The main idea behind these films is quintessentially Christmas. It’s about family getting together, enjoying company, eating a big meal, and sharing gifts. It’s a scene we recognize in our own lives as well as that of cinema, making it particularly nostalgic and full of holiday spirit.
Assembling just the right family is one of our most important tasks. They should look and behave like a genuine family who is having their annual Christmas Eve dinner.
Naturally, we need to fill the family with a variety of characters. For the general market version, we’re planning to create an African American family of eight principals and three extras. Eleven people in total will make for a believable and cozy gathering. Oh, and the family dog, of course.
Grandpa is the main event. He’s the family patriarch, and he loves his grandkids. They’ve been coming to his house for Christmas ever since they were infants. He has a warm and humble smile. He’s still old fashioned, someone you really respect; but he’s not afraid to surprise you with a joke at just the right moment.
The daughter and her husband are also there. They’re not receiving gifts, but we’ll see them at the table and more prominently in the longer version. They are, of course, trying to help out with all of the preparations so Grandpa isn’t carrying the full responsibility.
The golfer grandson might be the youngest in his generation. He might have a girlfriend or wife with him as well. He’s the most outgoing of them all. Social, friendly, and serious about his game.
The granddaughter is a mother of two children and married to a hardworking husband. She could be the joker in the family. Really cheeky in her comments and how she teases everyone. But she does it out of love.
The final two characters could be another grandson and granddaughter, they’re just not featured in the 30 second film. We’d integrate them in the cinema version by extending the before-dinner moment. More on that later.
Grandpa’s home is a modest, older house in a typical suburban neighborhood. Outside, the exterior has been well tended to throughout the years. A fresh blanket of snow covers the ground and clings lightly to the tree branches and mailbox. Christmas lights and decorations adorn the home — not in an all-out Christmas Vacation sort of way, but with a lot of charm and personal touch. You can really tell that Grandpa loves decorating every year.
Inside, the vibe is the same. Homey, imperfect, yet made of love. Grandpa has lived in the home for many years. Some things are new, some things are old. But everything reflects who he is. It’s the cozy home of a real person, not a movie set. You believe it’s real.
Hispanic Market Version
For the hispanic version, we’ll have a Mexican-American cast with its own mix of characters. We’ll look for the best possible actors and assemble a family that has its own unique chemistry. That could mean Grandpa is more of a jokester, for example.
I also think we can favor actors who are more physically expressive. They use their bodies to communicate, and they’re not afraid to be loud when they’re all together. Emotions just seem ‘bigger’ and more readily expressed.
Other than casting, we’ll make small changes, which add up in a big way. The names on the stockings will be different, some of the decorations might be brighter, and so on. So rather than re-dressing the entire location, we strategically change a variety of details.
For example, the food will be changed to be culturally relevant. As such I have asked production to consult with the team from WONDERFUL’s office in Mexico for a bit of guidance on the food and any cultural relevant additions we should keep in mind since most of our target in Illinois are Hispanics of Mexican origin specifically (rather than from other parts which celebrate differently). Certain dishes are common, such as turkey, which is also served, but there are other (not just tamales) that showcase a culture specific meal, such as a soup called Posole, which is a universally shared dish for them.
These details, along with a subtle yet different delivery from the actors in some scenes, directed to be more in tune with their culture’s family attitudes will ring true, as well as taking into account that they celebrate Christmas Eve (rather than Christmas Day) and the meal is usually had very late. The point is to add touches that make our family authentic without delving into clichés or pushing too hard to make them “different” which might make sense for non Mexican Americans, but to those that are Mexican American might feel overly done and bordering on the stereotypical.