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She is the composer of James Cole & Dan Thron‘s The Last Rung On The Ladder Dollar Baby Film.

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

Anne Livermore: I am an IT professional in the Boston, Massachusetts area. I have a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a M.F.A. in Musicology from Brandeis University.

SKSM: How did you become involved with The Last Rung on the Ladder?

Anne Livermore: Jim Cole lived down the hall from me in the dormitory at UMass and asked me to write the music for The Last Rung on the Ladder.

SKSM: How did you get started as a composer and what do you do on a production?

Anne Livermore: I had been composing music since childhood and studied theory and composition throughout high school and college. I had never written music for a movie before, but I had some interest in operatic Broadway musicals such as Les Miserables, which are composed with music throughout and in some ways similar to movie scores.

SKSM: How did you get started to wrote about ten minutes of original music for the Last Rung on the Ladder?

Anne Livermore: Jim showed me the almost-finished film as inspiration. Since music strongly evokes emotion, we talked a lot about how he wanted the audience to feel about certain parts of the movie. I formed a rough idea about what kind of music I thought should go where and made notes as to the timing of events in the film. Then I went back to the practice rooms in the Fine Arts Center, sat down at a piano, and began to write. We were in a hurry, so there wasn’t a lot of back and forth between me and Jim about particular pieces of music. For the most part, Jim liked the music I wrote for the movie and he gave me a very free rein to make it the way I thought best. I wrote the music for the movie in about two weeks.

SKSM: Did you have contact with the actors/directors at that time, if so how was that? And what do you think of them?

Anne Livermore: Because I joined the movie after the filming was complete and the editing nearly so, I never met the actors, and my only contact with the others involved with the film was Jim. Jim of course is the director as well as the producer of the film, and it was an absolute joy to work for and collaborate with him. He is very intense and serious about film, but he is also very generous and funny.

SKSM: Was there any funny or special moments that you would like to tell me about?

Anne Livermore: Yes, the actual recording of the music for the film stands out in my mind. A number of moments in the music were timed to specific moments in the film, so Jim and I really needed a place to record the music that had a good piano and some means for Jim to show the film so that I could see it while I played the piano score. The only place we knew of that met both requirements was the recital hall in the Fine Arts building at UMass, which had a performance-quality grand piano and a soundproof projection booth up at the back of the auditorium. As you might expect, the recital hall was very much in demand throughout the day for rehearsals, but through my Music Department connections I managed to reserve the hall one afternoon for about one hour and a half. Jim brought the film itself and music recording media, I brought the score, and we both brought our nerves of steel, and believe me, we needed them. And hour and a half sounds like a long time to record ten minutes of music, but it’s not. There’s always setup time, multiple takes of the music, and backtracking to correct mistakes. I hadn’t thought about this when I was writing the music, but since the music runs through much
of the film with only occasional breaks, the takes themselves were quite long. The longer the take, the harder it is to ensure a good performance. Jim was running the film up in the booth, but we couldn’t hear each other and so we were pantomiming at each other across the length of the auditorium and through the glass. In the end we got it done, and afterward we congratulated ourselves for a good product produced under less than ideal conditions. In retrospect we still laught about it.

SKSM: After the Last Rung on the Ladder did you write more music? If so what?

Anne Livermore: After The Last Rung on the Ladder I continued my undergraduate music studies, graduated, and went on to graduate school. It occurred to me somewhere along the line that as much as I love music, I am not willing to make the sacrifices required to pursue music as a professional career. I still compose occasionally, and I am very happy with the course I have chosen, learning a technical trade that interests me, marrying and starting a family.

SKSM: What do you think that after so many years there finaly a website is of Last Rung?

Anne Livermore: I’m thrilled. Helping Jim with The Last Rung on the Ladder was a high point of my college experience, and it’s such a pleasure to know that after all this time people are still interested in this little film.

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?

