Paul Carro

NOTE: Paul Carro never filmed a Dollar Baby based on a Stephen King story. Paul used Stephen King’s Dollar Baby concept to adapt a John Cohen story called ‘Preserves.’

SKSM: May you introduce yourself to our readers? Born? Raised?

Paul Carro: My name is Paul Carro. I am a current Horror Writers Association autor of multiple horror novels and anthologies. I was born and raised in Windham, Maine. I lived there my whole life until college where I went to Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. It was there I made a Dollar Baby film which got me noticed in Hollywood. I moved to Los ángeles after college and have been here since working in film and TV in various capacities. My bigger focus in recent years is in publishing though I still have several film projects in the works. 

SKSM: When you were in college you used King’s Dollar Baby concept for your thesis film. Can you tell us about it? 

Paul Carro: Absolutely. Growing up in Maine, Stephen King was a local and read from one of his books in my high school auditórium. Obviously, he is one of the most famous horror authors of all time so everyone knows him, but I think the Dollar Baby program at least in its infancy was a bit under the radar. Because I was going to college for film and followed King closely because of the proud Maine connection, I learned about his program early on. I needed to make a film for my senior thesis (we called it a Div 3 program at my college) and I thought King’s program was a great way to film something unique and exciting. However, I was going to have a very limited budget and King’s work is often bigger in scope than what I could probably handle. I had recently read a story called “Preserves” in Twilight Zone Magazine and it struck me that I could make that on my budget. 

SKSM: Your story reminds me a little of “Lovecraft’s Pillow” short film. Mark Steensland, the filmmaker, used an idea of King’s to shot his film. Obviously it’s not an official Dollar Baby, but it’s true that King’s concept has benefited many artists. What do you think of the Dollar Baby program? Have you been compensated in any way by the Dollar Baby deal?

Paul Carro: No compensation. That was part of the deal. I consider this Project a part of King’s Dollar Baby mythos if only because I followed all the same restrictions of his Project. Furthermore, when I wrote autor John Cohen I pitched Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program to secure the rights to film Preserves under the same guidelines. John Cohen was very kind and was aware of the Dollar Baby program. So, no, I was never compensated for the film other than it made its way to Hollywood and got me noticed. That made my entry into the film world a bit easier. John Cohen went on to write Minority Report for Steven Spielberg, so I think that says something about his writing. Great guy.

SKSM: You had in mind to film The Raft, King’s short story. Did you write the script or did you abandon the project before writing it?

Paul Carro: The Raft was my second choice. Jerusalem’s Lot from Night Shift was my first. It is such a creepy King story that haunted me as a kid. I love that story, but getting a church for shooting and the right locations alone was a bridge too far for me at that age. My next thought was The Raft.

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

Paul Carro: I actually did develop The Raft before I even decided to reach out to Stephen King. But unfortunately the cloc kwas ticking on my looming graduation. I had to start shooting something soon and because of King’s popularity I understood it woulld not be a quick process to hear back from him and get started. I could not chance it, so reached out for Preserves instead.

But my plan for The Raft was kind of fun. It had already been made in Creepshow 2 of course, but I did not want to lean into camp in anyway. I wanted a downright, dark, terrifying short. My plan was to spend time with the characters in advance of their being trapped out on the water. I hoped to make people feel for them so when they atart getting picked off it really hits home. On top of that was going to be some relationship drama that resolves in their time of crisis. And most of all, I planned to treat the creature like the shark in Jaws. You don’t see it much, but its presence terrifies the viewer. That would have worked within my budget.

SKSM: Was anyone else involved in the project?

Paul Carro: Yes. Well-known horror director Rolfe Kanefsky served as my DP on the Project. As local horror fans, we connected and often watched horror films together. When this project materialized, he was gracious enough to step in and shoot it with me. I wrote and directed and he served as DP. Two things to know. Digital effects back then were insanely expensive so everything had to be practical. The second was that the story revolved around a dark, creepy basement. Lighting a place like that was going to be a challenge for anyone, but he made it all work. He truly elevated the project and I am very grateful for what he did. He was either simultaneously making a feature film at the time or was about to. Certainly he would have been in development so very generous.

SKSM: Fans will no longer be able to see your adaptation because the rights to the story were sold many years ago. If you had filmed The Raft, how long would the running time have been?

Paul Carro: With Preserved I matched the length of an actual Twilight Zone episode. Since it was adapted from that magazine I wanted ito film it like it was an episode. The Raft would have been an hour. That may seem long but if you look at The Black Phone by Joe Hill, the additions to his already great story made the film sing. I had plans for the characters that I think would have made an hour work quite well.

