SUNY Oswego faculty member Juliet Aires Giglio and her husband, Keith Giglio, teamed as screenwriters for the comedy romance "A Very Nutty Christmas," premiering at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 on the Lifetime network and starring Melissa Joan Hart and Barry Watson.

The Giglios hatched the idea for the film over the holidays last year, pitched it this January, sold it in February, then wrote it during breaks and snowstorms and right into good weather. They assisted on the set in Mystic, Connecticut, for four days in May, and now wait excitedly for the finished film to air. 

Entertainment Tonight, in a recent listing arranged by date, included "A Very Nutty Christmas" in its top 24 holiday TV movies to watch this season.

Keith Giglio teaches in television, radio and film at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications. Juliet Giglio, a member of the English and creative writing department at Oswego, said working on the film has been a "fantastic experience," one that benefits her students directly.

"When I'm asking my students to write screenplays and they know I am doing the same thing at the same time, that helps so much," she said. "I'm working in the industry. I'm current on trends and what Hollywood is looking for."

The film features Hart -- best known for "Clarissa Explains It All" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" -- as Kate, a hardworking bakery owner. Overwhelmed with cookie orders and a breakup with her boyfriend, she joylessly hangs the last ornament on her tree -- and gets the surprise of her life the next morning when a Nutcracker soldier, Chip, comes to life. Chip is played by Watson, known for his roles as Matt on "7th Heaven" and Todd in "Samantha Who?"

A screenwriting team since their graduate school days at New York University's film school, the Giglios had been focused in recent years on teaching and on their two children. They had not sold a script in six years, though they co-wrote the book "Proof of Concept: Writing the Short Script."

'A real pro'

Over the winter break last year, they started to catch the "bug" that had fueled TV scripts for such work as "Pizza My Heart," "Return to Halloweentown" and "Noah."

"Everyone's really into Christmas movies now," Juliet Giglio said. "We work really well together in that genre -- romantic comedies. We like movies with heart."

Or, in this case, Hart. Giglio said she enjoyed working with the actor and praised her efforts. 

"She was a real pro. She was fantastic," Giglio said. "It was fun to watch her go from talking with us on the set and jump right into a scene."

Hart's good-natured adaptability also impressed Giglio. "There's a scene where she chugs an eggnog -- she's just funny. She's willing to try things."

Paula Hart, the actor's mother, produced "A Very Nutty Christmas" for Hartbreak Films. Paula and Melissa Joan Hart are executive producers; Colin Theys directs.

Winter wonderland

Giglio talked about the set's Hollywood-style magic, in particular how the crew made spring days in Connecticut look like winter. "It was fun to see how they created snow -- especially given my experience in Oswego," she said.

Inch-thick cotton batting blanketed the set, topped by sprinkles of sparkling new "snow" courtesy of the production team's artists. Snow on the rooftops? That's for post-production, where the roofs are "painted" white. A single skater on a pair of inline skates glides across sheets of reflective plastic while in the foreground other inline skaters move as a dolly-mounted camera scoots back and forth. The costumes are winter-worthy; Giglio said it was fortunate the days of filming were not too hot.

Giglio said a big plus for her students who want to work in film are contacts; she has a career-full. For example, Giglio said she took 37 students to the Tribeca Film Festival last spring, and wanted someone to speak with them about writing for film. Her literary manager, Steven Gates, spoke to the students for an hour, she said. 

For information on creative writing and on cinema and screen studies at SUNY Oswego, visit its program page. For a trailer promoting "A Very Nutty Christmas," visit this Lifetime online preview.