Book examines filmmakers who produce Stephen King-based movies on dollar budget

Dollar baby photos

Shawn S. Lealos (Provided)

The words of Stephen King have long inspired filmmakers to lift his tales of anxiety, hope and fear onto the silver screen, powered by large budgets. Films such as The Shining, Secret Window and Oscar-winning Misery cost millions in talent and production, yet profit well.

However, there resides an underground of short films based on King’s works. Rarely seen outside festivals, these movies are created through an agreement between King and the filmmaker for one dollar. They are known as Dollar Babies.

“It’s just an effort to give a little back. Plus, I get copies of the films, which are usually interesting and sometimes quite brilliant. In a way, it’s like being a baseball scout in the minor leagues,” King said in a statement to Oklahoma Gazette.

Shawn S. Lealos is a Yukon-born journalist, author and a director of a Dollar Baby film. In his new book Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers, Lealos describes in-depth the experiences he and 18 other directors faced directing Dollar Babies.

He learned of the films as a University of Oklahoma student while studying writing piqued his interest in screenplays.

“I started reading all the screenplays I could get my hands on,” Lealos said. “One of the books I picked up was the screenplay for The Green Mile, which Frank Darabont directed. In the introduction of the book, he mentioned he got his start making a Dollar Baby.”

Darabont is an Oscar-nominated director whose work includes the King adaptations The Mist and The Shawshank Redemption, the latter of which was offered to him after King liked his Dollar Baby film The Woman in the Room.

After determining the story I Know What You Need as his choice to film, Lealos sent King a query letter proposing the idea. The film was released in 2005.

As part of the agreement, filmmakers cannot profit from their creation, as it can only be viewed at festivals, conventions or a product reel for employment.

“He loves the option to foster creativity with other people,” said Damon Vinyard in an interview with Oklahoma Gazette.

Vinyard is a broadcast producer in Los Angeles who directed In the Deathroom, released in 2011.

“I think it’s cool to him too because he lets others interpret his work, to see what they do to it,” he said.

Vinyard is profiled in the book.

King is well-known for honoring his Maine roots, where he and his family still live. He donates to projects addressing societal and environmental issues in Maine communities. Dollar Babies can be viewed in a similar light.

Lealos is thankful for his Dollar Baby opportunity.

“The people I interviewed were people who not only had a respect for King, but also for what he did for us,” Lealos said.

Find Dollar Deal at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Nook.


Print headline: Dollar deals, Many Stephen King books have become hit films, but an Oklahoma author’s new book reveals there are many more you might not know exist.

Adam Holt

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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