I talked yesterday about the upcoming Stephen King dollar baby films that will screen at the Comicpalooza Texas International Comic Con on Memorial Day 2013. I also talked about the book I am writing about the dollar baby filmmakers, on sale at the end of the year. However, as someone who has lived in the world of the dollar babies since 1999, I realized a lot of people may not know what it is.
Here is a breakdown of the Stephen King dollar babies.
When did Stephen King start allowing Dollar Babies?
I originally believed that Frank Darabont was the first dollar baby filmmaker but recently heard that the first dollar baby film was actually Jeff Schiro’s “The Boogeyman” in 1982.
“I believe The Boogeyman was one of the first short films made from his stories,” Schiro said in an interview with stephenkingshortmovies.com. “When I decided I wanted to try and make it into a film, I wrote Doubleday Books who owned the rights and eventually heard back. For years, I thought I was the only one who had this dollar deal!”
However, he wasn’t the only one because one year later a young filmmaker named Frank Darabont created “The Woman in the Room” and became the most famous dollar baby filmmaker of all time. Darabont officially was the first person to receive permission to make a dollar baby, but Schiro finished his movie first.
King loved Darabont’s movie so much that he gave Darabont a one dollar option to make “Shawshank Redemption,” which stands the test of time as one of cinema’s greatest movies.
What are Dollar Babies anyway?
The dollar baby films are what the title proclaims. Stephen King offers student filmmakers the chance to make a short film based off one of his short stories for $1. Stories already made into feature length films are not eligible (“Children of the Corn” is a good example) and none of his novels are eligible. The filmmakers then have the right to make the movie and show it at film festivals and on their product reels.
Where can Stephen King’s Dollar Babies be seen?
This is the tough part, but it is fair when you think about it. For $1, filmmakers can make a movie based on a Stephen King story and use it to further their career by screening it at festivals or adding it to their product reel that they use for future jobs. However, that is it. You can’t put it on the Internet (if you see one, it breaks the contract if the filmmaker put it there). You can’t hold a public screening for people to come see. You can’t put it on DVD and send it to people (except for festival consideration).
This makes the Stephen King dollar baby films almost mythic. Many people have heard about them but few have actually seen them. That is what makes the Comicpalooza Film Festival such a big deal, because there have been a small handful of times more than one or two dollar baby films have screened together in the United States.
Are the Dollar Babies any good?
Don’t let the term “student filmmakers” fool you. These are some really good movies out there under the Stephen King dollar baby deal. James Cole’s “Last Rung on the Ladder,” Jay Holben’s “Paranoid” and Rodney Altman’s “Umney’s Last Case” are three great movies and there are many more. Altman spent $60,000 to make his dollar baby, so don’t think all these are low budget affairs.
My upcoming book, “Dollar Deal,” will tell the stories of these filmmakers and what they went through to make these labors of love that they contractually couldn’t make a penny off of.
Stay tuned for more information about “Dollar Deal” as the year rolls on.