Every once in a while a delightful made-for-television movie captures our imagination and offers a fun “movie night” treat. One such film is the upcoming film THE CABIN, written by Gary Goldstein, which makes its debut on the Hallmark Movie Channel on Saturday, July 30th. Offering an inside perspective, Gary Goldstein shared what it was like to bring this magical family film to life.
Why don’t you tell the story of how you came to write THE CABIN?
GARY: The way that it started was I had written a couple films for Hallmark [Channel] already and they came to me with an outline that was written by another writer and they liked the seed of the idea for it, particularly as they already had plans to do three movies back-to-back in Ireland. The basic concept was this family-vacation comedy which introduced two estranged families in such a way as to get to know each other by having them accidentally forced to share vacation quarters, or a cabin if you will — and [Hallmark] thought that Ireland would be a good place for this film. So what I did is I took the basic one-liner and expanded it into this new story about these two families that don’t know each other but that meet and end up being forced to share this cabin and of course what happens is the single parents will slowly fall for each other. I also decided that the kids would have their own stories and relationships and that kind of thing. But what I was looking for was to sort of put a bit of a higher concept on it, so I thought it might be interesting that, while it would be shot in Ireland, to actually set it in Scotland. Because every year in Scotland they do the Highland Games for people of Scottish descent where they participate in these very ancient games, some of which may or may not be popular today. So I set it at a Scottish resort in the midst of fictional Highland-type games. So I came up with the Meeting of the Macs, which is for everybody whose last name begins with M-A-C and it turns out that both the families in the film have the same name: MacDougal. So that is how they end up getting put in the same cabin; it was a simple reservation booking error. Then it goes from there. I also chose Scotland because Ireland can pass as Scotland. It was kind of an easy fix as we could use actors who could put on Scottish accents, while the two leads are American and the rest of the main cast could also be American. Then we just went on from there.
Why did you feel you wanted to move it from Ireland to Scotland?
GARY: I thought I could use the back-drop of my version of the Highland Games ‘cause it is something very unique to Scotland and I wanted a bigger-engine going on than just the concept of the shared cabin and the warring family thing. I needed something to bring these families together so that they can actually cooperate and become close as a result of their cooperation. By using these games, all the participants and all the families compete against each other and then they are broken down into teams that will then compete against the other teams. So this way it gave me the opportunity to take both the families that were kind of at odds with each other, they are then put together on the same team to battle the other families in the equivalent of the Highland Games. So it gave me both the opportunity to show cooperation between the families, show the training between them, and the personality conflicts and to show their personalities through the games part of it. Then also because of all the sight-seeing in Scotland, they have locations outside of Dublin — there were a lot of locations that make for what would be good Scottish sight-seeing, like castles and things like that. So it just worked out. I thought it would be more interesting.
Did you have any particular actors in mind when you wrote the script, or did you just have a generic type that you were looking for?
GARY: I wouldn’t say I had any particular actor in mind. I felt that the Lily character was a good solid role for a good comedic actress. I love the fact that they brought in Lea Thompson, not only because she has acted in many things, but she also has the CAROLINE IN THE CITY experience. I feel that there are a lot of comedy actors who have really strong experience and who are good on episodic TV. They have a lot of good short-hand and I just felt that somebody like [Lea] was a really good choice. In particular, because of her strong comedy background. Because you want to make these people likeable and engaging, yet they are asked to do some things that are a little broad and I think a good comedic actor would pull it off for this and still make a likeable mother. So she turned out to be really good. I didn’t really have anybody in mind for the MacDougal father. I had kind of a Gerard Butler-type in mind. The American version of Gerard Butler. Sort of tougher, but still attractive and accessible and an actor who could also play a good father. A strong, yet gung-ho father. I felt that was an aspect of the character that was really, really important. I didn’t know Steven Brand before this movie and once I saw him, I thought he was perfect because he actually is originally from Scotland. He worked in the U.K. and worked in the States and he was able to put on a really good American accent, and also having him come fictionally from Boston – the whole Irish thing from Boston – so it seemed like a good combination and all for him. He has that Gerard Butler/Colin Farrell kind of strong, tough, kind of teddy bear-ish kind of thing going on. He did a really, really good job. I was very impressed with him. And [Lea and Steven] had great chemistry between the two of them.
Were you looking for what I call ‘emotional resonance’ with your characters for the audience?
GARY: You know, I was watching the final cut the other day and I was really pleased with how it turned out. My approach was that everybody learns a lesson. It is a family film and that when you have 4 kids, it’s like you want them to have their own little story with a beginning, middle and an end – and lessons learned. Not to overwhelm the story, but to make sure that there are some life lessons learned among all the kids – and I thought they accomplished it very well. I was happy to see that you were able to kind of pull out what all the little lessons were without overwhelming the entire film – and they all kind of came together. It is that kind of emotional resonance that I like. I also just love the idea of ‘you never know what’s going to happen in your life’ – especially where romance is concerned. I love the idea that two people who go on a vacation for reasons that are not really connected to finding love and then this happens. And because you never know what is going to happen in life, I think that’s exciting and fun. So I’m glad there was that ability for these characters to have a break from their circumstances; and for the first time they would find some love outside of their ex-marriages. Because their lives are just so taken up with work and family, and just keeping it all afloat and really trying to be the good parent. There’s the part where Lily says to Connor that you have your vacation and you’re trying to make it better than your ex’s vacation with the kids, just so you can be considered the better parent or the cooler parent by your kid. They spend so much time trying to just juggle with their place as a single parent, and then when they find each other, they find they both are on the same page with that. The flip-side of the same coin in terms of single parenting. So I kind of like that. I think it is a nice message that came out in terms of what goes on with single parenting and especially for people trying to be good parents and have flaws. Such as Lily is much more consumed by what she looks like, than her sort of tomboy-ish daughter is, and they have to come to terms with that. And Connor is kind of always pushing his book-ish son to be athletic and all that, and yet the son is fearful of sports – fearful of failure. He is fearful of not being as good as his father and then he is able to get past some of that, and the father finally realized through Lily’s motivations how to be closer to his son and honor the son for who he really is and in the process make the son more athletic. I think there is a lot of fun emotional resonance that I’m really glad has come out ultimately in the film.
