Chandler woman pens TV Christmas movie SanTan Sun News

Chandler woman pens TV Christmas movie

Chandler woman pens TV Christmas movie
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A Christmas movie written by an East Valley native aired on national television earlier this month.

“A Christmas Winter Song” is the first script written by Melissa Bustamante, who spends part of her time living in Chandler, to be produced and shot into a full-length film.

The television film, which stars Grammy Award winner Ashanti, was broadcast on Lifetime on Dec. 14 and can currently be streamed on the network’s website.

“It’s been a really good year,” said Bustamante, noting how she sold the movie in February, shot it in May and finished it by December.

She described her film as a feel-good story about friendship, family, and grief. The plot follows Clio, a gift shop owner portrayed by Ashanti, and her musical bond with a homeless man and former jazz singer played by Stan Shaw.   Clio helps the man reconnect with his estranged family while dealing with the grief of losing her father.

Bustamante said she drew on aspects of her own life to write the film, but considers the story to be mostly fictional.

It’s a film ultimately about hope and forgiveness, she said.

“We need stories like that,” the screenwriter added.

Bustamante knew from a young age she wanted to pursue a creative career in Hollywood.

She thought career would be on a stage since she spent most of youth acting in plays. Bustamante appeared in productions of “West Side Story” while attending Dobson High School and her love for performance pushed her to study theater in college.

Married to movie director-cinematographer Bud Kremp, Bustamante also had a small role in a 2009 movie titled “Middle Men.”

She hadn’t ever thought of becoming a writer until after she moved out to California and started working in a department store.

The quirky characters she encountered through her job gave her an idea for a television show. She eventually crafted her ideas into a pilot for a half-hour comedy.

“I just never really stopped writing since,” Bustamante said.

But getting a script produced and made can be difficult, she added. The industry operates by getting a meeting with the right person who is willing to take a chance on a newcomer, Bustamante explained.

“Christmas Winter Song” only happened after Bustamante’s friend, Camille Brown, pitched the idea during a meeting with a production company. The producers liked the idea and green-lighted the project.

Brown ended up directing the television film and Bustamante was able to observe how her pages were transferred to the screen.

Bustamante said the production process has been fascinating as she watched the actors bring her words to life.

The producers gave her only a handful of notes on the script and allowed Bustamante time to do some rewrites.

“That was a really fun experience getting notes from an outside perspective and getting to incorporate them,” she said.

As someone who spends most of her time sitting in front of her computer, Bustamante said she enjoyed the opportunity to work among other storytellers.

“The best part is honestly feeling like I’m part of something,” she added, “collaborating with other people in an artistic way is so fulfilling.”

Bustamante is already planning to pitch some projects in the coming year, including an idea for a children’s adventure film. She said getting “Christmas Winter Song” made has been a major milestone in her career and hopes it will open some doors to more opportunities.

 “I do feel really, really lucky,” Bustamante said. “I hope it’s not the last one.”

**The submitted photo depicts Bustamante on the right**   

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