Anne Livermore: Bernd, thank you for caring about it and making this happen.
Anne Livermore

 

Title: Gotham café (2005) Bandera de Estados Unidos
Runtime: 14′
Director: Jack Sawyers 
Script: Peter Schink, Julie Sands & Bev Vincent
Cast: Chaney Kley, Julie Sands, Cullen Douglas, Kevin Brief, Mick Garris, Stephen King, Endre Hules, Robert Axelrod, Denny Hankla, Bryan McMahon, Kathryn McGrew, Steve Wozniak, Richard B. Rudolph, Pamela Denise Weaver, Natalie Tapia, Joanne Azoo, Kristi E. Bailey, Robert David Cochrane, Melissa K. Cyrnek, Daniel E. Diaz, Johnny Drocco, Eric Flenner, Kristy Fuchs, Kali Hawk, Brittany Ann Hoeks, Laura Hope, Russ Hunt, Lance Irwin, Evi Jacobs, Leslie Keel, Mike Kirkland, Jill Lawson, Bryan Lyles, Maureen Malone, Jamie L. McGrew, Chad Mehle, Aimee Mossa, Ashley Niles, Annamaria Pandullo, Helia Rafaeil, J. Roberts, Peter Samet, Mark Saefer, Amanda Fay Sheiman, Laura L. Theune, Sara Ann Thomas, Laura Ann Tull, Abigail Young.
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He is the man behind King’s short story Chattery Teeth.

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

Mick Garris: I am a Los Angeles native who writes, produces and directs films and television. I have been writing since I was twelve years old, which is also when I started making little 8mm movies. I have been making films professionally for almost 20 years.

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

Mick Garris: “Chattery Teeth” was originally going to be a pilot for a television series, a sort of horror anthology. It was originally commissioned by the ABC television network. John McTiernan was going to produce and direct it, and I was just writing and creating the series. The network decided not to make the pilot (at that time, they never would have made a horror series).

Later, the Fox television network wanted to make it as a two-hour movie, and I went to Clive Barker and got his short story, “The Body Politic”, and added it to “Chattery Teeth”, so that now the movie consisted of two stories, as well as a bridging device of the Christopher Lloyd character, a mysterious fellow who travelled the country telling cautionary tales to his “victims”.

My original title for the show was ROUTE 666, but we ended up calling it QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY. It was released in some territories as EVIL HIGHWAY.

We shot and released it in 1997.

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

Mick Garris: I really enjoyed the audaciousness of the story, the unbelievable made believable that is King’s expertise. It was just a really fun little horror story. And I wanted to make something with the crew that had just done THE SHINING with me. King was kind enough to sell us the story, and that was the beginning. It’s the kind of story you tell around the campfire, sort of an urban legend, and I loved the fact that it was set in the desert. I love what I call “desert noir”.

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

Mick Garris: I hate to disappoint you, but I can’t remember anything particularly hilarious or fascinating that happened, as it’s been while now, and it’s so much work to make a film on a television schedule that there’s no time.

SKSM: Are there things cut out of the movie that you miss now?

Mick Garris: Actually, I believe that everything that we shot is in the movie. There were a couple of smaller details that were cut from the television broadcast, but it’s all there on the video.

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)?

Mick Garris: Although King was around during most of the production of THE SHINING right before we made QUICKSILVER, he was not present on the set of QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY. Since he had not written the screenplay, and was not really involved in the production, he doesn’t really like to travel and be away from home for any length of time. However, he did tell me at the time that he really enjoyed it.

SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories after Desperation? If you could pick – at least – one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?

Mick Garris: I have made my two favorite King books: THE STAND and THE SHINING miniseries. And it’s at the point that I’ve made more King movies than any other kind. I would love the chance to make BAG OF BONES, but I think that’s being made by others.

SKSM: Did you have any experiance making that kind of movies at the time?

Mick Garris: A lot. Most of the movies that I’ve made since I started directing in 1986 have been in the horror genre. And several of them had been King projects.

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?

Mick Garris: Just that I am one of you. I’m a King fan who is lucky enough to have directed more films based on his work than anyone.

He is the man behind La Femme Dans La Chambre Dollar Baby Film.

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

Damien Maric: I’m 26 years old; I have created with a friend WIP STUDIO with the purpose of developing some television projects, cinema and publishing. In fact everything related to entertainment, I love that. A little like Peter Pan, I don’t want to grow up so I like to have fun and dream.

SKSM: When did you make La Femme dans la chambre? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?