Was there a particular scene or moment that you were particularly proud of once you saw the final product?
GARY: I was actually really happy the way they shot and edited all the athletic stuff, because it was complicated to write because there are so many different, unique athletic events that took a lot of explaining in the script, and they were really able to show through the use of montage, flip-screen and editing techniques to really move it forward really fast to give you an idea of what these games are and give you a great sense of athleticism, fun and tension. Just how they were able to do that in essentially an 88-minute movie. It was a lot of athletic events and competition events to include, plus the rehearsals and practice sessions for the games. So there’s a lot of that to put in there. They did a great job really making it compact and fun and exciting and really clear – getting the point across. So I was happy with that. I also loved the scenes with the couple who run the cabins. I think they did a great job and those actors were really spot on in terms of what they were supposed to do. I enjoyed them. And I loved the scene with Connor and Lily on the patio when they kiss and how she realizes that is not something that they can do because of their kids. I think it really sets the tone for the rest of the movie and they handled it really, really well. It was very believable in terms of how people may be attracted to each other. When she says, ‘The hard part of being an adult is you can’t always act on the things you want to do.’ In her hands, it was very believable and his reaction I think is very believable to in that you can have both – you can be a good parent and also be good to yourself. I think he has become more confident in his single-parenting abilities, than she has and this was a turning point for her. So I think they really handled it really well. I liked that scene. I think they did a really great job. I was very happy with it. When you write a movie, things like budget and such really have an impact, and you are so happy when you see something you wrote ultimately really satisfies what you set out to do and what the producers and network set out to do, which in this case was to make a real fun family movie set in a foreign country.
What inspired you to write in a role for Lucky the Frog, so that he became kind of a character in the film?
GARY: Actually, I started off with a snake. I needed something ultimately to up-end the competing father – the bullying father on the other team. Just something to show that as tough and macho as this guy is, not the MacDougal team, but the other team’s father – I wanted something that, in the end, would be something that frightens this kind of tough guy. So I thought it would be funny if the kids had a pet snake, but a snake was too complicated to do so we turned it into a frog. And, of course, had to make sure that these animals were native to Scotland and all those things. Remember, you just can’t travel with animals. You have to assume they are actually there. There are some snakes that are in Scotland and there are frogs in Scotland, so both worked. Ultimately, we went with the frog. It was just kind of a funny scene to put in there to kind of peel away the facade from that macho father.
It added quite a bit of comedy at the end which was quite fun.
GARY: It was fun.
You must have had a great time being on set watching all this.
GARY: I was not on set. I was here, but I wrote [that scene] to be funny and they stuck very close to the script, and I think they did a fantastic job. They had top comedic actors who could pull that off. So I’m glad to see that – particularly when you write scenes that are physical like that, with a lot of physical stuff. The physicality of the games – I knew a lot about these events and learned more by investigating and researching them – so it was really nice to see that the director and the cast were able to really make [the games] come to life in a believable way. Because they are very difficult. Like the log toss is very difficult to do and they really make it look believable and realistic and fun on top of it. It was really great to see that.
I was curious because it caught my attention, there was the one line where Lily confesses she is scared of their kiss and then Connor turns to her and says, ‘I’m a guy, not a vampire.’ Where did you get that line?
GARY: I don’t know. It just hit me. I think so often what stops people from pursuing romance is the fear that it may actually work. She says, ‘I’m just afraid that I’ll mess up again’ and he says, ‘I’m just afraid that I’ll never get the chance again.’ I think that people are afraid of something actually working and actually having to step in and rearrange their lives all over again and make these tough choices. I don’t know. I just thought it was romantic. It was almost like he was mocking her fear by saying ‘there really is nothing to be afraid of. I’m a man. I’m not a monster.’ You know. ‘Just deal with me like a man, not like somebody who is going to hurt you or suck the life out of you, in the case of a vampire.’
Well, the vampire-craze is quite big right now, so that line sort of just hit me and I thought, ‘oh my gosh!’ It’s a small nod to the trend right now. So it was quite funny.
GARY: I’m glad!
So with a rich array of familial-bonding, life-lessons, a Frog named Lucky, and two parents unknowingly tripping across love in one of the most unexpected places; be sure to tune in for the premiere of the romantic comedy THE CABIN starring Lea Thompson and Steven Brand on Saturday, July 30th at 9PM on the Hallmark Movie Channel. Find out why love is about so much more than dreams of vampires and stolen kisses under a moonlit sky. True love is deeper than that and when combined with a loving family, it is more precious than gold.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).