Here's An Unexpected Side Effect Of Shooting A Hallmark Christmas Movie

Hallmark Christmas movies, predictable down to the twinkling lights and smooches in the snow, have been the subject of countless spoofs — each riffing on their formulaic yet oddly-satisfying plots. In December 2017, "SNL" parodied Hallmark with a "Christmas Promo" starring James Franco as "young Santa." In 2021, comedians Rachel Dratch and Anna Gasteyer co-starred in "A Clüsterfünke Christmas," a feature-length caricature that honored all our favorite Hallmark Channel tropes. As noted by Forbes, the channel released 40 Christmas movies in 2021 alone, a significant increase since their "Countdown to Christmas" series first gained widespread popularity in 2010 (via Variety). These days, the Hallmark Channel has become must-watch television for Christmas enthusiasts.

According to Refinery29, the network repurposes the same 12 plots, including undercover royalty, opposites attract, and childhood sweethearts reconnecting, among others. Firefighters and threatening big businesses also make frequent appearances, sending the heroine on a dependable 90-minute character arc. Despite their predictability, some of these cheesy stories just might be worth your time — like 2017's "Christmas Getaway," which is one of Hallmark's most popular movies. But how does the channel film dozens of snow globe-esque scenes each year just in time for Christmas? The truth is far less chilly than you might think.

Hallmark movies are filmed in the summertime

Even though Hallmark's Christmas movies are known for their snow-covered gazebos and fuzzy mittens, most of these picturesque holiday scenes are, believe it or not, shot in the summertime, according to Vox. Given this, actors experience the side effects of wearing winter clothes in July and August. "I've gotten used to being really hot and sweating in my boots," frequent Hallmark star Lacy Chabert told Insider

According to Michelle Vicary, an executive at Crown Media, Hallmark's official parent network, "We have continued every year to make an even deeper, concerted effort to make sure that everything looks Christmas" (via Vox). Producers ensure that "everything looks snowy and beautiful," even during the dog days of summer. That means covering green grass with lots and lots of fake snow and dressing up background actors in puffy coats. As actress Kellie Martin explained, "You wear hats and scarves, and you're sweating all the time."

To make convincing snow, prop masters have been known to use everything from fire-retardant foam to crushed limestone (via Insider). Hallmark visual effects supervisor Luc Benning explained that faux snow for one film could cost up to $50,000 — a not-so-insignificant portion of each production's capped $2 million budget. Though fake blizzards might sometimes get a bit soapy — not a very festive prospect — the only thing viewers see is a picturesque, small town in December.

Hallmark keeps their recurring stars busy

If you've ever vaguely recognized an actor in a Hallmark movie, it's probably because you've seen them before ... likely in another Hallmark movie. As actress Kellie Martin told Vox, Hallmark executives "know their audience, and they are fiercely loyal to their audience, which is why they use all the same actors." Lacy Chabert, who previously starred in the 2004 film "Mean Girls," has been featured in 28 Hallmark movies since 2010 — with two more on the way in 2022 (via IMDb). Shooting happens over the span of 15 days, and during filming hours, cast members "eat, breath, and sleep the movie," Chabert explained to Insider. "It's intense," she said, but "They know what they are doing." 

In past years, Hallmark has faced criticism for its lack of diversity (via Forbes). According to The Hollywood Reporter, of the 24 Christmas movies the channel released in 2019, only four featured Black leads. In the years since, the studio has reportedly been working on improving representation. In 2020, Hallmark released "​​The Christmas House" — its first movie featuring a queer couple.