Damien Maric: I finished directing “La Femme dans la chamber” in March 2005. It took me 3 years to find the money; it was difficult since everyone was afraid of going into such an adventure with a “young kid”, in fact, at the time, I was 22. But sometimes destiny puts you on your road, people that changes your life. Frank Darabont was one of these people. When I received his letter, I understood that everything was possible. The film cost me 10 000 euros and the shooting’s duration was 5 days.

SKSM: How come you picked The woman in the room to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?

Damien Maric: I admit adoring and having read many times “Night Shift“. In this short story, there is no monster or evil clown, just a little boy and this woman in a hospital bed. That’s also the Stephen King that I like: more “human”. The monster here, is the sickness.so, the use of special effects is essentially concentrated on the mood, the lighting, the shadows, which represent the death surrounding everything, the inhuman distortion of faces which represent suffering and of course the character’s nightmares.

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?

Damien Maric: In 1999, I went to Los Angeles for a stage at FOX on the X-Files series, then at WARNER for different jobs. At the time when I arrived, WARNER was finishing production on The Green Mile, directed by Frank Darabont. I was reading Stephen King books in English to learn the language better. I loved developing stories so I asked for the rights of one of the “Night Shift: stories and chose “Room 312”. I contacted by chance Marsha De Fillipo who told me that Frank Darabont owned the rights for this short story, and that I had to contact him. I came back to France and used to work for a cinema magazine. Slowly, I worked on a storyboard and send it to Frank Darabont and Denise Huth in the united states and, in March 2001, he gave the rights, for free.

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

Damien Maric: I had many problems in the shooting and in post-production too, like if I was cursed. Filming in a hospital with such a tiny budget is really hard. Other than the fact that we had to finish everything at 19h, the hospital is near the Orly airport! So we had to deal with daily sounds of planes taking off, so we had to use a chronometer sometimes to finish at the exact second, the sound engineer was going crazy! And to make it worse, we had to deal with a storm while shooting a scene in exterior, a tour nearly fell and crashed with all the spots on it. The camera also broke down while shooting. Then in post-production, We had a fire to deal with and many other problems. The funniest thing is that I saw Lost in La Mancha and it reminded me of our shooting! But hope is a good thing and the work of everyone in the crew, made us succeed. It’s in fact my best memory, this crew’s work.

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?

Damien Maric: I’m very happy, that with this website, I’m going to show them this short. I’d love to continue and make other films. We have many feature films projects. I’d like to thank Frank Darabont and Denise Huth for their help, meet them and maybe work with them on a project. Who know?

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)?

Damien Maric: No, not with Stephen King, but with Marsha De Fillipo to ask her some questions and with Denise Huth to send her photos and storyboard.

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?

Damien Maric: I would love to make The Girl who love Tom Gordon for the cinema and make a TV series out of “Night Shift“. We’re working on it. I’d like to make a link between the USA and EUROPE, I’m sure we can make great things together.

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?

Damien Maric: One Day, Andy Dufresne told: “hope is a good thing”, I think he’s right. You must believe, sooner or later you can do it, it’s sometimes hard, it sometimes takes time, but when the work is over and that we think about it all, we can say: “it was a superb experience”. Thank you Stephen King, Thank you Frank Darabont, Thank you Denise Huth, Thank you Marsha De Fillipo, you just changed my life. Thanks.

Translated by Jeremy Guerineau & Antoine Waked

He’s the man behind the original 1984 movie “Firestarter”, based on King’s novell with the same title.

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

Mark L. Lester: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio in a not so rich family. We lived in the projects, but I later moved to LA and got into film. I now own a distribution company and still direct.

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

Mark L. Lester: I made Firestarter in 1983 in North Carolina. It took us 10 weeks and cost us 10 million dollars.

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

Mark L. Lester: I was actually approached by Dino De Laurentiis to direct it. I didn’t pick 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?

Mark L. Lester: I do not have and projects lined up with King, but would do The Talisman which my son loved. It is however, I hear, already being adapted.

SKSM: How was it to work with the young Drew Barrymore: did you think then that she would become a great actress?

Mark L. Lester: She was great for an 8 year old. Wonderful to work with in every way. I knew she was destined for a long and eventful career in film.

