He is the man behind Rest Stop Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Stephen Baxter: My name is Stephen Baxter – I’m a filmmaker from Montreal, Canada. I just finished by degree at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, and now I’m working trying to get my foot in the door as a director and producer.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Stephen Baxter: I actually didn’t fully realize it until my last year of high school. I was on track to being an engineer, or at least studying engineering. I’d always been fascinated and obsessed with stories and storytelling, and I loved movies – I’d thought about being an actor or writer – but I always thought it was unrealistic, that I couldn’t do it. But some time around when I was 17, I had some more exposure to the film industry and decided “I’m just gonna go for it.”
SKSM: When did you make Rest Stop? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Stephen Baxter: We filmed Rest Stop in July of 2018, but Amy and I spent several months before that working and reworking the script to make it great – she’s a fantastic writer and allowing her the time to perfect the script made the film infinitely better.
SKSM: How come you picked Rest stop to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Stephen Baxter: I was really attracted to the idea that there is a dark side to people, that exists within the human heart. I like reading psychology like Carl Jung – he calls this idea the “shadow”. In order to become strong, and capable, you have to understand your own shadow. To me this story was just bursting with themes like this, as well as questions about violence, right and wrong etc. It was a very rich story, that also happened to be very light in terms of special effects or complex locations, so it was a no-brainer!
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Stephen Baxter: To be clear I didn’t send him a check, I went to the bank and asked them for the cleanest, most perfect 1$ bill they had. I rejected about four before finding the best one!
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Stephen Baxter: When the film was almost done we realized we were missing one thing – we made the movie in the province of Quebec, where all the road signs are in French, but our story is set in the United States. So Amy and I took a camera across the border, not realizing what a huge customs problem this meant!
Five minutes after reaching the border we were inside, detained, trying hard to explain why exactly we had to go film a road sign in the United States!
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?
Stephen Baxter: It was part of the deal from the very beginning, so I can’t complain. I’ll certainly say I wish we could show it to all the fans, hopefully some day we can, but I understand the contract being the way it is and intend to respect it.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Stephen Baxter: So far the film has only really been seen by friends, family, and the audience at our private premiere, but so far the reception as been universally positive. I’m extremely proud of the great work the cast and crew did on this film, it seems to be paying off!
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Stephen Baxter: At the time of this interview, we’ve been officially selected as part of the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, as well as the 80 Screams International Film Festival in Ohio. We’re beyond excited at the positive feedback we’ve gotten, and that people want to program our film – we hope to show it as widely as possible!
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Stephen Baxter: Definitely. I’m a huge fan of the Shawshank Redemption (by the most famous Dollar Baby director there is!) and the Green Mile. I’m also a big fan of Stand By Me. And of course obviously, It, The Shining, Creepshow, Misery – it might sound funny but I think my very favourites of his work are the non-horror stories! Although obviously the horror is excellent as well.
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)?
Stephen Baxter: We didn’t – I know the DVD has arrived at his office, according to Fedex, but we haven’t heard from him. I hope he’s seen it, and liked it, but for a man as busy as him we understand why he wouldn’t have time to reach out to all the Dollar Baby filmmakers.
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?
Stephen Baxter: I don’t have any plans to, but I’m certainly open to it!
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Stephen Baxter: A wise man, Elliott Grove, once said the answer to that question is always “I have numerous projects in various stages of development.” Which is pretty accurate!
I can say at the time of writing this interview I’m developing and researching some feature film scripts, as well as working on a documentary TV series profiling the world’s great musical instrument makers. A bit of a change of pace from Stephen King shorts.
SKSM: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Stephen Baxter: I do full-contact mixed martial arts training, and it’s helped me massively in my film career – getting kicked in the head puts working late hours into perspective. Could be worse!
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Stephen Baxter: It was such a pleasure bringing Stephen King’s work to life cinematically – it’s a hell of a club to join. Be sure to come check us out if we’re ever screening in your area, we’d love to show you the film!
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
Stephen Baxter: Thank you for taking the time to interview me! And thanks of course to Stephen King for the opportunity!