Dean Werner

NOTE: This interview was originally published on Insomnia digital magazine in September 2013.

He is the filmmaker of The Reaper’s Image Dollar Baby Film.

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

Dean Werner: My name is Dean Werner, I’m a writer and filmmker. I’ve been making films since I was ten years old. I graduated in film production from San Bernardino Valley College, California, and recently from the University of Redlands, California, with honors in Greek Philology with a degree in Creative Writing. I have written the script in all the projects I have directed and that helps because I can have the freedom to make changes in rehearsals, on set, and even in post-production, because I understand the scene, the character’s intentions and if our final objective changes.

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

Dean Werner: I like to do a long casting process, it was from March to April. Casting the right actors is important. We shot the film during the last week of May and the first week of June 2012. The production was a fusion of personalities. It was some people’s first time working with each other, so getting everyone to be open and communicative became the goal of the pre-production meetings, and filming went well. We only stayed back on the first day, logically, we did a long scene and then scheduled our day to finish the scene. Other than that everything went very smoothly. The film cost around $10,000. We filmed in the city of Colton, California, and they went out of their way to help us in any way they could. We shot the entire movie in six days, with an extra day of improving scenes for two hours.

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

Dean Werner: The reason I chose The Reaper’s Image is because I wanted to figure out the ending, trying to imagine what would happen to people when they saw The Reaper. The idea that only a select few see it and then disappear is, for me, a great incentive. Where are you going? What’s happening? Once I thought about what was happening, I worked on the story from there. I tried not to lose what I liked so much about the story, which is that it has a great atmosphere, it’s like a chess game between these two men, what they know and who is right.

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?

Dean Werner: When The Mist was released, I was reading about it and I found out that Frank Darabont had made a Dollar Baby in the ’80s. I thought it couldn’t be something Stephen King was still doing. I mean someone had to have screwed up. But no, he still does it and offers a wide and varying set of stories to choose from. So I stored it in my mind and decided I wanted to try to make an adaptation of someone else’s work and one thing led to another.

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

Dean Werner: The house where we filmed was a historic Queen Anne style Victorian house built in 1876 and in 1920 it was moved to its current location. The house is designed with period wallpaper and antique paintings and furniture. So if you wanted to film in every room it would be hard to imagine which rooms couldn’t be shown. Taking photos we noticed some faces in the window that didn’t belong to anyone, the house was empty at that time. One of the cast pictures also has a face in the window. He is represented as a man with a red face and a beard, the other, a pale woman, with a long face. The team liked to talk about the house being possibly haunted.

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?

Dean Werner: The fact that the movies are limited in viewing gives them a bit of mystery, which is good, and if we could make money from them the whole process could get messed up and the dollar baby deal would go up in smoke. But, on the other hand, I want to see what other people have done with their films. Maybe more dollar baby festivals would help.

SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?

Dean Werner: Those who have seen the film really liked it. Even after watching it every day, knowing the script, and being on set, my producer, Nichole Aurora, didn’t stop jumping until the end, it was a great vote of confidence.

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)?

Dean Werner: We negotiated with the assistant for the contract and sent her the check. I don’t know if he’s seen it yet. I imagine he checks out new movies during his free time.

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?

Dean Werner: There were other stories: Strawberry Spring would look great on my campus. Rest Stop and Mute are at a basic level for filming a road movie. Mute could have a very disturbing and poetic ending. If I could choose any of his stories, I would choose the new one, Joyland. It would be great to spend time working on the combination of film noir and horror.

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

Dean Werner: My pleasure. I just hope that anyone who wants to see the film can find a festival nearby where it will be shown. Also keep up to date with my future films, on Facebook there is a page for The Reaper’s Image and our production company, Aurora Sinclair Productions. In 2012, a film I made for the 48 Hour Film Project titled Tarantula Silhouettes was given a public award and will make its way to festivals.

SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?

Dean Werner: I’m glad there are people around here who have a passion for film. I am lucky to work with them. I owe my equipment for a long time to my mother, who brought me the camera when I was a child. I am grateful to everyone who has worked with me and was interested in me or my project. Each one of them has taught me something. Thank you!

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