SKSM: I’m curious how did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1?

Paul Carro: I mentioned this a bit earlier, but being a Maine local he appeared in our regional newspapers often so it was out there. I also followed all horror media so it was there as well.

SKSM: You are a writer now, but do you still make movies?

Paul Carro: I have a few projects out there from the past that are still lingering in development. There is a cool heist thriller called “Without a Hitch” that I was hired to write a treatment for. It is full of twists and turns and surprises. I think that is one of my strengths. Also a screenplay I sold called Penance is Still Floating Out There with legendary producer Michael Phillips attached.

More recently, there are two young horror filmmakers from Maine that just arrived in Los Angeles. Gavina and Tristan, the Winchester brothers. (Not the Winchesters from the Supernatural TV show.) We are working on movie together. It is a modern day slasher, with-wait for it-twists! I cannot reveal the title because it does give away the plot.

Also I am happy to say that Rolfe Kanefsky and I are working on a film called Hitchcock Nebraska. This is a very cool project that I wrote. Our plan is for him to direct this Hitchcock style horror thriller. This gem came close to being made a few times but Covid got in the way recently. We are seeking financing now and hope to get this going soon. I Will also be novelizing the film as well. Not sure if the book or movie wll make it out first. Depends on some great financiers waiting out there in the wings.  

SKSM: Which of your novels do you think would work best as a film?

Paul Carro: The House. The opening line is: The day began when Sheriff Frank Watkins discovered two bodies and three heads.

This was my debut horror novel and has struck a chord with readers. It has been listed on many top ten lists and has never slowed down since its reléase. It still sells daily and I am so grateful for that. I put a lot into that one, and sadly lost my Mom unexpectedly right before the reléase. I am poud of the book but it saddens me as well because of losing my mother.

As for why a film. It is high concpet.

While the sheriff deals with the opening line. Two boys in Maine are playing in a massive field on a sunny day. At some point a shadow overtakes them. They turn and a massive huge house has appeared from nowhere in the field behind them. From insde a woman bangs on the window begging for help. The young boys do what boys do, they run. Meanwhile throughout the town mysterious doors creak open and individuals step through only to find themselves trapped in that house in the field.

Nine strangers with nine secrets so dark they plan to take them to their graves. One house is willing to accomodate them all. 

SKSM: When you were in high school Stephen King read from his book Thinner. Has this anecdote had any influence on you as a writer?

Paul Carro: For many of us in small-town Maine, he made the possibilities real. I am forever grateful to him for his work but also his generosity to others. His Dollar Baby concept turned into something that propeled my life in the direction I always dreamed I wanted to go.

SKSM: Who are your favorite or influential writers?

Paul Carro: So many. Joe R Lansdale, Ray Bradbury, Washington Irving, Poe, King, Dennis Etchison, Charles L Grant, Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Clive Barker are some of the most influential.

SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Paul Carro: That I am a die-hard comic book nerd. I have collected since I was a child. I did write a YA superhero novel called “Nolan Walker and the Superiors Squad” as my love letter to comics. I listen to comic book related podcasts every week and still keep an eye on what’s going on. This was not a young kid thing that died out. I loved them then and love them now. I am giddy that we are finally getting a Teen Titans film.

SKSM: What is in the top 5 on your bucket list? (Everything is possible and nothing is too strange)

Paul Carro: I desperately wish to visit other countries. I have visited north and south of the US and have visited almost every state here in the US, but I have yet to make it overseas. Spain, Greece, Finland, and many others are on my list.

On a wilder side. I do want to eventually make a trip to space. It is becoming more of a reality for the masses, and I would love to have that experience. 

SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

Paul Carro: I asume some are wondering what Preserves was about, so here it is in a nutshell. A Young boy close to his grandma grew up watching her make preserves. Over the years when she opened them she would sniff the jars and say she remembered that day.

Decades later he is grown and his grandma is on her deathbed. One day her caretaker cannot find the woman. She is foudn dead in the basement. The grandosn tries to understand how she got down there. The jars in the preserves closet wheere she was found come to life with swirling lights. When he opens a jar, he and his wife are transported back in time to the days listed on the jar. A cool story.

With that out of the way, I would love to thank the readers. Whether reading books or articles such as this, we are nothing without them. Readers are the greatest people on earth. They have limited time in their lives like we all do, so when they use some of their time to read the words put down by others it is a very special thing. You all rock readers!

SKSM: Would you like to add something else to this interview?

Paul Carro:  Only to thank you for your time and kindness. I think the ripple effects that Stephen King’s Dollar Baby films program has helped so many careers. I am glad you are putting a spotlight on this work. Thank you!

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