Magic in the making: New film features Leavenworth as Christmastown
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Watch the trailer
Check out a preview of "All I Want is Christmas" on gowedia.com.
If you go
What: “All I Want is Christmas” and brunch
When: 1 p.m., 7 p.m. screenings, brunch available 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort’s Chapel Theater, Leavenworth
Cost: Movie $10 adults, $5 kids 5-12, kids 4 and under free; Brunch $19.50 adults, $9 kids 5-12, kids 4 and under free; proceeds benefit Icicle Creek Youth Symphony
Information: icicle.org, 548-6344 ext. 309
Ira Finkelstein: Elijah Nelson (“Train Master”)
Ira’s dad Max Finkelstein: David DeLuise (“Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Stargate”)
Sam Finkelstein (Ira’s grandfather): Elliot Gould (“Contagion and Oceans 13”)
Libby Wilson: Cynthia Geary (“Northern Exposure”)
WENATCHEE — A few days before shooting, Sue Corcoran’s “Christmastown” set was all mud. Leavenworth was soggy. The Enchantments were bare.
The Seattle film director had two weeks in early March to shoot scenes for “All I Want is Christmas.” The story is about Ira Finklestein, an 11-year-old Jewish boy who pulls a switch on his parents and sneaks off to Christmastown, a winter wonderland where he finds more adventure than he bargained for.
“Everyone we talked to — even George, the guy who runs the sleigh rides — said, ‘You’re not going to have any snow,’ ” Corcoran said. “I said, ‘George, this movie is blessed, and we’re going to have tons of snow. You’ll see.’ ”
She planned to make do with cotton batting, tight camera angles and machine-made snow from Mission Ridge. But then, a day after the crews arrived, it started snowing — really dumping — and didn’t stop.
“The movie was saved,” she said. “Everyone was excited. It was like magic.”
Corcoran had envisioned a Frank Capra-style classic — polished, traditional and warm as hot cocoa. It was a total departure from her past work, like “Gory Gory Hallelujah,” about a gang of Elvis impersonators in a town of nefarious Christians, or “Circus of Infinity,” which encapsulates a woman’s life in 15 minutes. For this project, Corcoran would reinvent herself.
“Whether it’s a midnight movie or a horror movie or something avant-garde, all of those things go together in a weird way for me,” Corcoran said. “As a director, you can change your style, have splashy camera moves or just shoot traditional, but the heart of making a film is in telling a story.”
When writers first pitched the story idea, Corcoran identified with Ira’s wish to celebrate another tradition. She’s a Chicago native who grew up in a mixed neighborhood with Jewish, African, Irish and Italian traditions.
“When I grew up, I realized that that was unique that I knew about different holidays,” she said. “That worked for me, as far as the appeal of the story.”
Shooting the film was the easy part, she said. “All I Want is Christmas” was planned as a low-budget independent film, but she still needed nearly $1 million for cast, crew, lodging, filming and editing. She wrote a business plan and “turned over every rock” organizing fundraising events and cold-calling potential investors.
Corcoran also needed a “Christmastown,” and the original plan to fly a crew to Vermont was expensive. Corcoran had never heard of Leavenworth during her 15 years in the Northwest. She came across the town on her way to a family camping trip in Eastern Washington.
“As we drove past, I said ‘Wait a minute, that’s it!’ ” she said.
Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Smith said the film crew was easy to accommodate. Leavenworth had everything they asked for — sleigh rides, crazy Christmas hats, gingerbread houses.
“March is a really quiet time for us, but I think we would have tried to accommodate them anytime because to be recognized as Christmastown, USA,” Smith said. The Chamber typically gets about four requests a year from people scouting for film locations, whether in town or the wilderness. “It pays off to be in a recognizable piece, plus we had the crew and cast staying in rooms, eating out and shopping.”
Leavenworth agreed to keep all of its lights and decorations up for the shoot. The city also shut down roads to block noise and visual clutter from parked cars along the street. Business owners agreed to close their shops to make room for film crews and equipment.
The only thing Leavenworth didn’t have in March was a Christmas parade. Word spread fast, though, and soon high school bands and other groups signed up. A crowd lined up along Front Street.
“I think 500 people showed up for a marching parade in the cold,” Corcoran said. “We didn’t have any money. People just showed up. The Hat Shop let us go in there and take garbage bags full of hats and give them out to everyone in the parade. It was amazing.”
The film went on to win several awards this year, including “Best Comedy Feature” at the International Family Film Festival and a Best of Fest “Feature Audience Award” at the Seattle International Film Festival.
Corcoran also won contracts with Comcast, Cox Communications, iTunes, Amazon and Time Warner to release the film as a video-on-demand with online streaming. Next year, she’s planning a massive DVD launch in major box stores, including Walmart, Target and Sam’s Club.
“It was exactly what I wanted it to be, and even better. I don’t say that about all my movies,” Corcoran said. “I felt like it was exactly what it should be. It had it’s own little perfectness to it.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139
MORE LIKE THIS
Saturday, May 18
The Flying Karamazov Brothers
Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Wenatchee Women's Show
Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee, 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Local Author H.S. Clark is Signing His New Thriller at Hastings in Wenatchee
Hastings Entertainment, 315 9th St., Wenatchee, WA, 1 p.m.
Monday, May 20
Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - Toastmasters Meeting
First United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.