He is the man behind Susannah’s Lesson Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Shahab Zargari: I’m a filmmaker based in the United States. I love the Dark Tower series. I have two DT related tattoos.
SKSM: When did you make Susannah’s lesson? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Shahab Zargari: We shot it in 2014, and it cost about $2,000.
SKSM: How come you picked a excerpt of The dark tower to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Shahab Zargari: To be quite honest, it was such an amazing scene. The student-teacher dynamic is superb. Also, it was a scene we could get away filming without needing to spend a ton of budget on location or special effects. But more importantly it was a scene we could present where anyone around the world who hasn’t read the series could still watch and enjoy without trying to figure out who is who and what the character backstories are.
SKSM: Are you afraid your Dollar Baby to be compared with The dark tower movie?
Shahab Zargari: Not really. Susannah Dean isn’t even in the new movie. My personal theory, though, is that our short helped solidify the making of this new movie. Why? The big budget Hollywood version was in developmental hell for YEARS, with so many different directors and screenwriters and producers. So many studios passed on it over and over again. Then we do our short and all of a sudden Sony thought they could make a franchise out of it. That’s probably not what happened exactly, but it feels like it. Our buzz gave them the case study they needed to get the film made. The new film comes out on August 4th, my wedding anniversary. Ka is like a wheel, thankee sai.
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?
Shahab Zargari: I knew about Dollar Baby. But truthfully was disappointed that none of them were Dark Tower related. So I looked into Fair Use legalities and chose one scene, from the first chapter of the third book of an 8 book series and made it about the student-teacher dynamic instead of focusing on the Gunslinger’s real story. A story even folks who never read the books could enjoy.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Shahab Zargari: We used live ammunition on location, and even when I was 20 meters away from the rocks, a piece of shrapnel hit me in my arm and drew blood. That was the only accident on set. https://www.instagram.com/p/pCtCibqSkv/?tagged=susannahslesson
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 an internet/dvd release would be possible?
Shahab Zargari: I feel pretty sad that nobody even cared I was doing a DT film during Kickstarter funding, or shooting, or screenings or uploading to Youtube UNTIL the moment Sony announced their film. As soon as that happened the lawyers had Youtube take the film down. I appealed to the lawyers, said I had done no wrong when taking Fair Use language into consideration, and they said we must agree to disagree. There will be no DVD release, because this was made as a fan for the fans and not to make money (another thing the lawyers will never understand. What are they going to do, sue me for my KA tattoo?). The only way I’d like to make money off of the Dark Tower is if the producers see my short and bring me on to shoot the TV show. I do have a secret download section on our website that was designated for Kickstarter backers. If anyone wants to see it, I will give them access to this page for free. They can email the request to: email@example.com
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Shahab Zargari: A lot of mixed reviews came out when we released the teaser, a lot of people claiming our Susannah wasn’t “black enough,” which I thought was pretty racist. Then I felt vindicated when Sony hired Idris to be the Gunslinger. Haha. Thanks Ka!
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)?
Shahab Zargari: No contact. As an uber fan I’d love to know what the director of Maximum Overdrive thought about it. But he didn’t say anything before or after the Youtube takedown, so I’m not holding my breath.
SKSM: What are you working nowadays?
Shahab Zargari: A few cinematic music videos, some short films and putting together scripts for some feature length films!
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?
Shahab Zargari: I started my filming career doing fan films. Unless something compelling comes across my desk, I think I’ll stick to original stories from now on. Fan films are a pain the ass because copyright laws are such a vague grey area.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Shahab Zargari: If you talk shit on filmmakers or movies, go ahead and try to film a movie yourself. Prove to us you can do better! And enjoy the ride!