How is it that the film Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage--which tells the inspirational story of the self-anointed "Painter of Light"'s most famous work; stars Jared Padalecki ("Supernatural"), Marcia Gay Harden, and Peter O'Toole; and ought to have a built in audience of Kinkade fans--went from being a Christmas 2007 theatrical release to a straight-to-video product that dropped last week? Some clues may be found in this memo, uncovered by Vanity Fair, in which the painter offers 16 guidelines for creating "The Thomas Kinkade Look." A sample:

 6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened....

12) Surprise details. Suggest a few "inside references" that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings -- for example, a "teddy bear mascot" for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I'm aware of normally have hidden "inside references". In the realm of fine art we refer to this as "second reading, third reading, etc." A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study. ...

16) Most important concept of all -- THE CONCEPT OF LOVE. Perhaps we could make large posters that simply say "Love this movie" and post them about. I pour a lot of love into each painting, and sense that our crew has a genuine affection for this project. This starts with Michael Campus as a Director who feels great love towards this project, and should filter down through the ranks. Remember: "Every scene is the best scene." 

Fans disappointed at the movie's less-than-flattering rollout can console themselves that, according to imdb.com, it is still getting a theatrical release in Iceland.

--Christopher Orr