Writing the script for our Rick Steves’ European Christmas special was a fascinating challenge. We had two crews to fan out across Europe, visiting seven countries in two weeks leading up to the 25th. While we could only actually be in two places on Christmas Eve and Day (Salzburg and Rome), we managed to fake Christmas Eve in the other places. This required calling on European friends (mostly tour guides and people who run B&Bs that I recommend in my guidebooks who had small children) to let us come into their home as they celebrated “Christmas Eve”…several days before the actual holiday. As they cooked the goose, invited the grandparents, hung out under the mistletoe, and so on, we were right there — on the carpet, in the kitchen, and under the tree — with our cameras rolling. Since we were footing the bill, we encouraged each family to pull out all the stops and put on a blowout Christmas to remember…and they all did. These kids will always recall 2005 as the strange year they celebrated Christmas twice.
I’ve worked with producer Simon Griffith for many years, and his brilliance was what I’ve come to expect. When Simon suggested that his wife, Val, co-produce and direct the second crew, I was skeptical. My rule is generally, no family on the crew. I knew Val socially but had never slogged through a TV production with her. But smartly, I trusted Simon. Val was absolutely wonderful — an artist, a great writer, and a strong leader and manager. Her crew ended up with the hardest schedule (England, France, Italy), and they did more than just cover the script. Val also co-authored the Christmas book that was a byproduct of our project.
We could never have pulled off the production of this special without the help of Steve Cammarano (editor and assistant field producer), Gene Openshaw (script and book editing), Maddie Thomas (England mom/guide/organizer), Christinia Schneeweiss (Salzburg guide/organizer), our two talented and hardworking cameramen (Karel Bauer and Peter Rummel), and many more both in Europe and in our home office. We hope you can enjoy Rick Steves’ European Christmas each holiday season on your public television station. Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas!
By the way, I’m hoping to do a similar public television special on European Easter, with related Carnival and Lent festivities. I expect we’ll have two crews filming in Europe during the next two Easters to put this together. I’d love your help in planning this. What are your favorite Easter-related happenings in Europe that you’d recommend I consider for our Easter special?