HUDSON — This is the time of year when many people like to watch holiday specials, both the tried and true classics and the new ones crafted each season.

One new Christmas special, which was released on Netflix Nov. 21, has local roots: the screenplay for 'The Knight Before Christmas' was written by a woman who grew up in Hudson and graduated in 1991 from Western Reserve Academy.

Cara J. Russell said she first knew she wanted to be involved in movies in 12th grade.

"My senior year of high school, I was watching the end credits of 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves' and I knew I wanted my name up on the screen," Russell said.

'The Knight Before Christmas' is about Sir Cole, a medieval knight (Josh Whitehouse), who is transported to present-day Ohio by a sorceress. He befriends Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens), a science teacher who has been disillusioned by love. Brooke helps Sir Cole navigate the modern world and helps him discover how to fulfill his mysterious one true quest: the only act that will return him home. But as he and Brooke grow closer, Sir Cole begins to wonder just how much he wants to return to his old life.

The movie is directed by Monika Mitchell ("The Christmas Contract," and "Royal New Year's Eve") and also stars Emmanuelle Chriqui, Isabelle Franca, Ella Kenion, and Jean-Michel Le Gal.

Russell's other credits include "The Big Grab," also titled "Can’t Buy My Love," "Secret Summer," "Groomzilla," "Heavenly Match," and "My Christmas Grandpa." She has a yet to be titled Valentine’s Day TV movie that will be premiering in February.

All of the characters in 'Knight' are named after Russell's nieces and nephews, Russell said. Nephew Cole Sabbia "now adorably calls himself 'Sir Cole,'" she added.

Russell said her mother, Alison Pfeister Esq., still lives in Hudson and owns TLC Child Development Center.

"I wanted to find a fun play on words, like ‘The Santa Clause,’ which I think is an incredibly clever concept," Russell said of the movie. "I thought for sure someone would have already made ‘The Knight Before Christmas’ because it's too easy, but no one had. I quickly pitched it before another writer picked the same idea out of the creative cosmos."

Before she went into movie writing, Russell, who now lives in Los Angeles, lived for a time in Austin, Texas, where she worked as the assistant managing editor and feature writer for Country Line Magazine.

"It was an incredible opportunity and training ground for a new writer," Russell said.

Persistence and practice are critical for those who aspire to be writers, Russell said.

"I've learned that stubbornness can be a strength, writers are quirky people, and it's worth the 'starving artist' years of hard work when you finally see your imagination come to life in a way that hopefully entertains, inspires, and makes people feel better and less alone in even the smallest way," she said. "If you love what you're doing, don't give up no matter how long it takes. If you want to be a writer, you have to read. Read everything you can. Study your craft, use correct grammar. If someone doesn't know basic subject pronouns or homophones, they aren't going to be taken seriously. Be open to constructive and often brutal feedback, network, and remember that when people tell you something can't be done, they are telling you their limits, not yours."

When asked if there was a particular actor Russell would love to work with, she replied Kevin Costner.

"So I can thank him for setting me on my screenwriting path," Russell said. "I have a feature in development with one of Kevin's producing partners so perhaps one day I will have that opportunity."

And for those who enjoy watching "The Knight Before Christmas"?

"Tweet @netflix and tell them you want a sequel," Russell said.

For details, visit and online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423,, or @AprilKHelms_RPC