I released by book, Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers (BUY IT HERE) back in 2015 and have hosted a pair of Dollar Baby Film Festivals (one in Houston and one in Seattle). 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. So, what are Stephen King Dollar Baby films?
Here is a breakdown of the Stephen King dollar babies.
When did Stephen King start allowing Dollar Baby Films?
I originally believed that Frank Darabont was the first dollar baby filmmaker but recently learned that the first “known” 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 “known” 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 the greatest movies ever made.
What are Dollar Baby Films 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.
When I made my Stephen King Dollar Baby film I Know What You Need, it took some research. Now, King has a list of films he is currently offering in the deal available on his website.
Where can Stephen King’s Dollar Baby Films 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 outside of festivals and convention appearances. You can’t put it on DVD and send it to people (except for festival consideration).
This makes the Stephen King dollar babies almost mythic. Many people have heard about them but few have actually seen them. That is what makes the Comicpalooza Film Festival I held my first festival at such a big deal because there have been only a small handful of times more than one or two dollar baby films have screened together in the United States.
Are the Dollar Baby Films any good?
Don’t let the term “student filmmakers” fool you. These are some really good movies out there under the Stephen King dollar babies deal. James Cole’s Last Rung on the Ladder, Jay Holben’s Paranoid and Rodney Altman’s Umney’s Last Case are three examples of great movies and there are more. Altman spent $60,000 to make his dollar baby, so don’t think all these are low budget affairs either.
My book, Dollar Deal: The Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers (BUY IT HERE) tells the stories of a large number of these filmmakers and what they went through to make these amazing short films and how they used the generosity of Stephen King to move on into careers in the entertainment industry.
Click on this link to learn more about each of the individual Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers.