The Dollar Baby (also sometimes referred to as the Dollar Deal) is a term coined by best-selling author Stephen King in reference to a select group of students and aspiring filmmakers or theatre producers whom he has granted permission to adapt one of his short stories for $1. The term is used interchangeably to refer to the film or play itself, or the maker (for example, "The Sun Dog" was made as a Dollar Baby, or writer/director Frank Darabont was a Dollar Baby). The production budgets range from a few hundred dollars to over $60,000 (Umney's Last Case) and the film formats range from home video to professional 35 mm film. A book about the Dollar Baby films is planned for an early 2015 release by Dollar Baby filmmaker Shawn S. Lealos. It will tell the story of 19 of the Dollar Baby filmmakers where they talk about making their movies and their career following their Dollar Babies.
As King explained in his introduction to the published shooting script for Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption (based on his Different Seasons novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), "Around 1977 or so, when I started having some popular success, I saw a way to give back a little of the joy the movies had given me.
- "'77 was the year young film makers - college students, for the most part - started writing me about the stories I'd published (first in Night Shift, later in Skeleton Crew), wanting to make short films out of them. Over the objections of my accountant, who saw all sorts of possible legal problems, I established a policy which still holds today. I will grant any student filmmaker the right to make a movie out of any short story I have written (not the novels, that would be ridiculous), so long as the film rights are still mine to assign. I ask them to sign a paper promising that no resulting film will be exhibited commercially without approval, and that they send me a videotape of the finished work. For this one-time right I ask a dollar. I have made the dollar-deal, as I call it, over my accountant's moans and head-clutching protests sixteen or seventeen times as of this writing ."
Once the film was made and King received his copy he explains, "...I'd look at the films ... then put them up on a shelf I had marked 'Dollar Babies'."
Then-20-year old Frank Darabont's Dollar Baby adaptation of "The Woman in the Room" was eventually released in 1986 on VHS by Granite Entertainment Group Interglobal Home Video as part of the Stephen King's Night Shift Collection along with New York University film student Jeff Schiro's adaptation of "The Boogeyman", and John Woodward's "Disciples of the Crow". Darabont went on to direct three feature film adaptations of Stephen King's work: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both nominated for multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture, as well as The Mist.
One of the first to bring the Dollar Deal to the public eye was author Stephen J. Spignesi in his exhaustive volume The Stephen King Encyclopedia where in he writes about two student short adaptations: "The Last Rung on the Ladder" (1987) by James Cole and Dan Thron and "The Lawnmower Man" (1987) by Jim Gonis.
As Dollar Babies were not intended to be seen by the public beyond film festivals and school presentations, and not commercially sold or openly traded prior to the advent of the Internet, many of them have eluded the King fan community. In 1996, when King first publicly discussed the Dollar Deal policy, he mentioned "sixteen or seventeen" such Dollar Babies. It is difficult, if not impossible, to account for them all without access to King's designated Dollar Baby shelf. Although Frank Darabont originally requested to make his adaptation of "The Woman in the Room" in 1980, it took him three years to complete the film. The known Dollar Babies between 1977 and 1996 are:
- "The Boogeyman" (1982) by Jeffrey C. Schiro
- "Disciples of the Crow" (1983) by John Woodward[disambiguation needed]
- "The Woman in the Room" (1983) by Frank Darabont
- "Srajenie" (The Battle) (1986) by Mikhail Titov
- "The Last Rung on the Ladder" (1987) by James Cole and Dan Thron
- "The Lawnmower Man" (1987) by James Gonis
- "Here There Be Tygers" (1988) by Guy Maddin (never produced)
- "Cain Rose Up" (1989) by David C. Spillers
- "The Sun Dog" (unknown date and filmmaker)
- "The Man Who Loved Flowers" (1996) by Andrew Newman
In 2000 Dollar Babies came back into the public eye when Los Angeles based filmmaker Jay Holben made an adaptation of "Paranoid: A Chant," a 100-line poem that appears in Skeleton Crew. Paranoid was the first Dollar Baby to be released with King's permission for a limited time on the Internet in 2002. Again with King's permission, the film was then the first Dollar Baby released on a commercial DVD, in a package with Total Movie Magazine, a short-lived offshoot of the immensely popular UK publication Total Film. King fans clamored to download the eight-minute film, and then clamored for more.
In September 2004, fellow Dollar Baby James Renner ("All That You Love Will Be Carried Away") put together the first public film festival presentation of Dollar Babies. The festival was held in the D. P. Corbett Business Theater at the University of Maine, Orono, Stephen King's own Alma Mater (1966–1970) where he wrote for The Maine Campus newspaper. Renner followed the festival with a second incarnation in September 2005 at the same location.
On the Internet, the largest public collection of the Dollar Babies has been put together by Bernd Lautenslager from the Netherlands. Many of the films listed above were available for download at a site called Stephen King Short Movies, but at the request of Stephen King's representatives, the films are no longer available for download. To date, the only short specifically granted permission to play for a limited time on the Internet was Paranoid.
In October 2009, director/producer J.P. Scott completed the very first full length dollar baby. His adaptation of "Everything's Eventual" tells the story of a young man with mysterious powers who gets recruited by an equally enigmatic corporation. Shortly after receiving a copy of the movie, Stephen King viewed the film and was "very impressed" by it, so much so that he granted J.P. Scott the rights to theatrically distribute the film. The only other time commercial distribution rights that have been given to a dollar baby was with Frank Darabont's "The Woman in the Room" and Jeff Schiro's "The Boogeyman," which was released as "Stephen King's Nightshift Collection."
It is a common misconception that the filmmakers of the Dollar Babies have optioned or obtained the legal rights to the stories the films are based on. In fact, author King retains all rights and merely grants the exclusive permission to the filmmaker to make a non-commercial adaptation. As in the case of The Woman in the Room, The Boogyman, and "Disciples of the Crow", Granite Entertainment Group Interglobal Home Video negotiated and purchased the rights to commercially release the shorts on video in 1986. The non-public details of these agreements are well beyond the original $1 for Dollar Baby permission. These films were originally announced for home video distribution by Gerard Ravels' Native Son International, but after Frank Darabont discovered that Ravels did not secure proper rights to the stories, the release was scrapped. As part of the agreement with Stephen King, all Dollar Baby films must include the specific phrase "© Stephen King. Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved."
This rather unorthodox arrangement is the reason the films cannot be commercially released nor can the filmmakers garner any profit from the works, and accounts for adaptations of the same source material by multiple filmmakers. For example, "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" was adapted seven times by James Renner, Anthony Kaneaster, Scott Albanese, Chi Laughlin & Natalie Mooallem (as All That You Love), Robert Sterling and Brian Berkowitz (as The Secret Transit Codes of America's Highways).
King's phrase "so long as the film rights are still mine to assign..." actually has two meanings. This refers to King retaining rights to the original material in order to sell them to a legitimate buyer in the future and also to material that has not been previously sold (i.e.: material that King still holds all the rights). If another company or individual has purchased the film rights to one of King's stories, he no longer has legal authority to grant permission to a Dollar Baby as the rights are now held by the buyer.
Filmmakers cannot upload their films (Dollar Babies) onto video-sharing websites like YouTube or Vimeo.
Some of the Dollar Baby filmmakers have mistakenly assumed that Stephen King's explicit permission to make and showcase the adapted filmwork automatically qualifies the film for a possessory credit (e.g. "Stephen King's Silver Bullet" as opposed to just "Silver Bullet"). In actuality, this is a specified legal usage of the author's name and King does not grant permission for Dollar Baby filmmakers to use his name in this manner. The possessory title is only used on projects in which King has a direct and considerable involvement.
Previously, this title was applied more liberally until it was abused with the release of Brett Leonard's The Lawnmower Man. The film, which bears little to no resemblance to King's short story, was originally released as Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, but the possessory title was removed following a lawsuit filed by King against the filmmakers. A federal court ruled in King's favor and, a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that King's name should be removed from the title.
