He is the man behind Harvey’s Dream Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Christopher Zatta: I am an independent filmmaker. I started my career as a writer’s assistant and staff writer for the NBC series HEROES, where I wrote and co-wrote episodes during the first and third seasons of the show. I then transitioned into writing and directing short films. I’ve made three shorts so far, a noir titled AMBITION OF LOVE, which I followed up with my dollar baby adaptation of Stephen King’s HARVEY’S DREAM, and my most recent, THE MUSIC BOX STEPS, is now in post-production. I’m currently working on my first feature length film, which is titled AT THE MAPLE GROVE and will be shooting this summer.
SKSM: When did you make Harvey’s dream? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Christopher Zatta: The script for HARVEY’S DREAM was completed by the end of 2011, and we shot it in March of 2012. I was eager to make something, but didn’t have any money to do it, so the intention was to tell a creative story, quickly and cheaply. With that in mind, production cost pretty much nothing. We filmed in my apartment, everyone worked for free, and we already owned all the equipment that we used. Buying lunch each day was honestly the biggest expense. We shot the film over the course of 3 days, not counting a few days here and there where I grabbed some insert shots and the opening establishing shot.
SKSM: How come you picked Harvey’s dream to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Christopher Zatta: There were two reasons. The first being practical, the second being creative. First, I came across the story while actively seeking material to adapt, and knowing that I had very few resources with which to make a movie. While I liked many of King’s stories that are available as Dollar Baby’s, I felt many of them would require large budgets, many crew members and a big cast. Then I read HARVEY’S DREAM, and not only did I love the journey of the narrative and the increasing sense of dread that builds within the story, but it also all took place in one location and had only two characters, so I knew it would be feasible.
Creatively, however, it was a funny thing. It was one of those instances where a story idea sparks something in my imagination, the script flows out, and I just have to go with it. King’s version of the story involves an older couple, Harvey and Janet, who have grown-up children, and the dream that Harvey recounts is this terrifying tale about one of their daughters. Now, I’m in my early 30’s, and though I’m married, I don’t have children yet. Therefore the specific horror in King’s story isn’t “personally relatable” to me. But while I read it, I began imagining a version that was personal. A version that would serve as a kind of nightmare in my life. I envisioned Harvey and Janet as an estranged young couple, and instead of a dream about their daughter, Harvey’s dream dealt with his violent, horrifying reaction upon discovering Janet’s infidelity.
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?
Christopher Zatta: I heard about Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program in the summer of 2011, while attending the Dragon*Con Film Festival in Atlanta with my short film AMBITION OF LOVE. It was an exciting notion to me, especially learning that Frank Darabont, who has made several great Stephen King film adaptations, once shot a dollar baby too.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Christopher Zatta: As I mentioned, the film takes place in my apartment. I chose to shoot it over the course of two weekends, because weekend days are generally quieter where I live than weekdays. On the morning of the first day, however, construction workers had unexpectedly arrived to remodel an apartment just below mine. This resulted in my place filling with constant banging and drill sounds all day long. I couldn’t believe the bad luck timing of it all. But rather than cancel or postpone the shoot, I made a decision to incorporate the noise into the soundtrack. In the end, I feel it added a certain uneasy feeling to the story, which compliments the state of mind and emotions of the characters, in particular for Janet. While Harvey tells his dream to her and she grows suspicious and ultimately fearful of his tale, the incessant banging and the drill sounds build with intensity, and add to the notion that her life is essentially getting dismantled.
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 an internet/dvd release would be possible?
Christopher Zatta: Perhaps some day. But I like how the Dollar Baby program is intended as an opportunity to provide fantastic source material for filmmakers to work on their craft and build their reel or submit to festivals. Having said that, I am permitted to show an excerpt of the film, so in an effort to make at least something available to the public, I have a selection of scenes available on my website. I’ve also posted a copy of the full script online, as I thought it might be interesting to read the adaptation.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reference have you received on your film?
Christopher Zatta: For the most part I’ve received fairly positive feedback. Personally I definitely see areas that could be better in the production, or moments that didn’t quite work as well as I would have hoped. And then of course it’s easy to say, if I had a bigger budget, better equipment or more time I could have done this and this differently, etc… But I’m quite happy with the finished product. The film screened twice during the 2012 Shocker Film Festival in California, and Danny Paap from the Dutch Stephen King Fan Club wrote a review in their Fan Club Magazine, which I enjoyed reading too.
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)?
Christopher Zatta: I didn’t have any personal contact with him, unfortunately. Someone from his administrative staff handled all communication. And part of the contract requires that you mail a copy of the completed film to him, which I did. I don’t know if he’s watched it, and I don’t know if he’d like it, but it’d be pretty cool to think that Stephen King had seen something I made.
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?
Christopher Zatta: I don’t currently have plans to, but my fingers are crossed that some day I’ll have the opportunity to make a large scale film based on one of King’s stories. As far as picking one… I did have an idea at one point to do a kind of hybrid adaptation, combining his book DESPERATION with its mirror novel THE REGULATORS. That concept of the “mirror novel” sparked to me.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Christopher Zatta: If anyone would like to see more of my work, definitely check my website www.christopherzatta.com. I have several scripts, video clips and photos on there from all of my projects, as well as a link to my first short AMBITION OF LOVE. I’m also deep in the process of getting my feature AT THE MAPLE GROVE up off the ground, so there will definitely be exciting content on the site for folks to check into my process and progress on the film. And then of course I’m on twitter, @crzatta if anyone wants to say hi. I always love hearing from people!
SKSM: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Christopher Zatta: Only to say thank you for the interview!