This year, Hallmark will release a staggering, record-breaking 40 Christmas movies — one of which was written by part-time northern Scottsdale resident and three-time Emmy Award-winner Karen Schaler.
Netflix bingers might recognize Schaler’s “A Christmas Prince,” a film she wrote that premiered over the holidays in 2017.
And coming soon, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries will premiere Schaler’s latest film, “Christmas Camp,” on July 11.
As part of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “Gold Crown Christmas” summer campaign through July 14, “Christmas Camp” tells the story of Hayley, an advertising executive who heads to, as the title suggests, Christmas Camp in order to snag a toy company account for work.
At the camp, Hayley falls in love with the camp owner’s son.
Schaler wrote “Christmas Camp” as an original movie for Hallmark and then HarperCollins published the eponymous book in October 2018.
This past January, the sequel “Christmas Camp Wedding” was also published by HarperCollins.
“I fell in love with the characters and the concept so much that I knew I needed to tell more of the story,” Schaler said.
In September, fans can pick up a special re-release of Schaler’s “Christmas Camp” books, combined into one novel.
Then, in October, Schaler’s newest novel, “Finding Christmas,” will be published.
“Finding Christmas” tells the story of Emmie, who sets up a scavenger hunt for her boyfriend, Grant.
The twist is: Grant isn’t the first guy to follow Emmie’s clues, leaving Emmie with a big decision to make.
Schaler said her dad inspired the “Finding Christmas” story.
“My inspiration for writing it came from my dad who, every year for as long as I can remember, creates a Christmas scavenger hunt for me to find my present. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the real present was the time and love he put into creating this for me,” Schaler said.
She added: “Last year, my dad at 78 still did the scavenger hunt for me, and it’s something we both look forward to every year.”
This December is the grandest event of them all: “Christmas Camp” is brought to life at The Phoenician in southern Scottsdale.
“Before I sent the movie into Hallmark, I trademarked my "Christmas Camp" concept in multiple categories knowing that I wanted to bring my movie and novels to life so there could be an actual, real place people could go to re-energize and reboot before the hectic holiday season so they could be their best selves and truly appreciate the meaning and magic of Christmas,” Schaler said.
As part of Schaler’s Christmas Camp at The Phoenician, the room package includes accommodations for two, as well as complimentary champagne, daily breakfast, exclusive “Christmas Camp” and T-shirts and tote bags.
“It is truly a wonderful time of year to be partnering with Karen, sharing the joy from her ‘Christmas Camp’ Hallmark movie and books with our guests, while showcasing our premier resort and talented staff,” said Phoenician Director of Public Relations Denise Seomin.
Seomin added: “Karen’s passion for Christmas is truly inspiring, and we are thrilled that she will be hosting all of our Christmas Camp events. We look forward to bringing her Christmas Camp to life as a one-of-a-kind Phoenician holiday tradition.”
Guests who opt for the package will also receive a 2019 special edition of the “Christmas Camp” and “Christmas Camp Wedding” novels.
Daily Christmas Camp activities include a champagne reception and book signing with Schaler.
Schaler will also host a screening of her movies, followed by a Q&A with the audience.
But the one activity that holds a special place in her heart is the stargazing.
“This was important to me because, in my ‘Christmas Camp’ story, I talk about how the stars in the sky are the people that we’ve loved and lost, looking down on us and with us always,” Schaler explained.
To coincide with the July 11 premiere of the Hallmark movie, The Phoenician is unwrapping the signature Christmas Camp room package early, starting at just $259 per night.
“This Christmas Camp is for grown-ups,” Schaler said. “From culinary classes, Christmas crafts, charitable activities, cocktail mixology, signature spa treatments, holiday movie watching and so much more, it’s all about taking time before the hectic holiday season to relax, reset and rejuvenate so you can embrace the true meaning and magic of Christmas.”
Schaler’s Christmas Camp at The Phoenician takes place Dec. 5 through 9 and from Dec. 12 through 16.
Christmas Camp was held for the first time last year.
Schaler said she chose the Scottsdale resort because she has personally experienced over the years the resort’s ability to create transformative and authentic experiences for guests.
She also knew the resort would honor her vision for the event.
“Even in the first Christmas Camp activities we did, we could see how people were being touched by the experience,” Schaler said. “This was my goal all along, to help people disconnect and reconnect with what matters most at Christmas.”
From the go, Schaler knew this wouldn’t be her last Christmas Camp at The Phoenician.
“We knew even before we had our first guests that we wanted to make this an annual tradition at The Phoenician and now that’s what we’re doing,” she said.
Schaler has had a home in Scottsdale since 2004.
In the Valley, she worked as a TV reporter and anchor for KPHO-TV and ABC15 News.
In 2007, she made it into headlines as the first journalist ever embedded with an Apache helicopter unit in Afghanistan with the Arizona National Guard.
Schaler went on to create and host the TV series “Travel Therapy,” where viewers watched Schaler travel to nearly 70 countries.
According to Schaler, “Travel Therapy,” which began airing in 2013, inspired “Christmas Camp.”
“Seeing first-hand how transformative traveling to the right place can be with my ‘Travel Therapy’ TV segments, I wanted to tell a story that has this ‘Travel Therapy’ element I believe in so much,” Schaler said. “I’ve also been blessed to have experienced some truly magical places in my travels that helped me create the setting and scenes for my ‘Christmas Camp’ movie and novels.”
From 2017 to 2018, Schaler wrote original screenplays for Netflix, Hallmark and Lifetime.
Screenplays included “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding” also for Netflix, “Every Day Is Christmas” for Lifetime and “Christmas Camp” for Hallmark.
“I tell people [that] when opportunity finally knocks, you don’t say, 'Sorry, I’m too busy to do that.' You find a way and make it happen, and that’s what I did,” Schaler said.