I now pronounce you: yourself and yourself. You may now kiss yourself. Wait, what??
There are TV movies with just about every storyline, but 10 years ago today, a film about a woman who marries herself was released on Lifetime, I Me Wed, and it was wonderful.
I Me Wed, starring the fiercely talented Erica Durance (Smallville for the win!) and Paul Popowich, is important because unlike most rom-coms, the lead female, Isabelle (Erica Durance), isn’t looking romance with a significant other, only with herself. She’s just looking for others to accept the fact that she loves herself and that that’s enough. She wants others to realize that loving yourself is something worth celebrating, which is why she decides to marry herself. As one does.
All of those reasons are why this film is something to be celebrated, especially today (July 29), its 10th anniversary! It’s time to celebrate Isabelle for showing the world via a rom-com that it’s good to be independent and self-sufficient. It’s good to not just drop her job or goals to find a man (as most of the women of TV rom-coms do, but that’s for another blog post). If love happens, great, if not, then it doesn’t.
Of course, the movie does have an HEA (happily ever after) for all aspects of Isabelle’s life: she marries herself, makes up with her best friend, and even happens to find love with a significant other, Colin (Paul Popowich) along the way. Not because she forced it, but because she let it happen.
To celebrate the movie’s momentous occasion, Millennial Hallmarker caught up with its gifted, brilliant and kind screenwriter Julie Sherman Wolfe (via email) about her inspiration for I Me Wed, her favorite scene, and her thoughts on the cast. Plus, she gives us all the lowdown on her upcoming Hallmark films.
Keep reading to get all the deets!
Millennial Hallmarker: You started out in television as a Writers Assistant in the mid-90s, and then moved on to be a staff writer on multiple series, before writing your first film, I Me Wed, in 2007 – how did that progression come about? How did you get your first start and how did your first film-writing gig come about?
Julie Sherman Wolfe: I was an advertising copywriter after college – I was always a writer, but it really never occurred to me to write for TV and Film – we didn’t have internet then (I know, GASP!) so we weren’t as savvy about the Industry as people are now. So, I’m writing ads, and doing stand-up comedy on the side… and in one week I got laid off (this was during the 90’s recession) and DUMPED (I know, right?) I did stand-up that Friday night and a comedian who also wrote for Roseanne asked me why, as a “funny chick writer” I wasn’t in L.A. writing sitcoms. And that was the big “ah-ha” moment. Six months later I moved here, got a waitressing job, and faxed (GASP #2) my resume around to shows to be a writer’s assistant. I got extremely lucky to get two interviews out of about 100 shows and I only got those because of my copy-editing background – had nothing to do with me being a good writer, they don’t care about that! The first interview was for Frasier (they wanted someone who knew shorthand. That was definitely not me. But how very “Mad Men” of them right?) This was before they even used computers for screenwriting – ALL notes were taken by hand! (GASP #3) Anyway the 2nd interview was for a show called “Dweebs” and after a couple more shows (including Raymond) I made a few connections, wrote a few spec scripts, ended up with an agent and, eventually, my first “official” writing job on “Oh Baby” on Lifetime. I’m making it sound way easier than it really was. Everyone has a different story of how they broke in. I always say if I hadn’t been dumped and fired, I wouldn’t have my career today!
MH: Were you a fan of TV movies before writing this film? Were you a fan of Lifetime? What’s your favorite TV movie (besides your own)?
JSW: I was more a connoisseur of romantic comedies in general – especially when they were so huge in the late-80’s and 90’s. Once those stopped doing well in theaters, I’d watch Lifetime and Hallmark to get my “fix.” I’ve written almost every genre, but rom-coms are closest to my heart. “I Me Wed” was my first TV movie and really set the table for where I am now – happily writing romcoms for adults, and also family-friendly pilots and movies for tweens (my other favorite group to write for.)
MH: I Me Wed premiered 10 years ago, what has this movie meant to you – both professionally and personally?