SKSM: Are there things cut out of the movie that you miss now?

Mark L. Lester: Almost everything we shot made it into the final cut.

SKSM: Any funny bloopers?

Mark L. Lester: Not really. The actors were all very serious and dedicated to getting it right.

SKSM: What was Stephen King’s reaction to the movie?

Mark L. Lester: King didn’t approve at all and there was a big dispute between him and me in Fangoria Magazine. He doesn’t like many of the films based on his books though. He didn’t like the burning eyes and felt it strayed from his vision.

SKSM: Did you have any experiance making that kind of movies at the time?

Mark L. Lester: No, I had never shot a horror film before Firestarter.

SKSM: Did the actors do the stunts themselves?

Mark L. Lester: No, we used stunt doubles for almost every stunt and used a midget in a wig and costume to double for Drew.

SKSM: How hard was it to find these actors?

Mark L. Lester: Everybody was on board and loved the novel, but since it was a Universal picture the actor’s had large salaries. George C. Scott received 1 million dollars for just 3 weeks of filming.

SKSM: What do you think about the sequel: Firestarter Rekindled?

Mark L. Lester: I thought it was a nice effort, but nothing like the original. I suppose that’s because they didn’t have a novel to base that one upon.

SKSM: What movies did you make after Firestarter that we can know you from also?

Mark L. Lester: You can refer to www.imdb.com for a complete list. Just look up Mark L. Lester.

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?

Mark L. Lester: Tell them that I am extremely grateful for all their support. I think it’s great that they can get behind a film or person and support it/them so much. I’m forever in debt to you all. It would be nice if you could write letters to Universal asking them to do a reissue of the DVD with a commentary by me. I have asked Universal and need the fan support. Not to sound too conceded, but many fans would like an updated DVD version with special features.

Humbly,
Mark L. Lester

Title: Luckey quarter (2004) Bandera de Estados Unidos
Runtime: 11′
Director: Robert David Cochrane
Script: Robert David Cochrane
Cast: Elise Robertson, Tina Adams, Andrea Bowen, Rusty Meyers. Ernell Manabat, Don Circle, Robert Cochrane, Louis Eppolito, Bridgette Holloman, Mike Marino, Ryan Miller.
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He is the man behind The Man Who Loved Flowers Dollar Baby Film.

SKSM: Who is Justin Zimmerman? Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do or have done.

Justin Zimmerman: Here’s the one paragraph answer used in some press release somewhere:
Justin Zimmerman has been an Assistant Professor of Cinema, the School-Based Programs Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County, and has directed Bricker-Down productions for six years. Zimmerman was the youngest, and most recognized, independent artist by the Ohio Arts Council during the 2003 – 2004 cycle, and his films have won multiple awards, including best documentary at the Chicago/IFP film festival. Zimmerman’s films have been aired on public television and are distributed nationally. Zimmerman, 27, is currently an Assistant Professor at the Western State College of Colorado, is in post-production on his first feature documentary, Fireland, and holds the rights to a Stephen King story to be filmed in Maine in 2006.

More information about Zimmerman can be found at his website, www.brickerdown.com.

SKSM: How come you chose The Man Who Loved Flowers to make a movie of?

Justin Zimmerman: It’s a visceral story that simply nails you. It’s clearly defined in terms of characters and set pieces – though I moved the film to Maine – and I thought it could be wonderfully adapted to the screen.

SKSM: At first you wanted to do this movie as a short film… why did you change your mind and decided you would make it a full length movie?

Justin Zimmerman: The character stuck with me, and I wanted to know more. If this did happen in a smaller locale, what would the repercussions be? How would daily life be changed? Who would care? What would happen? The short story became an important beginning to a feature film. One theory of cinema is that the screen is simply a window to another world. Well, the short story became that for me – a window to a larger screen story.

SKSM: Last year to have took a trip to Maine to shot pictures for the preproduction, how was that?

Justin Zimmerman: Incredible. I’ve been traveling to Maine since I was a child with my family — we camped at Acadia National Park for years. But last summer I went to shoot and scout. I shot 16mm and DVCAM footage and took a number of stills. I’ve released three official pre-pro shots of the MWLF. I also met with the wonderful individuals at Philtrum Press and the Southwest Harbor Chamber of Commerce to discuss aspects of the production, should it occur. It went extremely well. I drove to Ohio when the trip was done with a producer. We listened to King read his own On Writing on the way back. It all felt right.

