Christmas script from a professor at the University of Montana produced by OWN | Arts & Theater

One day recently, Tobin Addington, a media arts professor and screenwriter at the University of Montana, was visiting his in-laws. Her son, who ran cable channels, shouted to let his dad know his movie was on TV.

Addington’s screenplay, “A Christmas Stray,” had been produced by the Oprah Winfrey Network for its list of 2021 original holiday movies, and now it’s spreading throughout homes.

“I love Christmas – and it’s one of my favorite holidays, and I love Christmas movies,” Addington said. Two years ago he started “a real attempt to try something new” and to work on a script in the popular genre, which has its own conventions and rhythms, much like mysteries and thrillers. he usually writes.

“The trick for me was figuring out how / if I could fill in the form but also make it new and different enough” to be produced, he said.

Then the image came to him, which became the movie you see: Ethan, a young, slightly tense executive (Andra Fuller) gets kicked off the road by a stray dog, and finds himself stranded in a small town of mountain for a few days during the holidays. True to the holiday spirit – Christmas movies lend themselves to a love affair – he meets Foster, a local vet (Rhyon Nicole Brown).

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OWN filmed their screenplay earlier this year and premiered it last week. It is also available on request through Discovery Plus.

A screenwriter at heart, Addington said it was “too cool” to see one of your ideas “come to life by this whole team.” Some aspects of the finished film “are different from what I imagined, and there are things that are exactly as I imagined them” and “I’m really proud of it, and it’s nice to finally be able to share it with the people. other people. “

Love of cinema

Addington is an adjunct assistant professor of media arts and digital filmmaking at the UM School of Visual and Media Arts, where he teaches screenwriting classes, an advanced directing class, and more.

The Missoula native discovered his love of cinema when he got his hands on a shoulder-mounted VHS camcorder around seventh grade. He made films during his time at Hellgate High School and continued his education at college – first at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, then at Columbia University’s MFA Film Program in New York City. , where he stayed for about 15 years.

It counts the first feature film he worked on among the highlights of his time there. He was assistant director for “The Night Listener”, a 2006 thriller starring Robin Williams. Not only was he on set with an actor he had seen onscreen since he was young, but he said it was eye-opening to see how a professional film was “not really different. of what we were doing in school, and they just had more resources.

He was hired to do uncredited writing work on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” a 2016 sequel distributed by Netflix. The shoot was already over and he helped with the restructuring and dialogue.

Although he has held many different roles in film, scripting is his main passion. He loves writing for “actors, directors and cinematographers and for other people to take a project to the finish line. I find that really, really satisfying.

He always wanted to find a way back to western Montana, and after he and his wife had two young children, they returned to Missoula so they could have the same kind of education as he did.

As “A Christmas Stray” is set in Colorado (and filmed in Canada), he thinks anyone in Montana will recognize elements, such as the annual gatherings in small towns. In the film, locals come together for a December 24 party in the heart of town, a community effort much like First Fridays in Missoula or St. Patrick’s Day in Butte.

Meanwhile, Addington is working on several pitches for films set in his home country.

“Like any screenwriter in Montana, I always try to get projects done here,” he said. The level of productions now makes prospects “more and more likely”, and as a teacher he said it was “great” when they could give students the chance to work on professional sets, a bit. like he did in New York.

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