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He is the man behind Umney’s Last Case Dollar Baby Film .

SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

Rodney Altman: My name is Rodney Altman and I’m 24 years old. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but I have lived in New York City for over 3 years now. I went to college here at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, one of the top film schools in the country. I graduated in May 2004 and have been finishing the film and writing a screenplay in my spare time.

SKSM: When did you make Umney’s Last Case? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?

Rodney Altman: We shot most of Umney’s Last Case on a soundstage over 2 weeks in March 2005. I had sets built for the elevator, the hallway, Candy’s office, and Umney’s office. The Peoria Smith scene was shot on location on a small, quiet New York street. We had a crew of about 40 people, some were people I regularly work with, some were new to me, but we all got along very well. We shot it on 35mm on Fuji Eterna stock. We were actually the first narrative production in the country to use this film (some commercial used it before us). We ran into a small scheduling problem while building the sets and had to cut out the scenes of Umney in the present day to be shot at a later time. I spent the summer editing the film and due to numerous reasons I just shot the final scene 6 days ago. I’ll be getting it from the lab tomorrow and will finally be able to finish. We shot that scene on 16mm Kodak Vision2 film to give it a completely different feel from the fictional world of Umney. In terms of cost, it’s always hard to give an exact number because as students you have to ask for a lot of favors and some stuff that should be expensive is cheaper or free. But, all inclusive from costumes, film, rentals, building materials, and all post-production, it was about $60,000.

SKSM: How come you picked Umney’s Last Case to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?

Rodney Altman: I remember many years ago my parents took a trip to New Orleans for some medical conference (they’re both psychiatrists) and they came back with some gifts. One of them was that small pocket single version of Umney’s Last Case. I’ll say I was about 15 or 16 at the time, but don’t quote me on that. Anyway, I had never really read much King at that time, although I had seen every movie with his name on it. I put the book away and never touched it. A year or so later we went on a road trip and I just happened to find it and decided to use it to pass the time in the backseat. It was a little slow at first and I had no idea where it was going. But then when I got to the ending I found myself constantly thinking about it. “Who was the real author? Is it all in his mind or is Umney real?” I loved how the story snuck up on you. I distinctly remember thinking that it would make a really cool short film, and over the years I would always hear that thought popping up in my head. I hate how people who don’t read King always call him a horror writer. He has some many great stories that run the range of genres, and here’s this detective story with a strange sci-fi twist. If you took King’s name off it, no one would know it’s one of his stories. I wanted people to see that this writer has other stuff to offer.

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?

Rodney Altman: I had just finished shooting my previous film Echoes and was thinking about what to do for my next project. Echoes is based on a very short story by an old high school English teacher of mine name Lawrence Connolly. The story is only 2 and a half pages, but it is mind blowing. If you can track it down, read it. Also, you can see most of my film version at my composer’s site if anyone is interested. The guy who plays the father in Echoes (Joel Nagle) plays Umney. And the kid that plays Billy (David Benger) plays Peoria. It was my first time using color film and sound and it could only be a maximum of 8 minutes, so I got the rights from Lawrence and adapted it. My next project was my advanced film and could be up to 30 minutes, and I thought that might be a perfect length for Umney’s Last Case. I happen to mention this in a group of friends and one of them, Josh Finn (who made another awesome film called Time Enough at Last, if you want to check it out) told me about King and his $1 deals. I did some research and when I saw that Frank Darabont did the same thing, I knew I had to make Umney. I called up Rand Holston (King’s agent) and through him he set up the deal.

SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?

Rodney Altman: Well, up until this film I had only worked with actors from around the New York area who were mostly unknown. I don’t mean untalented, as so many of them are. They just never got their shot. Well, with Umney I wanted to have a little more of a challenge with directing. My producer Jason Brown happened to have worked with Mark Margolis on a previous project and we contacted him and asked him to play Vernon Kline. If you don’t know who Mark Margolis is by name, check him out on and you’ll instantly recognize him. Anyway, he took the role very seriously and treated me like his boss. I mean, this man is telling me stories about working with Darren Aronofsky and then asking me if I liked his way of saying a line and whether we should do another take. And this is the first day of shooting. But you know, you get over being star-struck very quickly. He was taking it seriously, so I started to also. And after an hour we just had a natural rhythm going. I’m going to have to make sure he’s in my next film. He really nails Vernon’s part.

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 video/dvd release would be possible?

Rodney Altman: Well, they shouldn’t feel too bad. At this point even my own parents haven’t seen the movie. They flew in for a weekend to see me work on set, but they have yet to see any actual footage. However, the film will be done by the end of January now as everything is back on schedule. I’ll be submitting it to a few select film festivals, and after that I’d be happy to put it up on the web, perhaps even your site. I can’t do it right away because many festivals demand that they have exclusive rights to it. But by all means I want the fans to see it. I get upset when I know there are other King short films out there that I can’t see. Sooner or later, you will get to see this.

