichever set I'm on!).
7. What do you hope viewers will take away from watching your Christmas movies, “The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas” and “A Belle for Christmas”? Are they both available on DVD?
At the end of the day, we want to make our viewers smile and feel as good about the traditions of the holidays as we do. It makes me feel so amazing inside to see how proud my family and all my friends are by the work we are doing and the kinds of positive messages we are trying to send out in these films, and I can only hope that our viewers will feel the same warmth and comfort from watching these kinds of films as we get from making them.
I am not sure when "12 Dog Days Till Christmas" will be released on DVD, but will try to let you know when I find out. Same goes for "A Belle For Christmas" -- while I am still unsure when it will air on STARZ (hopefully we will know soon!), I can tell you it is now available on Amazon.com, VoD, and Targets and WalMarts everywhere!
As for future projects, we are actually shooting another film this holiday season in Austin featuring a new set of dogs and starring Lexi Giovagnoli (of 12 Dog Days Till Christmas) currently called "A Dogwalker's Christmas Tale", and we couldn't be more excited about it! It's from a script I wrote, and will be directed by Letia Clouston. It will have more stars in it, too, which we will cast soon, and though we still aren't sure whether it will end up airing on TV or not, we can certainly hope it will! I also have two more holiday films in development called "A Kid For Christmas" and "Merry Exes", so hopefully those will get made soon and end up on television at some point, too.
Either way, we really appreciate being featured on your wonderful site this Christmas, and hope to keep bringing fun, family-friendly holiday films to TV for many years to come. Thanks for the interview, and Merry Christmas to you and all your site readers and a Happy New Year! :)
I wish to extend a very special "thank you" to Jake Helgren for taking his time to share with us today his behind-the-scenes take on his current Christmas Movies “The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas” and “A Belle for Christmas”, as well as the unexpected, yet very exciting "sneak peak" into future Christmas Movie Projects! All of us Christmas Movie fans love that... so, thank you so very much for the insider details!!!
We will definitely be looking to watch both of these family friendly films throughout the Holiday Season on UP and Starz... and we'll certainly look forward to future Christmas Movies!
*See future air times for “The 12 Dog Days Till Christmas” in the Christmas TV Schedule.
*You can find the movie, “A Belle for Christmas” on DVD, at Amazon.
I hope you all enjoy this interview with Writer, Producer, and Director Jake Helgren... and his Christmas Movies!!!