Insane Christmas Movies: They're Non-Union and Lazy, So Why Do We Love Them?

'The Princess Switch'Credit: Netflix
Ready to cuddle up with a bonkers, bad Christmas movie? 

Tell me if this sounds like you. It's a cozy winter night. You flip on one of the streaming channels or that cheesy cable channel you watch more than you tell anyone, and you settle in for one of those insane Christmas movies.

The ones that star the celebs from that show over a decade ago whom you haven't seen since. The ones with the plots that involve inheriting a castle, having an evil twin, falling in love with a reindeer, or just moving home to open an antique shop. Come on, people, you know the ones. 

You're in good company. During a two-month period, 85 million people tune in to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. That's more than the Super Bowl! 

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Places like Hallmark, Netflix, and Peacock have made a mint going viral with these crazy Christmas movies. People talk about them, binge them, scream at their TVs during them, but while that's all fun and games... it would be nice if these productions actually used union crew members, were WGA and DGA signatories, and made sure everyone on them got a living wage. 

Still, people love watching them, and I do too. They're cheesy, you can laugh a ton, you never miss any crucial plot point if you go to the bathroom in the middle of them, and after a long day, on a cold night, sometimes you just want to watch something with a happy ending. 

The shoots

But then I wake up in the middle of the night and think about the crew. 

The goal for most of these movies is to keep the budget under a million, which qualifies them as a "microbudget" feature, meaning they are not required to hire a union and pay union rates. That's not totally true, since sometimes they underwrite a budget and leave off catering and loading and other things they build into and pay for out of other accounts, like the network or maybe into a contract. 

But alas, many times they do not. I've spoken with people paid as little as $5,000 to write the screenplays for them, and frequently no one earns points toward their union cards working on them. That means wages can be forced artificially low, and oftentimes it leads to less safety on the sets and lower standards. They're also shot in usually one to three weeks, meaning pushing people around the clock to make sure they're done on time. Because a lot of these places have to then shoot more Christmas movies to have a glut on the air every year.

You can read this Reddit thread filled with people talking about their experiences on them as well. 

The plots

We should totally mention the stories on these films, which feel the same every year and don't quite branch out.

While Netflix and Hulu have tried to diversify their offerings, Hallmark is not even trying. And for good reason. Their audience has no desire for it.

As an anonymous producer of these films told Vancouver Magazine, “The reason they all look and sound the same is because the network is involved, and they know their main audience is Midwest Christians.”

She went on to describe why Hallmark, specifically, would never diversify their content, saying, “Netflix did Let It Snow this year. It’s interracial, LGBTQ, beautifully shot... and a prime example of a Hallmark-style movie that would never make it onto Hallmark.”

Look, we all want to work, and we all need jobs, but why can't these Christmas movies take a little bit more off the profit scale to make sure the workers who get them done are paid fairly?

And why can't they be union sets? I mean all of them. In 2017, the Hallmark Channel brought in an estimated $390 million in ad revenue on their Christmas month alone. You're telling me you can't go union for that much?

Suck on some coal. 

That way people can move up to bigger movies, pay into health benefits and pensions, and actually derive a living wage from what looks like an incredibly profitable industry.

After all, we all just can't move home to open an antique store and find the rich love of our life who wants to keep us there in time for Christmas...

Let me know what you think in the comments.       

Your Comment


Industries that NEED a union are industries who have already accepted that their industry is sketchy and needs another level of control on top of government, regulation and the law.

Maybe enforce some simple government regulation and keep the union AND/OR non-union OPTIONS open instead to help prevent or limit any dominance and bullying from either side of the control-equation.

These sound terrible to work on..... but they also keep coming back to work on them! Folks in creative industries and their imaginations (especially if naive) are their own worst enemies and are far too often far too easily led..... while often forgetting that they're working on 'products'....and often crass ones that aren't even very good!

December 18, 2021 at 1:26PM


You have no idea what you're talking about.
Even with a union, people on set are working abusive hours.

I actually work in the industry.
Don't talk about something you don't understand.

December 20, 2021 at 11:40AM


You don't seem to be able to grasp what Maggie is saying ... her comment is spot on. Guessing you are very young and likely have a entry level job in the "industry"

December 21, 2021 at 7:07AM


I want to preface this by saying that of course I agree. But we’re at a terrible disadvantage, bargaining from a weak position, and these sorts of productions will never go union even as they proliferate, sans some sea-change in national politics and overall labor relations. The issue is that, with mass-produced assembly-line (Christmas) content, our labor simply is worth much less to Hallmark, Lifetime, Netflix, etc… than it was even a few years ago. We’ve all seen, by now, the oft-repeated statistic that there are over 200 films with “Christmas” in the title with 2021 releases, representing a 400% increase over five years. Throw in the holiday movies that don’t have Christmas in the title, and those number shoot up even higher. They’re producing content, and content is disposable, and they’re producing it a hitherto unthinkable scale (at least where Christmas is concerned). At the end of the day, no one at Hallmark is betting on any particular film or subset of films. The product they’re selling (whether to advertisers or subscribers, etc) is not any particular film or particular subset of films, it’s the lot of them. Think of it like the infinite scroll, in “cinematic” form. If these films are watched with the same passion someone flips through TikTok, I have no doubt that next year even more Christmas films will be made and consequentially they’ll be able to pay a screenwriter $4500 to churn one out.

It’s nice to think these productions could go union. But the reality is, the existence of these sorts of productions — which result in films that are consumed and used up the same way food is after one eats it — are the very thing that are driving the value of our labor down. They will continue to drive it down until it literally can’t anymore. At that point, whatever gains we could make would be offset by the massive amount already lost. This is to say that one day soon we may wake up and have as little bargaining power as the average influencer has with Meta and Mark Zuckerberg.

December 20, 2021 at 11:00AM


This one actually seems a bit strange, but my russian holiday films are top tier weirdness

December 21, 2021 at 6:51AM

Aaron Delatorre

Be careful with how you convey YOUR agenda. It sure does come across as “Union productions, good - non-union productions, bad!” Unsafe productions are unsafe not because of union status but because of poor leadership. Low pay can be a problem but isn’t on every non-union show. Hallmark movies ARE a problem - not all non-union shows operate the way Hallmark operates.

Please be responsible.

December 30, 2021 at 12:37AM

Andrew Lewis