“Stephen King is as much Maine as blueberries and lobsters,” says Topsham-based film producer Leigh Doran, who alongside writer-director and Brunswick resident David Jester is gearing up to film an adaptation of the novella. always terrifying from King’s “One for the Route.”
The filmmaking duo, who are teaming up to run the Maine-based company Whiskey Wolf Media, profited from one of the most eccentric charitable endeavors of the Maine horror writer and philanthropist. The side bustle of the king, called The Dollar Baby Program, sees the literary lion of Bangor offer a selection from its voluminous catalog of short stories for filmmakers to adapt. The cost for filmmakers – a net dollar bill.
Of course, movies cost more than a dollar, and Doran and Jester have become the crowdfunding route to increase the admirably specific budget of $37,081 they calculated for their film, which is set to shoot in Maine after the New Years.
But, for veteran filmmakers Doran and Jester, the chance to adapt “One for the Road” (from King’s seminal 1978 anthology of short stories “Night Shift”) is a unique opportunity to pay homage to an author who they have long admired. .
“We both had an obsession and a love for King’s work,” Jester said. “It’s exciting to be able to put your own creative take on a story that meant so much to you.” Doran added, “He’s one of the greatest storytellers of our generation, and it’s exciting to publish his own work, to reinvent it with his own twist.”
For the uninitiated, “One for the Road” depicts a “from afar” family man who, after his car breaks down in a blizzard outside the Maine town of Salem’s Lot, leaves his wife and her child in the waning heat of the car and asks for help from two crusty old men drinking up the storm at a secluded local watering hole. Not to spoil a 40-year-old story, but the town’s name should tell you why the poor man’s quest runs into some truly terrifying problems.
“I always liked the idea,” said Jester, perhaps a little macabre. “Being a stranger in a place and trying to get help when these two locals know something he doesn’t. The story is about how the men try to convince this stranger of something they know to be real and convince him not to return to his family.
Comparing the story’s snowy setting to horror classics such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” Jester touts the power of pressure in isolation to create intense cinematic magic. “I like when the weather is an element,” Jester said. “There’s a force working against them that they can’t control.”
Unfortunately, for independent filmmakers on a budget, making a howling blizzard in Maine to order is a little out of their price range.
“Of course, we can’t control the weather either,” Jester said with a laugh, Doran noting that the film’s proposed budget won’t go for an expensive snow machine, but will go towards feeding the cast and the film. team, taking care of the essentials and, ideally, building the film’s bar in a Maine barn room with a particularly evocative mural already in place. “We spotted the Mariaville Grange, which has this amazing WPA mural by a traveling artist on the back wall. We cross our fingers, because it would be just a perfect element.
Such thinking on your feet is an independent filmmaker’s greatest asset, Jester claiming that – with blizzards being so damn unreliable, even in Maine – he’s altered the misfortune of his hapless traveler (who will be played by the Maine actor Cody Alexander Curtis). “He has a rash on Christmas Eve, which meant he had to walk to that bar in the dark,” Jester said of his storyline fit. “If I was rich, I would create a blizzard.” (And, hey, maybe Jester, Doran and his team will get lucky.)
For Doran and Jester, themselves transplanted from Maine (from Vermont and Long Island, respectively), King’s work has long called them here. (Which is kind of scary, if you think about it.) Explaining his attraction to the Maine icon’s inimitable style, Doran said, “King’s stories begin in such believable, compelling and normal lives and towns. . We live in Stephen King’s world every day. And then suddenly the normal world changes and the paranoia you usually keep at bay appears.
Jester added, “King pulls back the curtain and shows it – he doesn’t leave a character out of town. We always recognize these characters, this panoply of them. We have all seen them, all met them. Noting King’s willingness to embrace Maine’s oft-ignored darker side, Jester, referring to the fact that Maine’s history with the KKK (like referenced in his novel “IT”), said, “King incorporates elements of Maine that are dirty, dark – but all part of the fabric of where we are.”
To that end, Jester and Doran (and your humble author) urge potential viewers to “One for the Road’s” fundraising page on the IndieGoGo site. For one, the donations there will help ensure that we get the filmmakers’ unique take on one of Stephen King’s most legendary tales. On the other hand, Dollar Baby’s rules state that in exchange for the cheap movie rights, “One for the Road” can never be uploaded to YouTube and cannot be publicly released for profit. They can submit it to film festivals, but to make sure you can actually see the film, Doran notes that backers are all given a private link to watch it when it comes out.
Other than those lucky few, however, the only person who’s guaranteed to see this standalone adaptation made in Maine will be King himself, since Dollar Baby rules also require the writer to receive a DVD copy of the finished film ( with with his dollar). Said Doran of the decades-long program, “It’s a real two-way street. Filmmakers may have respect for King’s stories, but King also has respect for film and likes to have his work adapted for the screen.
As Doran further notes, since Dollar Babies have been in production since the late ’70s (with “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” director Frank Darabont being the most famous participant), “Only King knows how many there really are some out there.” It sounds like the setup of a particularly chilling Stephen King story, really.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.