SKSM: Will you be using the same actors, before knowing that you want to create a full-length movie? If not, who will you choose?

Justin Zimmerman: I didn’t get to that point. I secured the rights to the short, scouted and organized my pre-production, then secured the exclusive, commercial rights to adapt the short into a feature. The script is now on its third draft, to be turned in to Mr. King in March for his approval. Wish me luck.

SKSM: Are you planning to release this movie to the public (cinemas/dvd etc.) or will it remain a movie especially for film festivals.

Justin Zimmerman: If it’s the feature, I sure hope it’ll be in your local cinema.

SKSM: When and where will this movie be shot?

Justin Zimmerman: This also depends on budgetary restrictions and studio involvement. There are sections of the film specifically written for Southwest Harbor – including the story from Night Shift itself – these scenes have to happen there.

SKSM: Is it more difficult to make a 100 min movie than to make a short movie?

Justin Zimmerman: Yup.

SKSM: When will the movie have its premiere?

Justin Zimmerman: I won’t have the timetable for a couple of months. I’ll keep you updated.

SKSM: What do you think of Stephen King as a writer?

Justin Zimmerman: I remember reading a critique of the Children of the Corn awhile back. It dealt with the social ramifications of the piece – connected it to Vietnam, if I’m not mistaken. Bill, in IT, has some similar experiences with an egomaniacal teacher – the story HAS to be about social or cultural events to be relevant. King argues, of course, that sometimes the story is enough. And I love a good scare – ask my poor girlfriend, who has to play all the Silent Hill games with me and who’s seen Halloween and Jaws and Psycho more times then is humanely necessary. But here’s the deal – though King is amazing at creating terrifying scenes and scenarios, he taps into some amazing cultural and social phenomena. If you look at my doc work, you’ll see that I largely deal in the realm of socially oriented docs. And I’ve always been profoundly moved by that aspect of King’s writing – whether it’s intentional or not. From the Library Policeman (which I’d love to film someday) which deals with characters recovering from sexual abuse and personal addiction – to Rose Madder and the continued evolution of King’s battered women from victims to empowered individuals – often in the same book – he deals his characters out as individuals and not types. And those short stories – I mean, Bradbury, Salinger, King. Put me on an island for a year and that’s all I need. I grew up reading King’s stories. I’m still growing up reading King’s stories.

SKSM: Again, thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any last word for the people that read this?

Justin Zimmerman: Well, thanks for your interest. I’ll do the best I can with the work. For continued MWLF updates, check out my website: www.brickerdown.com.

He is the second man behind The Last Rung On The Ladder  Dollar Baby Film.

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

Dan Thron: I currently live in Boston, and make movies primarily for the videogame business, doing the ads and ‘cutscenes’– the (usually animated) cinematics that advance the story between levels of gameplay. I did the movies for Eidos’ ‘Thief‘ series for PC and Playstation, as well as work for ‘Neverwinter Nights‘ (a Dungeons and Dragons license) and many others.

For the past 4 of those years, I’ve co-owned and ran an animation and effects company called Rustmonkey, with the aim of making features.

SKSM: How did you become involved with The Last Rung on the Ladder?

Dan Thron: Jim and I went to high school together in Chatham, Massachusetts, and were on the same bus. We’re both serious geeks (though Jim was much, much cooler than me — you can ask him, I was a bit more of a Napoleon Dynamite character), so it wasn’t long before we became good friends, talking about Star Wars, Aliens, etc. But unlike all my other friends, who mainly wanted to talk about how great it was to WATCH these movies, he was the only other person I knew who was as interested in the MAKING of them as I was.

Jim had already made a couple of very funny short films, and I believe he lent me the copy of King’s ‘Night Shift’ collection that started the ball rolling, and suggested we do write to King.

SKSM: How did you get started as a (co-)director and what do you do on a production?

Dan Thron: There’s a lot of good stuff in Night Shift, but Last Rung was a natural for us, as not only was it a non-effects based production — so that it was within our budget and technical abilities — but it was also a good mix of Jim’s and my skills in storytelling.

