He is the filmmaker of Graduation Afternoon Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Enrico Drago: My name is Enrico Drago and I am from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design this past March with a BFA in Film and Television Production, and I am a writer and director, though there is no part of the filmmaking process that I dislike.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Enrico Drago: I was 8 years old when my dad and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in the theaters, and I don’t know what it was about that movie, but I just fell in love with filmmaking. I remember sitting in the car on the ride home and trying to figure out how I could make movies like the one we had just seen. I started “making movies” with my little sister where we would play out entire films and universes just… without a camera. Indy 4 made me fall in love with the medium of film, but it was JJ Abrams’ Super 8 that made me fall in love with the art, and after seeing that movie I got my hands on my first camera, a crappy little camcorder, and starting making shorts with my friends in high school and middle school, some of whom I still work with today!
SKSM: When did you make Graduation Afternoon? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Enrico Drago: We made Graduation Afternoon in the spring of 2019 as what originally started as just a class project, but quickly became something more. The production went extremely well, and I owe a lot of that to my co-director, Lily Sanders, and our director of photography, Noah Custer. It was at least 95 degrees on the weekend of shooting and most of the budget went to making sure everybody was staying hydrated. All told, the final budget of the movie came to around $125, which is certainly not bad.
SKSM: How come you picked Graduation Afternoon to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Enrico Drago: Part of the choice was definitely a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. The teacher said that it was the only Dollar Baby that a student of his had never attempted in all his years of his teaching, and that inspired me. I also had just finished reading through Just After Sunset where the original short story makes its appearance and had really resonated with the character of Janice and a lot of the themes, and the twist at the end is just so surreal and realistic, that when I think about it too much, really freaks me out. You never know when things could just…end, it doesn’t matter how young you are or how much money you have. I really liked that.
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?
Enrico Drago: Back in high school, I wanted to adapt King’s short story, “The Jaunt,” and when I did some research on what I needed to do to make it happen, I found the Dollar Baby website and put it away in a mental file cabinet.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Enrico Drago: I mentioned earlier that I had a good group of kids that I used to make really early short films with in high school, and while we didn’t all go to the same colleges, I was fortunate enough to reconnect with my best friend and collaborator in high school, Chase Lopez, and bring him onto our set to help out the crew and make a cameo appearance. It was great to see him and make another movie together again.
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?
Enrico Drago: I think that’s just part of the business. I obviously want anybody who wants to see our movie to be able to see it, but it unfortunately might just be the way of the game that I can’t get it out to all of them. I can say that the video is public on YouTube so if somebody who hasn’t seen it wants to, they can!
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Enrico Drago: We received a pretty healthy mix of both and I think they both have merits, though I will say that I learned a lot more from the bad ones than the good ones. The biggest criticism is about the audio, and I absolutely do not get angry when people criticize that because it is the biggest flaw. There was a miscommunication with our sound guy and all of the sound we recorded was lost, so we had to build the entire soundscape from scratch. It was everybody’s first time doing ADR and, honestly, I had a ton of fun learning how that process works, even if it is a little rough in parts.
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Enrico Drago: I regularly submit this project to festivals, and we actually were semi-finalists at the Southeast Regional Film Festival in Jacksonville, which took place virtually during the pandemic.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Enrico Drago: I’m a huge Stephen King fan! I owe a lot of that to my dad who introduced me to King’s work by getting me to read Under the Dome when it first came out. My favorite novel of his is Doctor Sleep (though I am a huge fan of Insomnia and The Tommyknockers) and my favorite adaptation of his is undoubtedly Andy Muschietti’s It adaptation. I think it perfectly captured the spirit of the book in a way that most adaptations just do not. I also love George A. Romero’s Creepshow and The Dark Half, but Romero is one of the most important filmmakers ever to me, so I may be speaking from a place of bias.
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)?
Enrico Drago: I did not, and I do not know if he has seen it, though I like to pretend that he has.
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?
Enrico Drago: I actually do. I know I probably shouldn’t say that I’m just going to adapt his work without his permission, so I will say that I could have been working on writing a script for an adaptation of his novella, Elevation, for a while now. I think that story is beautiful and human, and super timely. Though, if somebody were to ask what novel of his I would want to adapt with studio backing, I would say The Tommyknockers. I think that story is massively underrated and could be genuinely terrifying. Also still holding out hope for permission to do that Jaunt movie!
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Enrico Drago: I just graduated college and I’m working on finding a job in the industry! I also am working on developing a couple feature scripts that I’ve written as well as making short films regularly to practice the craft.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Enrico Drago: I can play the piano and the acoustic guitar. Neither particularly well, but it’s a hobby.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Enrico Drago: Thank you so much for this opportunity! From one Stephen King fan to another, I wish you all nothing but the best and I appreciate you taking the time to read this.
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
Enrico Drago: You can see more of my work on my website: https://edrago20.wixsite.com/enricodrago