Interview with Screenwriters Lisa Johnson Mitchell & Sara Lundell Wahl (STONEY SAVES CHRISTMAS)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Lisa: “Stoney Saves Christmas” is a family-friendly narrative set in the magical setting of snowy Minnesota during Christmas, where a family comes together with the help of a talking dog with supernatural powers to save Tamarack Lodge from an evil investor.

Sara: Our film is the story of a relatable family that struggles with conflicts regarding which parent’s job is more important and how to be present with each other yet still pay the bills. The family tries to get away for a Christmas vacation in a winter wonderland, yet work stress still haunts the parents, and the kids wonder if a divorce is imminent. Then the children discover the joy of dogsledding and the special magic of the Tamarack Lodge sled dogs. Years ago, one dog’s grandmother had met Santa’s dog at the North Pole. Santa’s magic has stayed in the canine family line. The magic allows Stoney to communicate with the children, and they learn of the pending sale of the lodge to an evil investor who wants to abandon the dogs, raze the lodge, and build an exclusive luxury resort. The whole family works together to save the lodge, but Stoney is the one who saves the day at the last possible minute with some special magic from Santa.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Lisa: Family/Comedy.

Sara: Family/Comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Lisa: It’s uplifting, wholesome and nice respite from all the crazy that’s going on in the world – and has gone in with the pandemic. It’s a chance for people to rediscover what’s important in life.

Sara: Stoney Saves Christmas is a fresh take on the typical family Christmas film. The mother is the main breadwinner, and the main gift that the children receive is empowerment rather than material things. The children want more than anything to save the lodge because it is the dogs’ home. The film celebrates generosity and selflessness in a way that is direct rather than sentimental.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Lisa: Uplifting and inspiring.

Sara: Enlightening and uplifting.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Lisa: There are several – “Annie Hall,” “Old School,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Sara: “When Harry Met Sally,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “E.T.”

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Lisa: Two years.

Sara: Two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Lisa: Two other screenplays. And I have a book coming out from Finishing Line Press, So as Not to Die Alone. It’s a collection of my previously published short stories.

Sara: I have written one other screenplay and about five short stories.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Lisa: This is a hard one! But I love a song by the Dixie Chicks called “Wide Open Spaces.” I love the melody but the lyrics describe me. I grew up in Texas with big skies – wide open spaces. My dad told me I could do anything I wanted, the world was my oyster. So after college, I decided I wanted to pursue my big dreams, so I moved to New York City to work on Madison Avenue. However, the song also talks about big mistakes – and I have made many. The narrative really resonates with me and tells, somewhat, the story of who I am.

Sara: I love the entire “Free To Be You and Me” album by Marlo Thomas. I was raised in the seventies on this album full of funny poems, stories and songs about gender equality before that was even a phrase. I loved it so much that I sought it out when I had my own two daughters, and they were raised on it as well. I love how the album shows rather than tells. It weaves in stories of sensitive boys and assertive girls and shows them all as normal, expected and joyful, yet it is never didactic. It’s what I aspire to in my own writing. I also love Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” I am sure I have heard it a hundred times in my life. The Nutcracker Ballet is a huge tradition in my family, and I watched it every year with my mother and sister until I moved away, and now my mother comes to my house each December, and we have watched my own two daughters perform in it.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Lisa: I work full-time so working around my schedule was challenging.

Sara: I also work full-time, so finding time to work on the screenplay was a challenge. I am so grateful to Lisa for being the cheerleader when I was weary.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Lisa: I write fiction and I have a bunch of books going on all at once. I also love dancing to 80s music – in my car or at home!

Sara: I love children and am passionate about improving their welfare and education. We are a licensed foster family and have fostered four infants. I also am a former teacher and try to stay informed about the best practices and to advocate for those at our local and state levels.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Lisa: It’s been great – seamless and easy.

Sara: Lisa submitted it for us on the site, so I defer to her comments.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

Lisa: I had a logline short story read/recorded a few years ago with Wildsound so I knew it was a great organization. As for the feedback, I thought it was spot on and really strengthened our script!

Sara: I feel like this is a story that needs to be made, so I want to get in front of as many eyes as possible. The feedback was very targeted and helpful. I felt like the reader understood our story.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Paul Snow was once a North Pole explorer, but after his last trip in 1986 where he lost his furry pal Critter and they barely made out alive, he’s hung up his explorer boots for a slightly tamer life at Tamarack Lodge in Ely, Minnesota. In charge of a team of dogs and renting out the lodge for tourists suits the older and less-mobile Paul better at his age anyway. But finances have gotten a little challenging and it looks like this Christmas season may be Paul and his wife Gloria’s last one at Tamarack Lodge. Sleazy investor Cory is circling the property with an offer in hand like a vulture.


Narrator: Hannah Ehman
Paul: Allan Michael
Gloria: Kyana Teresa


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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