He is the man behind Grey Matter Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
James B. Cox: I’m just starting out as a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and Grey Matter is only the second film I’ve directed. I grew up in Northern California where I enjoyed being close to Silicon Valley and San Francisco, both places that foster innovation and technology. Like many people my age, I saw Jurassic Park when it first hit theaters and was immediately seduced by the magic of filmmaking. I studied film production at Chapman University in Orange County. I’ve always been a voracious reader and movie-goer.
SKSM: When did you make Grey matter? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
James B. Cox: Grey Matter took a long time to complete. We shot the film in 2009 and it was officially complete in 2012. The production went incredibly smoothly. We shot all principal photography in three days in Southern California. Post production was another story. We had a very constrained budget and the visual effects were complicated and time-consuming to execute. If making Grey Matter has taught me anything, it is the importance of perseverance and the occasional advantage of stubbornness.
SKSM: How come you picked Grey matter to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
James B. Cox: From a practical perspective, it had not yet been made into a Dollar Baby Film. This offered the opportunity to not be compared to another filmmaker’s vision of the story. Since we started making Grey Matter, other filmmakers have been approved to adapt the same story, although I have not seen any of their films yet. Creatively, I was attracted by the signature King themes of human frailty and “normal” people facing supernatural situations. I have tried to emulate these concepts in my original works. Adapting King’s story taught me how to better approach these subjects in my own stories.
SKSM: Your “Grey matter” version it’s different from the original short story by Mr King. What was the reason to do it in this way?
James B. Cox: The changes I made came out of translating the story from the written page to the projected screen. The original short story is told through Richie’s son alerting the men at the local bar to his father’s transformation. For the sake of the film, I wanted the action of the story to be playing out in front of the audience—- not as a “flashback.” This decision led me and my co-writer, C. D. Tomlinson, toward finding a new way to tell the story and convey the son’s perspective. We arrived at the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable as a dramatic structure to deliver the story with maximum emotional impact.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
James B. Cox: I first heard about the Dollar Baby program through “the grapevine” at film school. I had fallen in love with Stephen King’s short stories and novels in high school, so the opportunity to make a film based on his work was a dream come true. Also as a fan of Frank Darabont, I was also aware of his relationship to Mr. King and how making his adaptation of The Woman In The Room was an integral film for starting his career.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
James B. Cox: Grey Matter was blessed by an amazing cast and an incredible crew. My favorite moment from making the film was when we shot a particularly emotional scene and everyone on set gathered around the monitor to watch the playback. The collective feeling of pride in our work was palpable and incredibly satisfying.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
James B. Cox: Every filmmaker would like their work to be seen by more people so I would welcome the opportunity to have Grey Matter released on DVD or permitted to be shown on the internet. However, I realize that the film exists by permission from Mr. King, so for now I’m satisfied to have it seen only in special screenings and festivals. Consequently, there are some advantages to the Dollar Babies being hard to find. It makes our films a special thing the audience has to seek out, like collector’s items. I suppose that’s the silver lining.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
James B. Cox: I’m happy with how Grey Matter turned out, but I learned many lessons through the process and my mistakes. Despite the flaws, the film has found an audience that appreciates it. For me, a film is not complete until it has found its audience.
SKSM: Grey Matter won the Best Horror Short at Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. How does it feel about it?
James B. Cox: Everyone knows that making a film is really difficult and it requires the concentrated effort of many people. Usually just finishing a film feels like a great accomplishment. So receiving the award felt even more incredible. I’ve also never received any awards for my creative work so it’s a new experience for me. Very satisfying.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
James B. Cox: I have not had the pleasure of being contacted by Mr. King. Given the chance, I would love to personally thank him for the opportunity to make the film and for filling my adolescent imagination with so many fantastic nightmares. As a kid, I read many of his books by flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. (Shhh, don’t tell my Mom!) Per the conditions of my Dollar Baby agreement, I have sent him a copy of the film. I hope he enjoyed it.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick – at least – one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
James B. Cox: I currently don’t have any plans to make another Dollar Baby film, but I’d love to adapt another Stephen King story. The Sun Dog and The Road Virus Heads North are some of my favorites. I would love to take a crack at one of his novels that deal with portals into other dimensions like From A Buick 8. Those stories painted very vivid images in my mind.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
James B. Cox: I have fans? Cool! But seriously, I would really like to thank Stephen King fans everywhere. The film would not exist without their help. The fans on the Stephen King message boards pointed me towards his representatives to get approval to adapt the story. The Stephen King fans on Facebook reached out to me to get updates on the film while it was in production and post production. And finally, the Stephen King fans are the people driving demand to have the film shown in festivals. All of the fun I had making the film and sharing it with audiences around the world– I owe it all to them.