Sunday, June 23, 2024

The house, a traditional 1940s white stucco ranch, felt just right to Nina Weinman. It was in central Los Angeles, where she and her husband wanted to live, and it was in their price range. It had various amenities including a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, central heat, and air-conditioning — all things lacking in the couple’s rental apartment. An especially welcome upgrade: the extra bathroom. “Our apartment only had one bathroom. That was not a lot of fun when we were potty-training our two children,” said Ms. Weinman, a prolific contributor of movie scripts to the Hallmark Channel — 30 produced so far — many with holiday themes. Her latest, “Catch Me if You Claus,” premieres on Thanksgiving evening.

The house was in disrepair, but it had a solid foundation and a roof of recent vintage, making it catnip to flippers. They were out in force, making all-cash offers. Ms. Weinman and her husband, Will Swift, a talent manager, had several contingencies and needed a loan. Fortunately, currency comes in many forms. Ms. Weinman, who is exceedingly well versed in happy endings and how to achieve them in 84 minutes (excluding commercials), put her writing chops to work in a letter to the older woman who owned the house.

“She’d bought it in the 1950s, and it was really hard for her to sell. She didn’t want to leave,” Ms. Weinman said. “I wrote her: ‘You’ve loved your kids in the house and raised your kids in the house and that’s what we want to do,’ and I enclosed a picture of our family.” Ultimately, she and Mr. Swift prevailed, closing on the property in 2016.

Nina Weinman
Occupation: Screenwriter
Casting call: “We have a group of about eight fmailies. We met when our children were in preschool, and we live near one another and do a lot of things together. And I think I have named the characters in my movies after every single kid.”

“Maybe my letter was a little bit better constructed than the average one, and maybe what I do for a living gave me a little bit of an advantage,” Ms. Weinman conceded. “But honestly, it was from my heart, and the owner felt that.”

Ms. Weinman, who declined to give her age, grew up in Saratoga, Calif., and moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, hoping to make it as an actor. “But I could not get arrested,” she said.

“I wrote a play so I could have something to act in, and everyone who saw it told me, ‘Your writing is so good.’” Disconcertingly, as Ms. Weinman recalls, there was general silence about her performance. It seemed a good time to ponder a different career path. Thanks to her day job as an assistant in the television movie department of the Lifetime network, where she started in 2000, Ms. Weinman got a grounding in the business and made useful contacts.

“Some people who were assistants at the time are now running networks,” she said.

After seven years, she had had it with working 9 to 5 and then coming home at night and trying to write.

“My husband was like, ‘Take some time off and really give it a shot,’” said Ms. Weinman, who sold her first script, “Backyard Wedding,” to Hallmark in the spring of 2009.

“I had heard they needed a wedding movie,” she said, “and I sat down and wrote it in a few weeks.”

Since then, the assignments have come in a steady stream. “In general, they will come to me for rom-coms,” said Ms. Weinman, who in addition to working on her own projects is sometimes called in to polish other scripts.

“I’m definitely a rom-com girl. Those are the things I like to watch.”

The house, now fully renovated, reflects her success. A wall came down to create an expansive eat-in kitchen. Ms. Weinman had always wanted a large kitchen island, complete with a wine refrigerator. She got it, along with French doors that lead from the dining area to the backyard and send light flooding through the house.

To say that Ms. Weinman is fond of gray is like saying that Hallmark is partial to snow and sentimentality. The kitchen counters and the caulking around the backsplash are gray; so are the stools around the island and the chairs around the dining tables. The living room walls, the stones around the fireplace, the sectional — gray, gray, gray.

“My husband is like, ‘Really? More gray?’” Ms. Weinman said.

“To me, it feels clean and sharp, but I do sometimes think, ‘Yeah, we could use more color.’”

She pointed triumphantly to the front door: It’s bright red.

White barn-style doors are a recurring theme. They separate the kitchen from the laundry room. They front Ms. Weinman’s closet and her duaghter’s closet.

By checkbook necessity, the renovation was done in three stages. “Things were in disrepair,” Ms. Weinman recalled. “I had anxiety looking at the linoleum. But we were like, ‘We’ll get there.’ Every time I sold a script, we were able to do something else.”

It’s become a running joke. “My husband and I say we should put a plaque on the wall that reads, ‘This room was brought to you by ‘A Mrs. Miracle Christmas,’” she said, referring to a Hallmark movie that first ran in 2021. “And this room was brought to you by ‘Destination Wedding’” (2017). “And the yard is courtesy of ‘Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe,” she added of the 2018 Hallmark movie that funded the outdoor kitchen.

There will be a guesthouse out back when Ms. Weinman makes a few more sales. (According to a spokesperson for the Writers Guild of America, $47,808 is the minimum fee for a 90-minute story and teleplay designated as “other than network,” a term that applies to Hallmark.)

“Write about what you know” is a durable piece of advice. Ms. Weinman knows its value. “Several years ago, I did a script for Hallmark called ‘Flip That Romance,’ about house flippers,” she said.

“And at the time, I was in the midst of a renovation. I saw all the things that could go wrong, and I threw them into the movie.”

Hallmark movie sets have been a source of both inspiration and aspiration. When Ms. Weinman went to watch the production of one of her teleplays, she made a mental note of the subway tiles and the farmhouse sink in a kitchen scene. They’re now part of her own kitchen.

If she could only get the set designers to come and decorate her house for Christmas. In the meantime, she has made a start on holiday cheer.

The bar cart in the living room displays bottles of Hallmark-branded wine, including Joy, a sauvignon blanc, and Jingle, a cabernet sauvignon, gifts the channel sent to Ms. Weinman several years ago. “I haven’t drunk them,” she said. “But don’t tell Hallmark.”

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