As Stephen King himself comments, "Many of these adaptations weren't so great, but a few showed at least a smattering of talent. ... in many cases one viewing was all a person could bear..." As many, if not the majority, of the Dollar Baby films are made by student or tyro filmmakers, the quality is often sub-standard, although there are a few notable exceptions. King offered praise to "...a fairly impressive eighteen minute version of The Sun Dog. Darabont's The Woman in the Room, in addition to being photographed by the renowned cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchia (Glengarry Glen Ross), made the semi-finalist list for Academy Award consideration in 1983. King is also quoted as saying that "The Woman in the Room" is "clearly the best of the short films made from my stuff.
Paranoid is among the most critically acclaimed Dollar Babies. Rolling Stone magazine's David Wild said of the film "Rarely has paranoia been so much fun... Jay Holben has created a stunning and artful rendering of madness, turning a poem by Stephen King into a vivid and compelling nightmare vision."
List of Dollar Babies
There is a distinction to be made wherein a Dollar Baby is a film that has received special permission from Stephen King and the filmmaker has an exclusive contract with the author. Some films listed below may simply have been unauthorized short adaptations without the official sanction from King, in which case they would not officially be Dollar Babies and should be removed from this list. Every attempt has been made to confirm the authenticity of all the titles below, but many still remain in question.
This list includes released Dollar Baby films, the directors, format, length and production budget when available. Where possible, links are provided to the films' official websites.
- The Boogeyman (1982) by Jeff Schiro (16mm 29 minutes $20,000)
- Disciples of the Crow (1983) by John Woodward (30 minutes)
- The Woman in the Room (1983) by Frank Darabont (35mm 32 minutes $35,000)
- I Know What You Need (1983) by Rik Joel Carter (Super 8 – 42 minutes - $2,200)
- Last Rung on the Ladder (1987) by James Cole and Dan Thron (Super8 mm 12 minutes $1,500)
- The Lawnmower Man (1987) by James Gonis (16 mm 12 minutes $5,000)
- Cain Rose Up (1989) by David C. Spillers (8 minutes)
- The Man Who Loved Flowers (1996) by Andrew Newman (16mm / 5 min. / $2,000)
- Shalt Thou Shew Wonders to the Dead? (Nona)(1997) by Julien Magnat (20 minutes)
- Llamadas (Sorry, Right Number) (1999) by Daniel Yañez (8 minutes)
- Paranoid (2000) by Jay Holben (35 mm 8 minutes $3,000)
- Night Surf (2001) by Peter Sullivan (DV 30 minutes $2,000)
- Strawberry Spring (2001) by Doveed Linder (35 mm 8 minutes)
- Rainy Season (2002) by Nick Wauters (24p HD 15 minutes $10,000)
- Autopsy Room Four (2003) by Stephen Zakman (22 minutes)
- Here There Be Tygers (2003) by James Cochrane (DV 12 minutes $100)
- The Man in the Black Suit (2003) by Nicholas Mariani (20 minutes)
- All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (2004) by James Renner (26 minutes)
- All That You Love (2004) by Scott Albanese (35 mm 15 minutes $23,000)
- Stephen King's Gotham Cafe (2004) by Jack Sawyers
- The Gunslinger (Roland Meets the Dweller) (2004) by Robert David Cochrane (DV 4 minutes)
- Luckey Quarter (2004) by Robert David Cochrane (35 mm 11 minutes $10,000)
- The Secret Transit Codes of America's Highways (2004) by Brian Berkowitz (15 minutes $1,500)
- The Boogeyman (Play) (2005) by Graham Rees (60 minutes)
- All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (2005) by Anthony Kaneaster
- El Sueño de Harvey (Harvey's Dream) (2005) Rodolfo Weisskirch (Mini DV 35 minutes $350)
- Home Delivery: Servicio a Domicilio (2005) by Elio Quiroga (animation 11 minutes €190,000)
