When Clare Niederpruem heard about AMC+ and RLJE Films' Christmas with the Campbells, she couldn't pass up the rare opportunity to do a raunchy Christmas comedy. As someone familiar with directing atypical heartwarming Christmas films, this was a welcome change. The film follows Jess (Brittany Snow), who gets dumped by her boyfriend right before Christmas, but his parents still want to celebrate the holiday with her while their son is away. Then she meets his cousin, but Christmas gets a lot more complicated once he returns. Niederpruem spoke with Bleeding Cool about how the film came together, working with writer Vince Vaughn, environmental challenges, and more.
How Christmas with the Campbells Became a Comedy Unlike Any Other for Neiderpruem
Bleeding Cool: What intrigued you about 'Christmas with the Campbells?'
Niederpruem: I laughed at the second page because the comedy is unexpected. It's set up as a typical Hallmark-ish Christmas movie, and then it hits you with some R-rated jokes. I loved exploring that idea and found myself laughing a lot while reading the script. I knew working with this team that it was going to get funnier as we went along.
It's rare to see: a Christmas movie with more adult themes. Was there anything you found challenging, or was it refreshing for you?
t was refreshing for me, for sure. The challenge was finding the balance tonally of how far we wanted to take the comedy and how true we also wanted to be to the genre because it could be one or both things. We wanted to believe this family loved each other and the love story, have our audience rooting for our leads to be together, and make our audience laugh. We did a lot of improvisation on set with our writers Vince Vaughn and Dan Lagana doing a lot of rewrites in the moment of just adding jokes and figuring out where the balance was. You could call it a challenge, but to me, it was fun exploring and seeing what worked and what didn't.
Did it make things easier, given the talent you had to work with for just making the humor a hit more?
This cast could handle any line thrown at them at the moment. Then they came up with their lines to it. Everyone was so wonderful to work with, and as they started to understand their characters, it amplified their jokes and how they could play with each other. Casting on this was a big deal. They picked the right people and those who could handle these performances that need to feel grounded, even though they sometimes say ridiculous things. I feel so lucky that I got to work with this group.
Were there any particular scenes more challenging than others?
We had a great ebb and flow. We were shooting in Utah on location and had a wonderful crew. In the wishing tree scenes, we were shooting up high in the mountains, and we had snowmobile equipment up there, and there was a snowstorm in the morning that we were getting up there [laughs]. There are some logistical issues with that. Filming on location in snowy places is not the easiest, but it looks pretty and real. As all fellow directors will know, shooting dinner scenes is always tricky because getting all that coverage and stuff takes time. For the most part, we had a good working relationship, and the actors were all professional and knew their stuff coming ready to work.
Are there any differences between working on a TV movie versus doing a regular feature for you?
As far as the way that I approach material, there's no difference. You need to treat every scrap as if it's its own, be very true to the story you're telling, and serve that story and those characters right in front of you. The difference with this one was that we got to play around and try different things. Whereas when you're shooting something a little bit more straightforward for TV, you don't usually get that time and/or that freedom to try out different things. It's just more standard shooting, but how you approach the material is the same.
Do you want to do more raunchy comedy, or are there other genres you hope to explore in the future?
What I loved about this one is the comedy element, and I learned so much by working closely with Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley and seeing how they approached it. I was a sponge and wanted to learn everything from them; it was so fun. I hope that I get to do more comedies and lean into some broad stuff because I had so much fun with it. So hopefully, I get to tackle some more comedies.