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)?

Rodney Altman: He has not seen it yet, but he will soon. I’m a little nervous about it. Especially because TNT is now making it for television with William H. Macy. Obviously they are going to have a longer, more expensive version of it and whether or not you mean to, you’re going to compare it to that. I’ve made some very creative choices with my version and I’m dying to see what they did. As for contact with King, I have a funny story about that. When King was in town to receive his award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards, I decided to get tickets and go thank him personally. However, I couldn’t get tickets. So I decided to crash. My girlfriend and I got dressed up, went to the Marriott Marquis and pretended to be in with the press box. After King’s speech I went down to the main floor and approached him. He shook my hand and I told him who I was and how grateful I was for the chance to make Umney. He looked at me and said, “Oh yea, I remember that one. Make sure you do a good job.” Then he sat down. I found out the next day that he was hospitalized for having the flu and only came so he could give his speech. I felt really bad about standing there in front of his chair and trying to talk to him while he’s just dying to sit down. But he was a good sport about it and I hope he enjoys the film.

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?

Rodney Altman: Well, I have to be honest. I love so many of King’s stories and there are like 5 that I want to do. For years I wanted to make Desperation, but since that’s already been done I’ll have to get over it. My true passion lies with The Dark Tower. I know that that’s like climbing a 100 foot scaling wall and then deciding to go climb Mt. Everest, but I want to do it. I’m a huge Dark Tower fan and am constantly planning it out in my head. I love it so much I give The Gunslinger to friends on their birthday, whether or not they like King. I often think of Peter Jackson as inspiration. He wanted to make The Lord of the Rings since he was a child, and yet no one really knew who we was even with movies like Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Then one day, bam, he does it. That kind of stuff happens every day and it only can’t happen when you stop believing. But for the moment, I’m just going to concentrate on finishing Umney.

SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you want to say to the fans that read this interview?

Rodney Altman: Thank you for asking such detailed questions and running such a cool site. To you and all the fans let me say that there are so many movies out there based on King’s work, and some are awesome and others are awful. When you see Umney’s Last Case, some of you will love what I’ve done, and others might hate it. That’s cool. That’s what being an individual is all about. And I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to share their opinion. Let me know what you thought worked and what didn’t do it for you. Like any adaptation, some things had to be cut, others added. It’s pretty true to King’s story, but there are some changes. I just hope I did the story justice.

He is the man behind Home Delivery Dollar Baby Film.

SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

Elio Quiroga: I’m born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), studied information engineering and participated in the development of the Jaleo software, one of the most important digital post production programmes; he has directed publicity throughout 7 years (spots, institutional, industrial, tourist, architectural, etc) through his own production company and agency Frame+Frame Films, where he also created campaigns and designs of corporate image; he has carried out works of experimental electronic music, short films in various formats, videoclips, as well as videoinstalations and videocreations presented at numerous international festivals of electronic image, such as Expo ’92, Arco or the Bienal of Moving Image: Spanish Visionaries.

He received his film training from directors such as Pilar Miró and Joaquim Jordá, scriptwriters such as Joaquín Oristrell, Lola Salvador or Robert McKee, experts in film marketing such as John Durie and Pham Watson, actors’ directors such as Miguel Ponce, Federico Castillo or Tony Suárez – plus five years as theatre actor in companies in the Canary Islands – and technicians such as Félix Bérges or Julio Madurga.

He has acted as member of the Jury in international festivals like Sitges and taught seminars on script development for the Sundance Institute. In addition, he is an official advisor to the Government of the Canary Islands on the creation of autonomous programmes of audio-visual studies and is a member of the Spanish and European Film Academies. He currently manages his own production company, Eqlipse Producciones Cinematográficas, which also carries out development of software for entertainment and applications to the World Wide Web.

He has published Mar de Hombres, Ática y El Ángel del Yermo, which received the Award for New Writing in the Canary Islands. He also published La Música y el Cine, and collaborated in the collective book Luchino Visconti: Los Senderos de la Pasión for the Canary Islands Film Library; He is currently putting the final touches on the essay La Materia de los Sueños, which has won the Accesit Award for Essay (DMR Consulting 2003).

Quiroga is the director and writer of the controversial feature film “Fotos” ( which was awarded Best Script and the Jury’s Special Award at the Sitges International Film Festival in 1997, where it was enthusiastically praised by Quentin Tarantino; it was nominated to the Méliès D’Argent for Best European Fantastic Film, to the Corbeau D’Or at the Brussels Film Festival, as well as to the Fotogramas de Plata (Awards voted by the readers of the most important film magazine in Spain).