- I Know What You Need (2005) by Shawn S. Lealos (Mini DV 40 minutes $1,500)
- La Femme Dans la Chambre (The Woman in the Room) (2005) by Damien Maric (Mini DV 13 minutes €10,000)
- The Road Virus Heads North (2005) by Dave Brock (21 minutes $10,000)
- Sorry, Right Number (2005) by Brian Berkowitz (19 minutes $30,000)
- Suffer the Little Children (2005) by Bernardo Villela (DV )
- All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (2005) by Mark Montalto
- Suffer the little children (The bathroom scene) (2005) by Ryan Hannigan (6,56 minutes)
- Suppr. (Word processor of the gods) (2005) by Nicolas Heurtel (15 minutes)
- The Walking Ghost (The Gunslinger) (2006) by Sarah Sterchele (12 minutes 16mm)
- Umney's Last Case (2006) by Rodney Altman (35 mm/16 mm 18 minutes $60,000)
- Le croque mitaine(The Boogeyman) (2006) by Giuliano Dinocca
- Tyger (Here there be tygers) (2006) by Leyla Everaers (16mm 10 minutes €3,000)
- Je suis la passerelle(I am the Doorway) (2006) by Giuliano Dinocca
- Popsy (2006) by Brian Haynes (24 minutes)
- Lovecraft's pillow (2006) by Mark Steensland (10 minutes)
- In the cutting room (Autopsy room four) (2006) by Tyson Steigers (15,17 minutes)
- Night Surf (2007) by Samuel Vary (DV 10 minutes)
- Livraisons matinales (Morning deliveries) (2007) by Florent Mack (animation, 4 minutes)
- All That You Love (2007) by Natalie Mooallem (DV 15 minutes $)
- Night Surf (2007) by Stephen William Parkhurst (DV, 18 minutes)
- Paul's Dream (Harvey's Dream) (2007) by Ben Lawrence (11,23 minutes)
- The Jaunt (2007) directed by Tod Gorman, adapted by Nick Smith (16mm, 16 minutes)
- All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (2008) by Chi Laughlin (HDV, 10 minutes $180)
- Autopsy room four (2008) by Dave Gallant (7,02 minutes)
- The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands (2008) by Ian Klink
- Suffer the Little Children (2008) by Treven Cannon (DV, 13 minutes)
- In the Deathroom (2009) by Luke Cheney - Completed
- In The Deathroom by Joe Leavell - Completed. Under $3,000 production. Winner of Honolulu film fest 2010
- My Pretty Pony (2009) by Mikhail Tank - Completed (HD/SAG/$500/4.4 minutes) Watch Teaser
- Here There Be Tigers (2009) by Aaron Botwick & Joshua Meadow - Completed (16mm/$500)
- The Man Who Loved Flowers (2009) by Christopher Harrison - Completed
- Everything's Eventual (2009) by J.P. Scott - Completed (RED 4k / $45,000 / 78 minutes)
- Popsy (2009) by Mattson Tomlin - Completed (9 minutes)
- Cain Rose Up (2010) by Jeven Dovey - Completed
- Flowers for Norma (The Man Who Loved Flowers) (2010) by Juan Pablo Reinoso - Completed
- Cain Rose Up (2010) by Robert W. Livings - Completed
- All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (2010) by Robert Sterling - Completed
- The Boogeyman (2010) by Gerard Lough - Completed
- The Things They Left Behind (2010) by Loyd Elmore and Elm Ore Productions - Completed
- Hard Ride(Stationary Bike) (2010) by Paul J. Gitschner - Completed
- In The Deathroom (2010) by Damon Vinyard - Completed
- One for the Road (2010) by Michael Floyd - Post-Production (Rough cut shown at The Silent Movie theater's Dollar Baby film festival in LA, October 3, 2010)
- Everything's Eventual (2011) by Maxwell Heesch - Completed (Canon 7D / $400 / 15 minutes)
- Love Never Dies (Nona) (2011) by Peter Szabo - in production
- The Things They Left Behind (2011) by Pablo Macho Maysonet IV - Completed (Canon 7D / $10,000 / 43 minutes)
- Mute (2011) by Gemma Rigg - Completed
- Mute (2011) by D.J. Hartman - Completed
- Survivor Type (2011) by Chris Ethridge and Jayson Palmer - (HD/SAG/30 minutes)
- Autopsy Room Four (2011) by Jaysen Davis - Completed (Canon 7D / $22,000 / 58 minutes)
- The Boogeyman (2011) by John McGovern - Completed
- The Boogeyman (2011) by Lewis A Beach and Seb Shaw - Pre-production. Estimated run Time: 1hr 45mins.
