He is the filmmaker of Restare Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
David Chien: My name is David Chien. I am a filmmaker based in and around Los Angeles. I have worked in a number of departments within film production. I am currently the lead projectionist of the New Beverly Cinema.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
David Chien: I have loved cinema since childhood, as far back as I can remember. Up to junior high, I assumed I would be an animator or a comic book artist. By high school, my focus was to be a writer and director of live-action work.
SKSM: When did you make Restare? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
David Chien: “Restare” was written in late-2017. I found my producer, AJ Vargas, in January of 2018. Casting occurred in February. Filming took place over a few days in March. By May, the final cut was delivered. I do not think our expenses exceeded $5000. A friend of mine helped me with all of the camerawork. The iPhone 7 Plus was chosen as our capture system because of its telephoto lens, although I ended up using a third-party telephoto lens attachment on its wide-angle camera instead.
SKSM: How come you picked Rest Stop to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
David Chien: To me, “Rest Stop” is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. I have always appreciated the ideas and questions that come from such tales. These stories highlight the way an alter ego can be both a source of bravery as well as a curtain behind which one can mask her wickedness.
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?
David Chien: I cannot recall when nor how I first found out about the Dollar Baby program. But it was likely during film school. Over the years, it has been special to learn about these Dollar Baby shorts and how they are, by design, hard to find and rarely screened. Instant intrigue, immediate curiosity…
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
David Chien: The “dream” sequence (in fact, a visualization of the author’s creative process) was captured by mistake and subsequently composed from scratch in post. I had not scripted anything other than a shot or two of the lead character typing. But after reviewing extra footage I shot (unusable because it deviated from the visual language of the short—i.e. tight medium shots or close-ups, dead on), I tried superimposing these clips over the typing footage. I really loved the effect, and thus I kept it in. The radical change in the tone and flow of this section forced me to do some crazier things with the sound design (and likewise guided the musical score in a more intense direction).
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?
David Chien: I honestly like the idea that all Dollar Babies are hard to find. This makes all of our shorts more special, in a way. I think it is very hard, for me at least, to enjoy and appreciate short films at home or on a laptop. If any Dollar Baby is to be watched, it should be in a theater (or a livestream—which is more like a broadcast and not on-demand).
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
David Chien: The good reviews all came from friends, family, and the kind viewers of the Barker Street Cinema event in August 2022. The bad reviews were implicit by virtue of the fact that “Restare” was not accepted into any film festival during the submission window of 2018 and 2020.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
David Chien: No plans at this time.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
David Chien: I would consider myself a fan. But I am not a particularly well-read fan. Most of my King knowledge comes from the film and television adaptations. I have read maybe nine or ten of his novels and dozens of his short stories. My favorite novel is and always has been Insomnia. I will probably always feel that Carrie is his best and most lasting work—and De Palma’s film adaptation is simply one of the great American films. Dolores Claiborne is a brilliant story and its film adaptation is a great and perhaps underrated.
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)?
David Chien: A DVD was sent to his office. I have not heard back from the King estate about it. I am content knowing, however, that the DVD sits there, among the other Dollar Babies. We are in good company.
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?
David Chien: Perhaps! If I ever had the budget and influence to do an adaptation of Insomnia…
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
David Chien: My energy is devoted to my wife and son. Whatever is left goes wholly into film projection and putting on beautiful shows for the audiences at the New Beverly Cinema.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
David Chien: I believe in God.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
David Chien: Keep movie theaters in your community alive at all costs. Something innate about the Dollar Baby program is its commitment to the theatrical experience, festival or otherwise.
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
David Chien: Thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate what you do with your website.