Erin Rodman’s story is the epitome of what happens when hard work and passion pays off. Her new movie Advice to Love By premieres on October 16th, and the sequel to last year’s The Christmas House is part of the famed Countdown to Christmas on the Hallmark Channel.
Her story begins in Virginia where she grew up and attended college with the intention of her writing career leading toward journalism. It took one film class though in her senior year that lit her obsession for movies. She didn’t immediately pursue this passion though and instead spent the first year out of college as a working journalist in the Washington D.C. area. It wasn’t what she wanted.
So, Rodman packed up and headed to Los Angeles where she entered grad school at Loyola Marymount and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting.
Rodman’s internships and production assistant jobs led her to a mentorship under a producer. She suddenly found herself as an assistant at Dreamworks making connections with fellow assistants (who would transition into becoming executives) and learning what executives looked for when developing screenplays.
“What I liked about development and working at the studio and with producers was all the writing. I liked doing notes, reading samples, etc.,” Rodman explains, but she also knew that she had to pick a focus or risk shuffling up the executive ladder, not a bad career path if it’s what you want.
“I was doing all the stuff,” she says. “Then you realize you have to pick one, so I picked writing as my sole focus.”
When it came to writing, she focused on romantic comedies knowing that she had a lot of stories to tell about female characters. “Even though I’ve written rom-coms, it’s really about the journey for the character,” she says.
Rodman recognizes that it sounds like she’s trying to make something that’s light and fun entertainment sound more serious but it’s important to her to say something in her writing.
“It can be very minor or just something that’s true for that character, but it has to feel authentic to the female experience,” she says.
The writing process
Rodman credits her writing process from her time working in development.
“I put myself through the same development process an exec would put me through,” Rodman shares. “I don’t let myself take it seriously until there’s a beginning, middle and an end. You can have a nugget of an idea but that doesn’t mean anything until you can put it with the rest of the story.”
She admits that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to fully find the scope of the movie she wants to write. One thing she wholeheartedly believes is the importance of sticking to your ending and creating the journey that gets the character there.
Her outlines are extensive too. They’re extremely detailed, scene by scene, and she won’t start writing until that outline is etched in stone. Sometimes they include every single thing except the dialogue and have been known to stretch to 25 pages. Even then, she hands the story off to her trusted writing friends and asks them to find the problems.
Problems don’t always get fixed though. “Solve them if you can, or at least be aware of them,” she says.
Rodman also finds comfort in the rigid nine-act structure and format that comes with a Hallmark-style film.
She says, “I know from my Hallmark movies roughly how many scenes per act. I think that’s helpful because I’m a writer who likes a structure to fill in so I’m fine with that. It’s like a Mad Libs version of the story and it helps you make your choices and get your rhythm down.”
A working writer
Rodman brings another compelling perspective to her craft.
“It feels like something outside of myself because I feel like I’m part of the process and I hand it off,” she states. “I think it’s important to have some distance from the project — you bring your vision, but Hallmark is going to do what Hallmark is going to do.”
This is all part of the skillset she familiarized herself with while working within the studio system. Writing is simply one part of the skill, but they should also realize there is a collaboration and participation aspect to realize.
“There are 1,000 things you have to roll with and you see writers meltdown when something doesn’t go their way. Writers sometimes struggle to see this as a moneymaking endeavor. This is about audience, it’s not about you,” she shares.
Writers must be able to handle getting notes, passing work off to another writer, or if something changes like producers or execs and whoever loved your project is gone, having it fall through entirely.
For Advice to Love By the idea was already there so Rodman was brought on to a project someone else conceived, which she likes.
“I was not the first one in and I’m not the last out so that’s why I can be objective about it,” Rodman mentions, adding that the producers listened well and allowed her to give a lot of voice in the creative process. “I felt supported, which is difficult to find. It was an efficient process. We put our heads together and put the movie together.”
She thoroughly enjoys this process: “For studios, it’s like the slowest thing in the world and this movie here we thought up two months ago and it’s produced already.”
Advice to Love By written by Erin Rodman premieres on the Hallmark Channel on October 16, 2021.
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