- Autopsy Room Four (2011) by Jeremey Davis - Completed (35 mm / $49,000 / 75 minutes)
- That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French (2011) by Nathan Gathergood (Canon 7D/HDCAM/14 minutes)
- Harvey's Dream (2011) VFS Hakan Gunnarson (10 Min/XDcam)
- Tussenstop(Rest Stop) (2011) by Jan van Gorkum (15 minutes)
- Beachworld (2011) by Maria Ivanova - Completed (25 min).
- In The Deathroom (2011) by Javier Meléndez - Completed
- Grey Matter (2011) Directed by James B. Cox - Completed
- The Boogeyman (2012) by Jenny Januszewski - Completed
- Willa (2012) by Mikhail Tank - Completed (Watch Announcement from Transylvania) (Watch Teaser)
- "Popsy" (2012) by John Lerchen - Completed
- "A Very Tight Place" (2012) by Scott Gensch, IN PRE-PRODUCTION
- 1st Authorized Dollar Baby Documentary Project (2013) by/contact for more information: Mikhail Tank
- The Man Who Loved Flowers (2012) by Omer Siddiqi
- Bike (Stationary Bike) (2012) by David Toms - In Post-Production. Run Time: 60 minutes.
- Delver Glass (The Reaper's Image) (2012) by Matthias Greving (Germany) - Completed (S16 / 35 mm // 20 minutes)
- You Missed Sonja (Rest Stop) (2012) by Paul Andexel | Director: Félix Koch (Germany) - completed (HD // 20 minutes)
- The Man Who Loved Flowers (2012) Directed by Ranjeet S. Marwa - Completed
- Mute (2012) by Thies Grünewald (Germany) - Completed (Canon XL1 H1 / €1,500 / 28 minutes)
- Survivor Type (2012) by Billy Hanson - Completed (Nikon D3100 / $15,000 / 31 Minutes)
- The Things They Left Behind (2013) by Guillaume Heulard & Stéphane Valette - Post-production
- The Death of Jack Hamilton (2013) directed by Jamie Anderson / Truefoe Films / UK
- Chirophobia (The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands) (2013) in Pre-Production.
- Big Driver (2013) by Ian Wolfley / Anything Is Possible Productions, in post-production
- I am the Doorway (2013) by Alden Miller - in Pre-production
- Graduation Afternoon (2013) Directed by David Skaggs - in Pre-Production
- Willa (2014), COCOFILMS, Screenplay by Sina Flammang, Directed by Helena Hufnagel
- " Cain Rose Up " - Directed by Ranjeet S. Marwa - Completed (2013)
- "Rest Stop" - Written by Grady Michael Hill, Directed by Patrick Abernethy - Released December 31, 2014
- I am the Doorway (2013) by Matthew J Rowney - in Pre-production
- The Man Who Loved Flowers, Directed by Benjamin Sibioude - France - Pre-production (2013)
- Big Driver (2014) by Kyle Mecca / TFA Productions at SUNY Buffalo State, in post-production
- Night Surf (2014) Directed by Tony Pomfret. Completed.
- NONA (2014) 3rd dollar baby film by Mikhail Tank - in Production, Watch Teaser
- The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (2014) Directed by Timothy Wyatt - Pre-production
- In the Deathroom (2015) directed by Calum Rhys - Just Announced
- 226 (2015) - Based on Stationary Bike. Written and directed by Corey Dowd. - In Pre-Production. Produced by Doorway Medic Films