JSW: “I Me Wed” was written around 12 years ago – but the idea came long before I met my now-husband (we met in 2000). A lot of friends were in serious relationships and I just hadn’t found the One. I was getting a little tired of people telling me to (basically) settle. I joked that I’d rather just marry myself, register for gifts, and have a party. That’s where the idea for the movie started. Ultimately it was about loving yourself enough to be patient, and be okay with being on your own timeline, not one other people place upon you. Apparently marrying oneself is coming back around online as a “thing” – I love seeing posts about someone marrying themselves, then seeing someone mention “I Me Wed” in the comments. What cracks me up is the lists the movie is on – stuff like, “Most Ridiculous Lifetime Movies” or “Movies We Love to Hatewatch.” I print those out and put them on my office wall.
MH: Did you come up with this story and write it, or were you given the plot and asked to write the script? Which of those is usually the case with the movies you’ve written?
JSW: (see above for first part) I’d say half are my own ideas and half are book adaptations. Although when it comes to Hallmark, so much has to change from the books to screen that I find them even more challenging than original ideas.
MH: What’s your favorite quote from the movie? Favorite scene?
JSW: That’s hard! Especially because I have a terrible memory. I know my favorite scene was the date with the “Tag Guy…” Favorite line… hmm…I don’t think I can pick one but what cracks me up is that this is the first script of MANY where I extol the virtues of steak fries and ranch dressing. Maybe that’ll be a fun game in every movie I write from now on. Find the Ranch Dressing Reference.
MH: This film is all about an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to be happy. What goes into writing a character and script like this?
JSW: I touched on it a little above but for romcoms I have to admit, a lot just comes from my own dating history. Being a woman in a sitcom writer’s room, you have to know who you are and have a thick skin, or you get eaten alive. Same with dating. The more confident I was in myself, the less crap I put up with from men I dated. I know it’s a total cliché and I used to HATE it when friends said this, but it really was true that when I stopped obsessing over meeting “The One” and lived MY life on MY terms, I met my husband.
MH: What do you hope viewers, who are now watching this film for the first time, take away from this movie?
JSW: While the movie is about love, honoring and cherishing yourself, it’s also about finding happiness by following your heart and your gut. In the end, only you know what’s right for you. That’s the hardest part (especially now with social media) – being real and not feeling pressured to be an idealized version of yourself.
MH: What was the hardest part about writing this script?
JSW: I wrote this on spec (meaning no one paid me to write it – Lifetime bought it after I wrote it) – so I could take my time, and really enjoy the process. The hardest part is always, always, the blank page, on the first day, act one, scene one.
MH: Writers aren’t usually involved in casting, so how did you like the casting in this movie of Erica Durance and Paul Popowich? Had you ever seen Erica in Smallville?
JSW: I was a huge “Smallville” fan so I was thrilled when she was cast. I didn’t know Paul [Popowich] at the time, but thought he was great in the role – we ended up hanging out when he was in L.A. and are still in touch over FB.
MH: Were you able to visit the movie set? If so, which of the movies’ stars did you get to meet and what was it like to see them bring your characters to life?
JSW: I did visit the set for a few days – a lot of writers don’t bother going, but for me, it’s the best part. Nothing more fun than watching your words come to life (especially when it’s exactly how you pictured it in your head!) I try to go to set as much as I can but with an 8-year-old it’s not always possible. Unless he’s really driving my crazy, in which case I suddenly “have to” fly to Vancouver. 😉
I had dinner with the “I Me Wed” cast a few times. On every set, there’s a lot of downtime when you just hang out and chat – on these films the actors have always been great people – no attitude or diva behavior at all!
MH: How do you come up with your storylines? Do you ever get stuck? If so, how do you deal with writer’s block?
JSW: For Hallmark, usually I start with the time of year, or holiday, that there’s a need for. “Finding Santa” (one of the Christmas ones I wrote this year) came about when Hallmark asked for a Christmas movie with a road trip aspect. And it just took off from there. As far as writer’s block… if you’re a professional writer, you really can’t have that! You have to get your butt in the chair and get those pages done, and what I’ve realized over 20 years is that, once you start writing, something will come. It might not be a spectacularly witty piece of dialogue, but at least there’s something to work from. Of course, like any job, there are some days you just need a break – and you have to take those or you burn out.
MH: You have two Hallmark films premiering soon. What can you tell me about Summer in the Vineyard’s storyline? What can fans expect? What’s it like writing a sequel when you didn’t write the first one?
