Keith Giglio on joking his way to success

by Lani Diane Rich

November 22, 2018

The television, radio and film professor’s romantic comedy, “A Very Nutty Christmas,” premieres on Lifetime Nov. 30

Keith Giglio
Professor Keith Giglio

For Keith Giglio, associate professor of television, radio and film, writing for Hollywood has been the one thing he just can’t quit.

“I thought I was out and they pull me back in,” he says, laughing. “It's a wonderful business and I'm lucky to keep doing it.”

After 20 years in Los Angeles and a number of credits under his belt—including screenwriting for “Joshua” and the romantic comedy “Pizza My Heart,” and producing for “A Cinderella Story”—Giglio came to Newhouse to teach, but the impulse to write never left him.

Last Christmas, he and his writing partner and wife, SUNY Oswego screenwriting professor Juliet Giglio, were hit with the inspiration to write a holiday movie. They set up a pitch meeting with producer Paula Hart in New York City, and started working on ideas.

“We thought would be fun if a Nutcracker came to life, like in an ‘Elf’ or a ‘Splash’ kind of way,” he says. “We worked on this story for a couple of weeks and went out and pitched it to Paula. She wound up funding the movie herself and then selling it off to [television network] Lifetime.”

Barry Watson in a nutcracker outfit holding a sword next to Melissa Joan Hart in a chef's jacket.
Barry Watson and Melissa Joan Hart star in "A Very Nutty Christmas," written by Keith Giglio and Juliet Giglio Lifetime Television

The movie, “A Very Nutty Christmas” starring Melissa Joan Hart and Barry Watson, will premiere on Lifetime Nov. 30. It was recently selected by Entertainment Tonight as one of the top 24 holiday TV movies to watch this year.

By typical filming standards, the turnaround time for the movie was lightning fast. The Giglios sold the pitch in February of last year and wrote the screenplay in March. By May, production was underway in Mystic, Connecticut, where the writing team traveled to hang out on the set for a few days.

“It was this magical moment where you go out walking and start seeing snow or hearing the director call 'action' and you realize, ‘They're filming our movie!’” Giglio says.

On some sets, writers are pulled in for harried last-minute rewrites, but the Giglios’ experience was much more relaxed.

“I always figured by the time we got to set our job was done,” Giglio says. He and Juliet turned the reins over to actors and the director, Colin Theys, to transform their inspiration into a movie.

“It was terrific,” Giglio says. “They did a great job.”

Melissa Joan Hart, Keith Giglio, Barry Watson and Juliet Giglio
On the set of "A Very Nutty Christmas," L to R: Melissa Joan Hart, Keith Giglio, Barry Watson, Juliet Giglio

When asked for advice on writing with a partner, Giglio jokes, “Just get married, because if the script’s not selling and someone’s complaining about the Visa bill, you’re both equally responsible.”

Jokes aside, Giglio says the key to writing as a team rests on compatibility. “Find someone who has the same sensibilities, the same love of movies, the same references.”

Giglio’s advice remains the same to writers working with partners or going it alone. “No one else can be you. Put yourself, your interests, your personality into your script.”

When asked about plans for the future, Giglio says that he and his wife have always written romantic comedies like “A Very Nutty Christmas” and will continue to do so.  “I’ve tried over and over again to break out of comedy writing. Dramas, police procedurals, sci-fi epics… I killed a lot of trees.”

But in the end, he says, you go back to what you’re good at. “[Comedy is] just my default. I love to hear people laugh.”

True to form, he jokes about the newfound respect he’s seeing in his classroom as a result of having a new movie out.

“I think maybe [my students] take me a little more seriously now. But… probably not.”

A Very Nutty Christmas” premieres on Lifetime Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. EST.

View the trailer>>