John Kiesewetter reports:
LEBANON – As soon as actress Nicollette Sheridan arrived for her first scene Thursday, the sun broke through rain clouds which had soaked downtown Lebanon all morning.
“It’s the Christmas spirit!” she told director Jack Angelo.
That’s also the name of her Hallmark Channel movie to premiere on Sunday, Dec. 1.
The former “Desperate Housewives” star shot her first outdoor scene for “The Christmas Spirit” here on Mulberry Street, a block away from the Golden Lamb, after set designers had worked all morning in a downpour putting cotton along buildings as fake snow.
Street lamps were decorated with lighted wreaths and red banners with green Christmas trees reading “Holiday Greetings.”
“The city put the wreaths up for us. They’ve been great,” said producer Brad Southwick. Movie staffers also picked all the leaves off trees on the north side of Mulberry to make it look like winter.
Down the street, Halloween items were hidden inside the Jam and Jelly Lady shop by owner Sonya Staffan when she put a Christmas tree in the front window.
“It’s fun to watch them,” said Staffan about the three dozen crew members who descended on downtown Monday. She remembers watching the filming of “Harper Valley PTA” here in 1977 with Barbara Eden, and Melanie Griffith’s “Milk Money” in 1993.
“But I never thought I’d be in one. I was shocked when they called me a few days ago and asked if I’d audition – in my own store — for the role of the Jam Lady,” Staffan said.
She got the part, and was filmed sweeping the sidewalk in front of her business between cloud bursts Thursday.
The homemade jelly store was the type of small town business which drew the Hallmark movie to the picturesque Warren County seat, said executive producer Alex Coscas.
“The Jam and Jelly Lady is a perfect example of the kind of town we wanted, where everyone knows everybody. Lebanon has a very homey feel to the movie world,” Coscas said.
Producers toured Lebanon Labor Day weekend with Kristen Erwin Schlotman, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission.
“This was the first place she brought us to, and it was perfect,” Coscas said.
“The Christmas Spirit” began filming Monday with Sheridan at Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati. Diner scenes were shot Wednesday at the Country Kitchen restaurant near the Interstate 71 interchange with Ohio 123, east of town. Production wraps Oct. 18.
Sheridan plays journalist Charlotte Hart, who returns to her small hometown for the holidays and discovers that a greedy real estate developer (Bart Johnson, “High School Musical”) wants to buy out downtown shop owners and modernize the town.
During her visit, Hart is injured in a car crash which leaves her body in a coma, “but her spirit is very much awake,” according to Hallmark. So as a ghost, she tries to thwart the developer.
The morning rain didn’t detract from the first Lebanon scene. The wet brick sidewalk made it look like the ice-melt had done its job, Southwick said.
After shooting five takes, production assistants rolled up the cotton and shoved it into black trash bags while cameras were moved into the LCNB Bank a few doors away at Mulberry Street and Broadway for the next scene.
Movie magic truly comes to town next week when “snow men” from Wisconsin bring in machines to make Mulberry Street look like winter in October, Southwick said.
“We’ve brought in some people from Wisconsin, because we know they know snow. It will be a mix of artificial snow and shave ice,” Coscas said.
“But on film, it will look like wintertime in Lebanon. It will look beautiful,” Coscas said.