High School Janitor’s Book Turned Into A Hallmark Christmas Movie, ‘Christmas Under The Stars’

by Angela Andaloro

Rikk Dunlap spends his days as a maintenance worker at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the Chicago area.

In his spare time, however, he’s a writer. One of his books has had its big break and is being made into a Hallmark Christmas movie. The film will star Jesse Metcalfe, Jocelyn Gauthier, and Anthony Bolognese.

Christmas Under the Stars is the name of the film, based on Rikk’s novel The Christmas Tree Lot. The book was inspired by an actual Christmas tree lot in Richton Park, Illinois. Rikk was captivated by the lot year after year before he finally decided to sit down and write a story about it.

“I just found it to be kind of enchanting,” Rikk said of the tree lot in footage provided by WGN9. He noted the beat-up old camping trailer parked at the lot every year. “The trailer is what jumped out at me first because it just screams of like an old-style Christmas tree lot.”

While Rikk’s book hasn’t been published yet, his agent made some serious moves. She got the story in front of Hallmark, and staff there fell in love instantly.

“It’s a story of redemption,” Rikk explained, adding that there are parallels between himself and the main character, Nick. “Nick just made some questionable choices in his life and he needs to redeem himself, but before redemption must always be humility. So before Nick can really move into that realm of redemption, he needs to go through the process of being humbled.”

Christmas Under the Stars premieres at 7 p.m. on November 16 as part of the Hallmark Channel’s 10th Anniversary Countdown to Christmas series.

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