“It’s the biggest promotion this city has ever seen.”
This is how Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey describes “The Christmas Card,” the distinctive 2006 Christmas movie shot in Nevada City and featuring Victorian Christmas.
“It’s amazing to me,” Whittlesey said. “Every week someone walks into the camera office and says, ‘I’m here for the movie ‘The Christmas Card.’
“We had been featured in National Geographic magazine and the New York Times,” Whittlesey continued, “so when the producer told me the movie would be the biggest thing to happen to the city of Nevada, I didn’t believe him.” .
“Who would have thought a movie would bring so much to this city?”— Cathy Whittlesey, Executive Director, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce
But that prediction from “The Christmas Card” producer Lincoln Lageson has been proven true many times over.
“Fictitious names of cities and businesses are often used in movies,” said lageson. “there was no reason not to ‘play’ nevada city and business names. with a Christmas movie, it’s a wonderful exhibition. They are played every year. This film is a constant reminder of how wonderful Nevada City and Victorian Christmas is.”
boost to the bottom line
The Chamber has a featured section of its website dedicated to the film and its story: Cody Cullen, a soldier serving in Afghanistan, receives an anonymous Christmas card that moves him deeply. While he is home on leave, he travels to Nevada City, the quaint town from which the card was sent. There, Cody meets and falls in love with Faith Spelman, who sent the card, and quickly becomes a beloved member of the Spelman family.
The camera sells DVD copies of the film. the office had 25 available in August and they were all sold out before the holiday season started.
Another place that sells the $8 DVDs is the Nevada City United Methodist Church, which is the setting for several scenes in the movie. the church sells at least 25 copies of dvd’s per year.
“people come to church because they love the movie,” pastor kris sachen said. “People are really moved by this movie.”
Sachen had a particularly moving encounter with a wounded war veteran who visited the church last Christmas.
“During the prayers, he said something about veterans, so I went to talk to him,” Sachen recalled. “He said that when he was injured in Afghanistan, he saw the movie and was so moved that he swore he would come to see this place. he believed so much in the goodness of people during the time he was injured that he wanted to see a place where people were good. not just the church, but the entire city of nevada.”
Classic Nevada City cafe owner Kirk Valentine said the film continues to generate business for his restaurant more than a decade after its release.
“the restaurant was featured in the movie in two key scenes,” said valentine, who acted as an extra in one of those scenes. “We have people come into the restaurant and say they saw the movie and want to see what this little town is all about. they love the representation of our city and wish they could be a part of a city like this sometime, somewhere.”
the café promotes its connection to “the holiday card” on its website, and also features the dvd cover at its entrance.
“There is absolutely no question that it has helped our bottom line,” said valentine. “People want to see this little restaurant and connect and be a part of what the movie is about.”
celebrating the season, city
The film was as much about the city of Nevada and its residents as it was about the characters and their romantic plot. At the time of filming, screenwriter Joany Kane said, “It was a match made in heaven. the city is really a character in the movie.”
Producer Lageson was familiar with Nevada City because his parents grew up there.
“The original script set the story in Vermont,” said Lageson, adding that budget constraints made it impossible to film in Vermont. “We realized that we were limited to Northern California. As I was reading the script, it was screaming Nevada City in my mind.”
lageson contacted whittlesey on camera and asked her to send him postcards with pictures of nevada town and victorian christmas.
“I walked into the hallmark offices, I put those postcards in front of everyone and it was a unanimous ‘yes’ that we would go to nevada city,” recalled lageson.
The producers and others working on the film were in town for eight weeks and the actual filming took 24 days in February 2005, with Victorian Christmas scenes staged for the film. When the film was released, a special screening was held in Nevada City.
Just as the film has helped put the city of Nevada “on the map,” a local business has literally put the film on the map.
erin thiem, owner of the outer inn in nevada city, combined her extensive photography skills with a hand-drawn map of nevada city to create a “christmas card” walking tour of the location.
“We’ve had the map for more than five years,” they said. “A ‘Christmas card’ movie buff will visit us from remote places and ask for the map. is a unique group of distinctive traveling fans who saw this movie and decided to come to the actual location where it was filmed. they want to relive the experiences of the film.”
Lageson said even he is surprised by the long-term impact the film has had.
“I knew it would be special,” said lageson. “I knew the movie was going to be beautiful and it would look amazing, but I didn’t realize how much it would resonate with viewers. some people have told me that the film has become what was “a wonderful life” for an earlier generation. now younger families consider “the Christmas card” as their family holiday gift together.”
“I’m amazed it happened like this,” Whittlesey said. “Who would have thought a movie would bring so much to this town?”
lorraine jewett is a freelance writer living in nevada county. she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.