think we all need at least one really nice positive thing about the
entertainment business every single day of the year, including
weekends. Sometimes it may be something simple, like a video that
showcases something fun and sometimes it may be a movie poster that
embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to aspire to. Sometimes it
may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll be from the staff and
extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you readers can get in on it.
So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will get a little bit of
positivity from one column a day here. Take it with you. Maybe it’ll
help you through a bad day or give folks some fun things to hunt down in
their busy celluloid digesting day.
By Joshua Miller (Facebook)
What I’m Thankful For:
Stephen King’s “Dollar Babies.”
What are “Dollar Babies” exactly? I’ll let Mr. King explain that one:
“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… 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  — I’d look at the films — then put them up on a shelf I had marked ‘Dollar Babies.’“
For almost twenty years, King never publicized the “Dollar Baby” program. Word of mouth made it to a couple young ears, but for the most part only a few really ballsy and ambitious student filmmakers discovered the $1 price tag – after personally contacting King about adaptation rights. Because of this a surprisingly a small number of “Dollar Babies” were made (including The Woman in the Room, made by a young King fanatic named Frank Darabont). That is, until 1996 when King mentioned the $1 program in his introduction to the published shooting script for The Shawshank Redemption. Then the Internet happened. Since then the numbers have exploded (comparatively). This all serves to make the dozen or so original “Dollar Babies” all the more special. Almost like a secret society.
I recently had the chance to see a collection of that 1977-1996 crop up on the big screen at LA’s rising-star on the revival cinema scene, Cinefamily, in a special event attended by all the now middle-aged former student filmmakers. It was incredibly interesting seeing how these different students chose to tackle their respective subjects (especially in instances where the stories were later developed into studio features by “professionals”). I think it is an amazing thing King did (and is doing) with the “Dollar Babies.” Both fun and inspiring. It is a testament to King’s love of cinema and well-known support for up-and-comers.
Best yet, because of the non-profit arrangement, many of these films are up on youtube! Here are the first segments of my two favorite “Dollar Babies.”
Disciples of the Crow by John Woodward (an adaptation of “Children of the Corn”).
The Boogeyman by Jeffrey C. Schiro (the very first “Dollar Baby”)
[note: this youtube transfer looks like balls; the actual film looks dandy, so don’t hold it against Schiro]
So, for inspiring over three decades of young filmmakers, and proving that not all successful people are assholes, I am thankful for Stephen King’s “Dollar Babies.”
I was previously thankful for:
Video Store Memories
Southdale Public Library
The Triumvirate of Los Angeles Revival Theaters
Movie Trailers on the Big Screen
Ian Thorne’s Monsters Series