Jim is an excellent character director, and I’m very visually oriented. And using Jim’s wonderful adaptation as a base, I think we found the division of work quite easy — I could focus on telling the story from a visual standpoint, and he could bring his vision to the actors, and take time to draw the gentle performance he wanted from them. We complimented each other very, very well I think.

SKSM: You worked with James Cole on this film, how was that?

Dan Thron: Jim is one of the most talented folks I know. I was amazed then, and continue to be amazed now at his process; He’s patient and straightforeward; he communicates at a very real, very emotional level, and it’s impossible not to be affected by his deep sense of empathy, whether in his writing or in his direction. In Last Rung, he treated the kids with incredible respect and trust, and the naturalism is evident on the screen. Likewise, he was very understanding of what I wanted to do with the camera. His confidence in everyone kept the set very peaceful and fun. A real pleasure; I learned a lot from watching him work.

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

Dan Thron: There is a running gag in all the outtakes from the film where Glen Whelden, brother of Melissa, who played Kitty, would run into frame and yell in a fake-old-man voice, “excuse me, is this the way to the Indian trading post?” and everyone would double over. I cannot for the life of me remember why that was so funny to us then, but there it is. 🙂

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?

Dan Thron: I would love to work on another King piece; certainly there are some movies I’d like to remake — I’m convinced Firestarter would be beautiful if done right. But of the shorts, I really can’t believe no one’s tackled ‘The Long Walk’ — I’d love to take a shot at that.

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?

Dan Thron: Thanks very much!

He is the man behind The Last Rung On The Ladder Dollar Baby Film.

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

James Cole: Who am I? Hmmm. Well, I’m just a guy who grew up loving movies. And so for the past fourteen years I’ve lived in Los Angeles pursuing a career writing for film and television. I actually wrote stories when I was very young and I made my first short Super-8 film when I was in fifth grade. It was a combination of live action and animation and took an entire school year to shoot and edit, and it even got shown as part of the school district’s film festival. So at eleven years old I sat with an audience of my peers and experienced the joy of applause and laughter in all the right places, and from that day forward I was hooked. I’ve been making films and writing ever since.

SKSM: When did you make The Last Rung on the Ladder? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?

James Cole:The Last Rung on the Ladder” was film almost 19 years ago (gasp!). It was shot on Super-8 in the summer of 1986 on Cape Cod, co-directed with my friend Dan Thron. We were all young and pretty inexperienced – I was twenty and Dan was only fifteen, and our leads, Adam and Melisa, were thirteen and eleven. Dan and I had loved the short story and we were crazy enough to think we might be able to film it, despite having no crew and almost no budget. Our equipment was literally nothing more than two sound Super-8 cameras and two hand-held lights. And yet somehow we pulled it off. We shot for about ten days (spread out during the summer) and then it took me almost another year to complete the editing and post production. But it was an amazing experience and the kids were great.

I think what makes me most proud of the final film is how good it is despite our lack of budget and equipment. (The final budget was somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000.) Sure, it’s rough in places and there are things I always will wish I could have done better, but some of the solutions we came up with were ingenious. For instance, there’s the shot at the end of the childhood sequence (the bulk of the movie) when Larry leaves the bedroom with his father and Kitty gives him a look of sympathy (because he’s gonna get punished for letting Kitty get hurt). Well, I knew I wanted to freeze the shot, then to fade out so we could segue back into the present (wraparound) sequence with older Larry, but how to do it? Freeze frames and dissolves are all done in post production with an optical printer (or today, with computers and digital effects), but all I had as the editor was the raw footage of Kitty’s face, which certainly did not “freeze” on cue. So I actually had to “film the film.” I ran the footage through the projector, which was projected onto a wall, and I aimed the Super-8 camera at the image and filmed it all over again. Except, as I filmed, I stopped the projector, freezing the frame at the right moment, then turned down the exposure meter on the camera very…slowly… It wasn’t perfect – even in the final film you can see the brightness of the shot flicker and dim when the frame freezes, but still, I got the shot, even if it was in the most primitive way imaginable.

