He is the man behind Suffer The Little Children Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Bernardo Villela: I am a filmmaker. I studied at Fairleigh Dickinson- Madison and then transferred to CW Post- Long Island University where I graduated in May 2005. I have been writing and yearning to make movies since I was fourteen and Suffer the Little Children is without a doubt my proudest achievement.
SKSM: When did you make Suffer the Little Children? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Bernardo Villela: “Suffer the Little Children” was shot over 8 days in August 2005 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We shot on a DVX 100A. Our brilliant cast is lead by Angela Pietropinto as Miss Sidley, Chris Lutkin as Mr. Hanning, Bob Bowersox as Buddy Jenkins, last but certainly not least Adam Montgomery as Robert. Our special effects were done by Temporal Distortions F/X.
SKSM: How come you picked Suffer the Little Children to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Bernardo Villela: “Suffer the Little Children” is my favorite short story in the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection. I believe it’s just a flat out masterpiece. It is a simple story to follow on the surface but it goes knee-deep into ambiguity by leaving you guessing as to whether Sidley is ill or if her students really do change. I’ve read it many times and have come out thinking both at the end. After all you can assume that Jenkins merely developed the same acute psychosis that Sidley has.
It is also probably the most visual and dramatic of the stories I was considering. There are many great images and scenes already in the text that are quite cinematic. I believe my only other viable option was “The Last Rung on the Ladder“, while it’s a beautiful, tragic tale it didn’t have the same visual appeal or as linear a plot, as Ladder would need to be told mostly in flashback.
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?
Bernardo Villela: That’s actually a funny story. The “One Dollar Adaptation” is something I heard online but never found out if it was true. When Stephen King’s official website opened up a message board I decided to get to the bottom of it. His assistant confirmed it was true and the rest is history.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Bernardo Villela: The best moment for me on set was watching Angela and Adam (Sidley and Robert) doing their takes for the scene where Sidley keeps Robert after school, where Robert asks Miss Sidley if she’d like to see him “change.” It was a scene I thought most about and they delivered more than I ever imagined. Everyone, cast and crew was all about bringing the story to life and thinking about how to make the film all it could be. Angela suggested Sidley have a picture of her brother on the dresser and Adam suggested a name for Sidley’s substitute which she erases on her first day back. It was great to have everyone so dedicated to making the story come alive.
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 dvd/video release would be possible?
Bernardo Villela: We are very confident in this film. All the performances in the film are fantastic, the effects look great and it is quite frightening. We are targeting many film festivals for submission and hopefully Suffer will reach many festival screens, and thus, many fans. Fans will be notified of future screenings at our website www.sufferproductions.com. If it does well and Stephen King likes it, we may ask permission for distribution but that’s down the road some. Many people we’ve spoken to about the film are excited just by the fact that we chose this particular story so I am hopeful.
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)?
Bernardo Villela: No, I didn’t. We are still in the editing process as we speak and when we have completed the cut I am planning on sending him the DVD and a copy of the script.
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?
Bernardo Villela: Wow, that’s a great question. I’ve been a fan of Stephen King’s for a long time so many of his stories have struck me as possible adaptations that I’d want to do down the road with exclusive rights and the ability to distribute. My dream choice would probably be Roadwork. I’ve read it twice and I could probably read it again in a heartbeat. I think it’s a great and underrated tale of one man fighting the system and to hold on to his past. The fact that it’s overlooked makes me appreciate it even more than other stories I like just as much if not more like The Long Walk, Gerald’s Game and The Dark Tower III and IV, because they’re so well known.
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?
Bernardo Villela: I hope that fans of the story do get a chance to see this film. I worked with people who were both fans of King and those who only read the story because they were working on it, and it was pretty much unanimous that Sidley, Hanning, Robert and Jenkins were all perfectly cast. Also, there are no major story changes here. This is the story you’ve read with but a few minor changes, like a less ambiguous ending that I will not give away, to make it more cinematic. I know some adaptations of his work have been quite disappointing. I don’t believe “Suffer the Little Children” falls into that category.