Filming a Hallmark-style Christmas flick
he picturesque town of Weston is far from Hollywood and major motion picture companies, but it’s the perfect place for the filming of a Hallmark style Christmas movie set in a small riverfront town.
Reluctant to film in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic, director Sandra Alongi, a Kansas City native, decided it was best to stay close to home to film her second Christmas movie, which has been given the working title of “Christmas on Display.”
Alongi, who was hired by a production company out of Los Angeles, says she cherry-picked the welcoming and alluring town of Weston to film essential scenes for this family-friendly movie because of everything it offers. From its small-town charm and historic buildings to its friendly and hospitable locals, “Weston is a great setting,” said Alongi.
“It’s been amazing filming in Weston just because the people here have been so welcoming and so eager to help with the production. Business owners are so willing to pitch in and help decorate storefronts,” she said.
City officials have also been accommodating, approving a temporary closure in the 400 block of Main Street for filming.
While filming of its most extravagant scene, a Christmas fair, is set to take place Thursday evening, a wide range of scenes have been shot in various locations since filming started in late July.
On Saturday, the panoramic downtown view complete with museums, cozy restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops, was transformed with props, actors and cameras.
But when a Christmas movie is filmed in August, the true magic happens after dark, under the cover of night.
“Come nightfall, the city turns into a winter wonderland with twinkly lights, artificial snow and costumes,” said Alongi.
Evening hours also make it more comfortable for actors to perform in their winter wardrobe. During the daytime, it’s incredibly uncomfortable for actors and extras to wear winter coats and sweaters for an extensive period of time, especially in August. Still, it’s certainly necessary when trying to balance the need to complete a film for the upcoming holiday season with location shooting and limited resources.
Lots of scenes have to be filmed at night, said Alongi.
“Christmas on Display,” the director says, encompasses everything viewers look for in a good Christmas movie, including a strong sense of community, romance and relatable characters.
“This movie is about someone who left their roots behind and is caught up in one’s lifestyle,” said Alongi. “It takes a little something to bring them back home and remind them of all their good memories here.”
The nationwide popularity of Christmas movies seems to have picked up steam in recent years.
“It’s amazing how many people love Christmas movies,” said Alongi.
“Christmas on Display” is the second Christmas movie Sandra Alongi and her husband, Isaac Alongi, have filmed this summer. Their earlier feature, “Chocolate Covered Christmas,” was filmed at a chocolate shop on the Country Club Plaza called Annedore’s Fine Chocolates.
Both films have the potential of being aired on the Hallmark channel later this year.
In 2014, Sandra and Isaac began doing their own productions. Their first film together was titled, “Trust Fund,” which Sandra wrote, produced and directed. “Christmas on Display” is the eighth film they have completed together.
Sandra and Isaac have worked in the movie industry with a variety of producers and directors. Among the movies they have done together include: “How to Train Your Puppy/ Husband,” which began airing on the Hallmark channel on May 16, and “Fixer Upper,” which is coming out on Hallmark Now, an on-demand video streaming service.
One thing can be said for certain: people could use a heartfelt movie in the middle of this global health crisis.
But it’s not business as usual on the set.
Sandra Alonogi said she is taking all the necessary precautions to keep the actors and crew safe while filming during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are definitely being very careful,” said Sandra. “We order food that is individually packaged, rather than opting for buffet style. We wear face masks, use hand sanitizer and social distance as much as possible,” she added.
Anyone interested in potentially being an “extra” in the filming at Weston can register at www.mapelle.com/extras.
How do local officials feel about a film being based in Weston?
Weston Mayor Steven George told The Landmark he believes the town’s abundance of small-town charm is responsible for attracting filmmakers to Weston.
“This isn’t the first movie that has been filmed here in Weston,” said George. “I’m hoping it will help with boosting Weston’s name on the map, but I’m not certain that there is a measurable impact at this time.”