He is currently working in the prost-production of his second feature film as director, “La Hora Fria” (“The Cold Hour”)

SKSM: When did you make Home Delivery? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?

Elio Quiroga: The fil was made from 2003 to 2005 in free times of the animation studios involved. The budget has been around 180.000 Euros.

As far as the visual aspect is concerned, I’ve set out to direct this short film with intelligent and innovative use of camera movements. Currently, advanced use of computer tools in the process of traditional animation allows us an amazing level of freedom for the animator’s camera, which in the past was limited by the capacity of the animation stands. This way, we can now use traditional animation backgrounds as three-dimensional objects which gives us, with the addition of a third dimension, a new universe of expressive resources for the creators.

From the beginning, this project has been conceived as a synthesis of “the best of both worlds”: traditional animation craftsmanship and computer generated images. The fact that the studios responsible for both these aspects of the film work hand in hand is absolutely fundamental to obtaining satisfactory results without an of those errors which stem from lack of coordination. This work would be much more difficult if it were done by two separate studios. Fortunately, La Huella Efectos Digitales and Sopa de Sobre Studio have been working hand in hand for almost 10 years, complementing each other in the language, techniques and characteristics of both worlds of animation.

However, the work has been extremely hard, especially for the traditional animators. The extraordinary freedom that computer generated backgrounds give the camera, which jumps over the third dimension transforming the backgrounds from flat objects into three dimensional worlds, greatly complicates the job of the traditional animator who must adjust his shot by shot hand-drawn characters to the camera’s positions and movements.

One of the most amazing experiences for me has been the day to day work that I have done with Sopa de Sobre and La Huella Efectos Digitales over the past two years (during the time I could spare from other commercial projects). Witnessing how a group of animators headed by Jérôme Debève, Juan Antonio Ruiz, Miguel Martínez, César Leal, Santiago Verdugo, Antonio Lado, José Ramón Alonso, David Escribano or Régis Barbey have managed to create this little short film.

Watching an animator sketch free hand and appreciating how the animation flows, literally, from his hands or how a 3D model maker can transfer a series of polygons on to a textured, illuminated and “navigable” scene, is an absolutely fascinating learning experience.

SKSM: How come you picked Home Delivery to develop into a animation movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?

Elio Quiroga: The idea came in the first adaptation stages; i thought this was the best way to translate this tale in images. The tones of dark comedy of the tale seduced me basically.

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?

Elio Quiroga: I had no idea. I worked firstly in a good adaptation in spanish, a good translation of the script, and a graphic dossier explaining our visual approach, etc.

SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?

Elio Quiroga: Lots. People in La Huella and Sopa de Sobre are close friends and we enjoy working very much. But most of the problems were on the financial stages… I wrote a short story of the production I paste you here. Hope you find it interesting.

It has been three years since I had the idea of adapting a tale of zombies into an animated short film. Three years. And we have just finished the short. It seems impossible. Three years of work for ten minutes of animation. But that’s the way things are. Everything takes its time, specially animation. Home Delivery is a short story, 30 pages long, that tells a savage social parable and to distil that down to 10 minutes is not easy.

That was the first part of the job, of course, writing a short script that held the essence of the story. Doing without episodes and characters, trying to get to the meat of the story. While I was doing this, around January of 2002, I called an old friend who lives in Barcelona, Javi Rodriguez, one of the best illustrators I know, and asked him to help me design the characters, the backgrounds, and the atmosphere of the short film. With all that material and a finished script, I took the next step: I asked the author of the story, Stephen King, for authorisation to make the film.

But there was a small detail left: to find an animation studio and finance the short film.

By the time I met Jérôme Debève, Juan Antonio Ruiz, Miguel Martínez, Santi Verdugo, David Escribano, Jota, Antonio Lado, Marga Obrador and other members of La Huella Efectos Digitales and Sopa de Sobre Studio I was desperate: I had spent a lot of time searching for an animation Studio in Spain that was capable of creating a short film like Home Delivery, with the characters drawn in traditional animation and backgrounds created by computer, but to no avail.

I visited a few studios, some of them looked at me as if I had escaped from a mental institution: What is this guy doing? He made a film in the style of Buñuel and Almodovar and now he wants to get into animation. Go get a proper job kid, and don’t stick your nose where it’s not wanted. Others simply declined to get involved in the project through polite letters. By then, I had already started to send letters asking for permits related to the short. REM had answered immediately, granting the rights to their song “It’s the end of the world as we know it (but I feel fine)” to the production for free.