JSW: Actually it was really nice to have the Autumn movie to watch before I started Summer – very rarely can you see the chemistry and “voice” of the leads before writing! I loved being able to picture Brendan [Penny] and Rachael [Leigh Cook] while I was writing. (Marcus Rosner too – he was amazing as the “wrong guy” in “Birthday Wish,” btw!)
MH: What can you tell fans about Marry Me at Christmas – the storyline, cast, changes from the book?
JSW: I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say but… I will tell you I saw an early cut of the movie and the chemistry between Rachel Skarsten and Trevor Donovan is incredible. And Crystal Holt was perfect as Rachel’s best friend. There’s a lot of humor in the film – I like to bring as much “com” to the romcoms as I can. As with any adaptation, changes are made to the book – but our hope is that while fans realize it can’t be exactly the same, they still enjoy seeing the characters and story they love. My goal personally is for the author to be happy with the movie too!
MH: In 2005, you were set to co-exec produce and write the series Breadwinners for ABC Family, but it ended up not getting picked up. What goes through your mind when you hear that your show isn’t getting picked up? How do you handle with this type of letdown in this industry and move forward?
JSW: Well, it’s always a tough moment when you get the bad news. Unfortunately for me, I was in a writers’ room with all men and couldn’t exactly react the way I wanted to! It’s disappointing because it came from a really personal place and I absolutely LOVED the cast and their performances. But, in this industry, you get maybe a couple of days to pout and then you have to get right back on the horse. I think a lot of the reason I’ve survived this long is my ability to dust myself off and keep on going after a disappointment. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that ultimately something good comes out of the bad, but you have to stay in the game to find out what that “good” is – and staying in, that’s the hard part.
MH: How did you get involved with the Disney Channel and writing episodes for Phil of the Future and Jonas? Do you have a favorite episode that you wrote for either of the two?
JSW: I just got hired after the showrunners read my sample scripts – I loved writing for those two shows and just watched them all with my son. I think they hold up! We had a blast. I still like to watch the Christmas ep I wrote for “POTF.” Clearly my love for writing Christmas stuff goes way back! It was an absolute career “bucket list” thing for me to write a Hallmark Christmas movie – this year I have two and I couldn’t be more excited!
MH: You wrote the fabulous DCOM Avalon High – What was your favorite scene? What did it mean for you to be able to again write such a strong female character?
JSW: Thank you for the compliment! The wonderful original book by Meg Cabot had a different ending – which Disney wanted to change before I even got started. I wish I could take credit for King Arthur turning out to be a girl but that was all Disney. I did try and make Allie a strong personality with a sharp sense of humor – I guess I try and do that with all of the female leads in my scripts. My favorite scenes always seem to be the ones where the leads interact with the supporting characters (Miles, Mr. Moore, etc) – probably because I get to have a little more fun with those scenes.
MH: What’s the biggest difference between writing TV shows and writing movies? Which do you prefer?
JSW: The number one difference is going from writing with a group most of the time on sitcoms, to writing alone. That being said, I’ve always been very happy doing things on my own – I even traveled to Europe three times by myself in my 20’s. On sitcoms, the “room” is the most intense, most challenging place in the world. It’s a place where you laugh harder than you’ve ever laughed in your life, and have a lot of fun, but also work very long hours and don’t really have much time for “real life.”
Once I had my son, I started doing more writing from home (features and TV movies) and quickly realized that I was much happier! It’s still a TON of work (we end up doing three or more drafts for every movie) but I love being able to get my work done by dinner and then be with my family. It’s a blessing and I’m VERY grateful to be in this position. (Also there’s no way I could do 3am rewrites on a sitcom like I did in my twenties. I can barely stay up past ten now!) I have pulled a few all-nighters on the TV movies right before production and it takes me a week to recover. I’m old.
MH: What’s the biggest difference between writing TV movies for Disney Channel, Lifetime, and Hallmark Channel?
JSW: I did a lot of work for Disney and still love writing for that segment when I can. It’s a lot of fun getting to relive my angsty tween years – the funny thing is, the technology might change, and the way kids talk might change, but the issues are always the same.
