University of Montana professor’s Christmas script 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. His son, who was browsing the cable channels, yelled to let his father know his movie was on TV.

Addington’s screenplay, “A Christmas Stray,” had been produced by the Oprah Winfrey Network for its 2021 Original Holiday Movies slate, and now it was playing in homes around the world.

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

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

Then the image came to him, which became the film you see: Ethan, a young, somewhat uptight executive (Andra Fuller) gets chased by a stray dog, and gets stuck in a small mountain town for a few days for vacations . In keeping with the spirit of the holidays – Christmas movies lend themselves to romance – he meets Foster, a local veterinarian (Rhyon Nicole Brown).

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OWN filmed its script earlier this year and premiered it last week. It is also available on demand via Discovery Plus.

A screenwriter at heart, Addington said it was “so cool” to see one of your ideas “brought 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 other people.”

The 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 upper-division filmmaking class, and more.

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

He counts the first feature film he worked on among the highlights of his time there. He served as assistant director for “The Night Listener,” a 2006 thriller starring Robin Williams. Not only was he on set with an actor he’d seen on screen 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. Filming was already done and he helped with restructuring and dialogue.

Although he has worked in many different functions in film, scripts are his main passion. He enjoys writing for “actors, directors, cinematographers, and others to take a project to the finish line. I find that really, really satisfying.

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

While “A Christmas Stray” is set in Colorado (and filmed in Canada), he thinks anyone from Montana will recognize elements, such as annual gatherings in small towns. In the film, locals gather for a party on December 24 in the heart of town, a joint effort not unlike First Fridays in Missoula or St. Patrick’s Day in Butte.

Meanwhile, Addington is working on several plots 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” to be able to give students the opportunity to work on professional sets, much like he did it in New York.

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