That’s why my meeting with Jérôme and his people, organised by my good friend, Luis Sanchez-Gijon, was my last chance. And they were exactly what I was looking for. They were experts in combining traditional animation with 3D animation, they knew what they were doing, they were the best in the country. So then I asked them for a budget, of course.

200.000 Euros, without counting their own investment. Where was I going to get the money from? They began working on the project immediately, but it was my turn to do my bit, to find the money.

My production company is small. I could invest a third of the money but I had to find the rest. And the rest was an odyssey. But, one has high expectations: I have a short film project with Stephen King and REM music, who wants to invest? One at a time please!

In Spain, nobody.

When the first official subsidies started to fall through, I told myself: “Don’t worry, this is just temporary”.

But after a year of refusals, I started to get seriously worried. It was obvious that the short wasn’t politically correct in Spain, that a zombie story plus animation wasn’t what the director generals of culture wanted, so I forgot about that alternative.

So I went after a loan. With the investment and a loan I could finance two thirds of the short. I was almost there… But it took a year to get the loan. Miguel Martinez would ask me how the money thing was going every two weeks. We had separated the production payments into instalments, so we could finance each stage and I had invested directly in the first two. With the loan, which finally arrived thanks to the Obra Cultural de Caja Canarias, I managed to pay for another third of the production. But the final third was still missing.

At La Huella / Sopa de Sobre work on the short never stopped, but it was done during free time. At several different times, they must have run some considerable economic risks, going over their percentage, taking on reinforcements, working during the times they got a respite from publicity work, working through hours when they should have been asleep…. during two years.

There were some really difficult moments. Like when we ran out of money… completely. Neither them nor I had a single cent, and we still had to finance the final third of the budget. That’s when Claudio Utrera, director of the Las Palmas film Festival came to the rescue. He brought in some of the money we needed through the Las Palmas City Council. Then, the Canary Islands Government and the Cabildo de Gran Canaria put in a little more and we managed to close the budget in extremis, abusing Stephen King’s generosity. I will be eternally grateful to him for his patience.

During the months I spent working side by side with the animators at Sopa de Sobre and La Huella, I have admired their work, I have seen how from a few sheets of paper and some blue pencils characters are born, people who become alive, even if this time it’s zombies. I think I have found friends that last, a group of good people that make art and take it easy.

Even during the hardest times there has always been a smile, a “we’ll resolve it, don’t worry”, and, of course, the indispensable after lunch network game of Medal Of Honor… this, sirs, brings people together…

So, three years have passed. A hundred kilos of paper, 200 pencils, 60 gigabytes in designs, sketches, tests, animatics, storyboards, 100 Kw of electricity, who knows how many hours when we should have been sleeping, a few new grey hairs… and during all this Alba was born, a daughter for Miguel Martinez and Lucia. So, we’ve been though everything…

And there’s also Alfons Conde, a lovely guy, a genius of music with unlimited patience who has composed a wonderful soundtrack, stealing time from his own work and making a gift of his score… and the people at Image Line, the transfer to film, and Nacho Royo, who makes music out of sound effects… Nacho, Pelayo, you have enormous talent and are the best of people… and Josep Maria Civit, one of the best directors of photography in the world, who has given us the tools to create a unique atmosphere, and Francesca Nicoll and Jeff Espinoza, the voices behind the characters, friends, thank you. And Emilio Gonzalez Deniz… I’ve really given you a hard time with this… thank you my friend.

Home Delivery has been on the verge of stopping at least twenty to thirty times. Due to a lack of money, a lack of time, refusals from this guy and the other, but we made it. Well, it’s only ten minutes of film.

We must do it again.

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 video/dvd release would be possible?

Elio Quiroga: It depends basically on the ideas about it of the legal representatives of Mr. King. I hope in the future they make some public release. It is a good idea in any case. Fortunately, Guillermo del Toro has helped a lot to make the short more visible, specially in Festivals, thanks to his “Guillermo del Toro Presents” label which he has generously given to the short.

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)?

Elio Quiroga: No. I have contacted with his representatives. I know he has seen it, and he likes 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?

Elio Quiroga: Yep, but we are in a very early stage. I prefer to keep it for myself… 🙂

SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you want to say to the fans that read this interview?

Elio Quiroga: Hope you see the film. It’s very short, but a work of love. Hope you like it


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Runtime: 7′
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Script: Ryan J. Hannigan
Cast: Barbara Drum Sullivan, Farrah Peskoff, Alex de Castro, Jon Fordham, Elke Blasi
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Title: Suppr. (2005) Bandera de Francia
Runtime: 19′
Director: Nicolas Heurtel (Read interview)
Script: Nicolas Heurtel & Charles L. Lacroix
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