Hallmark is TV’s “happy place” and I take a lot of pride in being a part of that. It’s not easy writing romance for a rated-G audience but I think it hearkens back to the heyday of romantic comedies (like “Philadelphia Story”) where all the passion came out of subtext. I love knowing that Hallmark is a refuge for people – I know for me, there’s nothing better on a rainy day than a Hallmark movie marathon. You know what you’re going to get – a happy ending, beautiful locations, and hopefully a laugh (or a tear) or two.
Lifetime: Completely different animal. Rated PG/R to Hallmark’s G. But there’s an audience for that kind of story too – and that’s the beauty of having so many choices!
MH: Your adaptation of Jessica Darling’s It List was great! Did you get to visit set and see the happenings? If so, did you get the chance to meet with Debby Ryan who credits this film as her first film exec-producing credit?
JSW: Thanks again! Another amazing novel to get to adapt – Megan McCafferty was wonderful and we spent a lot of time talking before I started writing and after filming. It was a fantastic collaboration. I was on set the entire time, because it was a small production and it was all hands on deck. Debby’s mom was around more than Debby herself (Sandra is fabulous) but I did talk to Debby a bit after the screening. Very very smart, nice girl. She refused to go the way so many other Disney stars go – it’s a testament to her and her family. And now we’re watching “Jessie” with our son, so Debby is at my house every single day.
MH: Also working on the film were Tosca Musk and Jina Panebianco, two-thirds of PassionFlix, the new romance streaming service, which is launching this year. What’re your thoughts on this new venture?
JSW: Two fabulous women – I really enjoyed working with them both. Now they found a hole in the market and filled it. I think it’s going to be huge!
MH: What are you working on now? Are you currently writing any other movies or possibly shows?
JSW: Right now I’m finishing up “Finding Santa” to shoot in September for this Christmas, starting a new movie for one of the Hallmark regulars that I can’t talk about yet (wish I could!)… and just getting started on the outline for another one about a high school reunion. I’m talking to a few people about pitching a series to Hallmark – still fine-tuning the idea though.
MH: What’s your advice for someone that wants to get in the screenwriting business?
JSW: I get one cliché per interview right? Here it is. The harder you work, the luckier you get. I know we hear that all the time, but it’s absolutely true. The other advice is that 99% of people who say they want to be writers never make it happen – not because they’re not talented, but because it’s really hard to get your tush in the chair and actually do it, consistently, for as long as it takes to break in. Be entrepreneurial, write every single day, and you’re already way ahead of the game. I also recommend listening to screenwriting podcasts like John August’s and the WGA. Oh and here’s the biggest piece of advice – PROOFREAD! Don’t send anyone anything to read if it has grammatical and spelling errors. Your/you’re, their/there, etc. It’s a dealbreaker.
MH: At Millennial Hallmarker, we believe that TV movies aren’t a guilty pleasure, simply a pleasure. Do you believe that? What do you have to say to people who don’t understand why you would want to write a TV movie or watch one?
JSW: The world is a scary place, and TV has always been a way to escape. TV movies are in their heyday right now for good reason – we all want to believe that everything is going to be all right – and that’s what Hallmark gives their audience – the certainty of a happy ending.
MH: Is there anything else you’d like to add or tell fans about your I Me Wed, the cast, or yourself?
JSW: I’m just thrilled that people remember (and still watch) the movie after all this time! I usually tweet during my movies and that’s where the anecdotes tend to pop up. (@shermwolfe)
Honestly this has been such a rewarding time in my career and it’s people like you who make it even more fun – sometimes writing can be pretty solitary but the Hallmark fans are like a huge family. Actually, the network is like a family too. We just went to the TCA gala and it felt more like a family reunion than “work” – everyone from the top down is working toward the same goal – to make high-quality family television – and we’re all having the time of our lives. It really is a dream job and I’m loving every minute of it!
Thank you so much for taking me down memory lane and for your support! I truly appreciate it.
MH: Thank YOU, Julie, for such a fabulous interview and for writing such amazing and heartwarming movies (and shows) with independent women.
What’s your favorite part of I Me Wed? Which of Julie’s upcoming movies are you most looking forward to seeing? Share your thoughts below!