With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start making our lists of holiday films to watch and checking them twice. Six years ago today, The Man Who Invented Christmas was released in theaters. That makes today the perfect day to revisit this cozy Christmas film and the woman who invented it, Susan Coyne.
Susan Coyne is a Canadian filmmaker and author whose films and novels are perfect to watch/read as you cozy up by the fire. After starting her journey in the arts as an actor in the Toronto theater scene, Susan soon began writing memoirs.
One of Susan’s most beloved memoirs was entitled Kingfisher Days, released in the US as In the Kingdom of Fairies. In the memoir, Susan revisits one summer she spent in a cottage on Lake of the Woods in Ontario. Nearby, she discovered an abandoned cottage which she was convinced was inhabited by elves. She spent her days playing in this cottage and, one day, discovered a letter left for her from a fairy princess. The memoir captures the magic of this summer for her five-year-old self, and her correspondence with the fairy (who she only later discovered was really her elderly neighbor there).
Drawing from her experiences in theater, Susan adapted Kingfisher Days into a play. She also wrote the play Alice’s Affair, in which a group of people are snowed into a cottage after the funeral of a beloved creative writing professor. The great-granddaughter of an accomplished medium, Alice finds herself haunted by the ghost of this professor. It takes the help of the guests of the cottage, as well as the ghosts of other creatives past like William James and Harry Houdini, for the professor to finally make his way out of the cottage and Alice’s life.
Following her plays and memoirs, Susan ventured into the world of screenwriting…
Following her plays and memoirs, Susan ventured into the world of screenwriting. In the early 2000s, she both wrote for and performed in the television series Slings & Arrows. The series centers around a theater aficionado who returns to the fictional New Burbage theater festival, a Shakespearean festival, to take over artistic direction following the death of his mentor. Drawing on the gravitas of Shakespeare, the series is a dramatic, entertaining, and sometimes literally haunting depiction of theater life. Susan has also written for the series Mozart in the Jungle, The Best Laid Plans, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
In 2017, Susan wrote the screenplay for The Man Who Invented Christmas, described by FF2 contributor Amelie Lasker as “writer Susan Coyne[…]’s imaginative story of kindness and generosity.” The film is a biographical comedy-drama about Charles Dickens who, after three unsuccessful novels in a row, writes A Christmas Carol in order to save himself and his family from financial ruin. It is about art and inspiration, the trials and tribulations of London living, and of course, rediscovering the magic of Christmas.
In an interview about The Man Who Invented Christmas, FF2 contributor Lesley Coffin and Susan discussed the meaning of Christmas, and how much of it was shaped by Charles Dickens, as depicted in the movie. Susan is, in some ways, a bit of a Scrooge herself; she said to Lesley, “I kind of hate Christmas […] but I love Charles’s idea of what Christmas should be. Don’t just take and give, but stop for a moment and take stock of what you’re doing in your life. Be grateful. Ask what I can do for other people. Even one day a year, what can I do for others? It’s a beautiful idea that everyone does that one day a year.”
From five years old, Susan has been highly attuned to the magic of the world. To her, the present buzzes with the spirits of those who have lived before us. This holiday season, turn on The Man Who Invented Christmas, and then snuggle up with Kingfisher Days, for a warm reminder of the wonders that are all around us.
© Julia Lasker (11/20/2023) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Watch Slings & Arrows here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Dan Stevens as “Charles Dickens” in the film THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017). Photo Credit: PARALLEL FILMS / Album / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: RBXR7C
Middle photo: Dan Stevens with Christopher Plummer as “Scrooge” in the film THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017). Photo Credit: PARALLEL FILMS / Album / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: RBXR7T
Bottom photo: Screenwriter Susan Coyne and Producer Robert Mickelson attend a screening of the film THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (2017) at Florence Gould Hall in New York, New York on November 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Derrick Salters / WENN.com / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: KP7329