She wrote the script in Jacqueline Wright’s Mute Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Gemma Rigg: I am primarily a writer. I started out writing comedy sketches for live theatre shows in London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I wanted to take things more serious so I studied a Masters degree in screenwriting where I adapted a novel into a feature script. After graduating I wrote short drama films before adapting Stephen King’s Mute.
SKSM: When did you make Mute? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Gemma Rigg: I applied for the rights to adapt Mute in the Spring of 2010. He granted permission very quickly and I immediately went to work on drafting the script. For my MA I didn’t do a very loyal adaptation of the novel so I wanted to try and do this for Mute. Stephen King writes character dialogue amazingly well so most of the script wrote itself. The following August I set up a crowd funding scheme, as an experiment, and was amazed to raise over $1000 in just a month. I used social media to promote the fundraising and came up with original ‘incentives’, which helped. Mute was awarded the Alfred Hitchcock Production Fund in October 2010. So with crowd funding and the award the budget was £4500 – we went 10-15% over budget however! We filmed it over three days. Two in a studio and one on three locations! I went to Marakech a few months before we went into production – my haggling skills were a big asset, and having some amazing friends who were willing to lend their equipment for almost nothing! I think if we went for cost price it would have been over £15,000.
SKSM: How come you picked Mute to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Gemma Rigg: Mute has a strong comedic tone despite it being a thriller. Having comedy experience as a grounding I wanted to bring both the comedy and suspense elements through the story. This was quite a challenge and it still pleases me remembering the laughs from the very first public screening. Stephen King is a very funny writer and this often gets overlooked in adaptations of his work. The simplicity of the story and knowing that it’s very ‘doable’ on a tight budget also helped.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1?
Gemma Rigg: Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check? I read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ when I was studying and found out about it from his book. It’s a brilliant read whether you’re interested in the writing process or not.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Gemma Rigg: I was amazed by the amount of bad luck we had and felt that we were somehow jinxed. It got a bit creepy at times. We filmed in February when it was dark and freezing cold. The lowest point was when our lighting truck broke down on the way to set and we have to film without our lovely expensive lights. We sorted a replacement vehicle… only for the replacement vehicle to break down! Almost everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.
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?
Gemma Rigg: I hope that this changes in the future, and I even suggested this to Stephen King. I had a lot of companies come forward offering distribution and it was a bit frustrating knowing I wasn’t able to agree to this. I offered that all profits to to him or a charity of his choice but I never heard back. I guess he has his own reasons. I think that it is already very generous of him that he allows newbie filmmakers to adapt his work for $1 so perhaps we’re asking a lot from him. In his book he says something about he only does it to piss off his accountant 🙂
SKSM: What “good or bad” reference have you received on your film?
Gemma Rigg: Everyone who’s seen it has been very complimentary. Jacqui Wright our director did an amazing job with the actors. After the first public screening it was lovely hearing people rave on about how good it was and there was even a comment thread about it on Twitter.
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)?
Gemma Rigg: We are required to send him a copy of the film but I never heard back. I have no idea if he’s seen it.
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?
Gemma Rigg: I have no plans to adapt another short, but I would love to adapt ‘N‘ into a six-part TV series.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Gemma Rigg: MY fans? Do you mean Stephen King fans? Err you’re all warped and a little weird 😛
SKSM: Do you have anything you’d like to add?
Gemma Rigg: –