Creating “Arnold Palmer Saves Christmas!”

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013


This year we got our Christmas wish, but it almost didn’t happen.  Let’s start the beginning …

The original idea for Arnold Palmer Saves Christmas! began back in November with a serendipitous conversation. Jon and I ran into a guy who was collecting toys from co-workers for the toy drive Arnold Palmer Hospital holds every year.  Thousands of toys are provided by the community and the hospital staff and volunteers wrap each toy placing them in a “Santa sack”. Early Christmas morning, they put these presents outside each child’s door.

Jon has always dreamed of doing a “feel good” Christmas themed story for the hospital since he created The Tin Man (which the Flynn family makes a cameo appearance if you watch closely). He’s also dreamed of filming with Mr. Palmer.  For me, I’ve always dreamed of documenting and sharing the beautiful moment when a child first sees the presents outside their hospital room door.

After giving our original pitch to the hospital, it quickly grew into adding a helicopter, a convincing Santa sneaking through the hospital at night, and even bringing in Mr. Palmer.  Our fantastic relationship with our clients is what makes this kind of magic happen.

For the next two or three weeks, getting the helicopter and Mr. Palmer lined up looked  bleak.  We were a few weeks out from Christmas and we needed pull the trigger.  Thankfully, within the next 48 hours everything began lining up.

We took all of the brainstorming and began orchestrating it into a finely tuned action plan.  Since we would be mixing acting (Santa and Mr. Palmer) in with real documentary footage of kids at the hospital, we had to plan perfectly for the unknown.

Did I mention that because of his tight schedule, we were told we’d only have 10 minutes to film with Mr. Palmer? Mr. Palmer was very generous with his time and we stretched it to 20 minutes — even asking him to sign the Emmy we won for Chloe’s Wedding Day to give to Chloe.

And to capture real reactions of the kids, we had to be at the right place at the right time — or the entire story fell apart.

We hit a few unexpected snags along the way, but we pivoted quickly and ended up with something beautiful to share with the world: joy, hope, and generosity given to those in need on Christmas morning.

James Spradlin is the chief executive at Strong Films. He’s also pursuing an MBA at the University of Florida. Strong Films creates brand content that drives results, in ways people actually want to see and share. To do so, we help brands understand their purpose and use short films to communicate that purpose in authentic and engaging ways. If you’d like to continue the conversation, email James @


Jon and Arnold Palmer