SKSM: How come you picked The Last Rung on the Ladder to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?

James Cole: It was a very emotional story. Dan and I both loved Stephen King, even though in 1986 I hadn’t read all of King’s books (that he’d written up to that point). But “Night Shift” was one of the first books I did read, and I remember being so surprised when I started reading “Last Rung.” It wasn’t a horror story – unless you consider the true life horrors the story depicts (e.g. suicide, loneliness, the way Larry and Kitty’s relationship falls apart as they grow up). But it wasn’t “Monster Horror” in the sense that “Children of the Corn” (the story that immediately precedes it) is. It was just a small story of a brother and sister, and the sense of time and place was so strong – the farm, the barn, the era, that I could just see it as a movie. Most of all, the tragic ending just broke me up. It is one of the saddest stories King has ever written.

So Dan and I loved the story, but what made us consider it was when we “found” our first lead. Adam Houhoulis was in junior high at the time I was a senior, but I went to such a small school that the junior high kids weren’t separate from the high school and Adam and Dan and I all were friends. And Dan and I realized how “right” Adam was for the part of Larry, and then, when I remembered one of my other friends had a little sister who was also perfect as Kitty, we had our cast. That, more than anything, pushed us into making the movie – forget the other logistics like budget and technical problems, let alone finding an actual barn we could use!

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 Cole: I knew about the “Dollar Deal” through some of my King contacts, but I really don’t remember how I found out specifically or who told me. I just knew that I didn’t own the rights, didn’t even have an option, but figured such a small production wouldn’t bother him as long as I sent him the check for a dollar and the film, once it was finished. Most importantly, we never had any intention of trying to sell or exhibit the film without his permission. We just wanted to be able to make it and hope, in the end, that he might like it.

And by the way, King doesn’t sell the movie rights for $1. Movie rights, even or his short stories, can cost thousands of dollars. The dollar payment allows the filmmaker in question a one time deal to make the movie, so long as the rights and legal stuff is retained by King. That way he still basically “owns” the story, even if a film has been made.

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

James Cole: Though it was so long ago, I do remember most of the filming pretty well. There weren’t any outrageous moments, and even the funny stuff (some of which we got on film and exists on a “blooper reel”) are too “inside” to be understood by any viewers. Most of it involved horseplay on the set and the kids being kids, rather than blown lines or mistakes. But it was a happy time.

The most detailed recollection of the production of “Last Rung” was previously published in “Castle Rock: The Stephen King Newsletter” in September, 1988. Of course the newsletter ceased publication the following year and I’m sure back issues are hard to find, but it was a great resource.

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 release would be possible?

James Cole: I’ve always wanted King fans to be able to see “Last Rung,” but I knew going into the project that it was not likely. It was more important to make it just to prove Dan and I COULD make it. Just to have a completed film for my portfolio, something of which I could be proud, is what mattered the most. Still, I’d like to think a video/DVD release would be possible. The fact that the first ever “Dollar Babies Film Festival” was shown at the University of Maine last September means there certainly is an interest. It was amazing seeing such a variety of King stories on screen; different genres and film formats and of course budgets. “Last Rung” was clearly the lowest budgeted of the films in question, but I think it looked great and was well received nevertheless.

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 Cole: No. I’ve never spoken or received any correspondence from King, though I’ve written him from time to time over these last almost twenty years. I know he received the video we sent in late 1987, and almost a decade later I got the sense that he probably did see the film, because he mentioned it in his introduction to Frank Darabont’s “Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script” book. King listed the film as one that had been adapted from “Night Shift.” The fact that King even listed it makes me assume he’s seen it, and at least found it watch-able.

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 Cole: I have no plans to adapt any other King works until I’m established in the film business – something that I hope to happen soon. Without a feature film or television credit, you really have no clout, no position from which to bargain. But once I’m a paid and working writer, I think that will change. And when the time comes, there are definitely other King stories I would love to adapt. Two that come to mind are, “One for the Road” and “Grey Matter“, both from “Night Shift.”

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?

James Cole: Just thanks, to both you and the fans. You have made it possible for “Last Rung” to be seen, and to those fans who have watched it, just know that I’m proud of the film…and I did the best I could with very limited resources!

Jim

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