He’s 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 Dean: My name is Stephen Dean. I am a native to Northeast Georgia, U.S.A. I am the creator/director/producer of Dean Film Works LLC. For over five years I was a law enforcement officer but eventually decided to go back to college and do a career change as the challenges of the profession neverquite fit my personality type nor the goals I set for myself in life. I ended up going to college and getting a Bachelor’s of Sciene degree in Business Administration/Marketing. Approximately 5 and a half years ago, I began working within the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. I started as an extra and worked my way into being a full time stand-in on various big buget television shows and films. During the eariler years of this amazing adventure, I began training as an actor and taking film (on-camera) acting classes at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly after that I was signed by my first talent agent. I have been extremely lucky enough to be cast in several principal roles over the years in film and commercial projects! Aside from acting, my true love in all of this is directing, producing, and filmmaking in general. I love challenges! I use to be an endurance athlete (road cycling and mountain biking) and this has been the most difficult set of challenges I have attempted to date. It is an all consuming and grueling process. I enjoy thinking around the challenges associated with micro budget filmmaking. Like all filmmakers, I hope my budgets, as well as fan base, grow over time. There is just something so humbling about working so very hard and bringing good people together in the process. The task of finding ways for everyone involved to benefit when you have limited resources is a growing and learning experience. It has been life changing for me, and in a very good way! I am am very blessed and honored to be able to attempt the things I get to do with film production!
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Stephen Dean: It is strange to me how this materialized into me being a filmmaker. Growing up in rural parts of North Georgia, I would often times dream of going to Los Angeles and becoming an actor but I lived in such a small world back then. Everything about my daily life told me it would never happen and that it was ridculous to even consider it. I felt a million miles away from filmmaking/acting/etc. I guess I was close minded and too young to understand that you can do anything you want in life. Then one day the world completely changed for me! A significant part of “Hollywood” just up and moved to Atlanta, Georgia! How?!? I’m still scratching my head about that honestly. That was when I knew I could try and be an actor. Through the process of acting and trying to make the auditioning process as cost effective as possible, I started buying my own home studio equipment to film auditions. Just some softbox lighting, a DSLR camera, and some other essentials tools. I begin to teach myself basic video editing so I could save time and money and edit my own auditions. One day I just thought to myself, “Hey! You know how to make a movie, you’re already doing it! So make it official!” So I did my own original film noir web series called “Memoirs of a Godfather”. I went the extra mile and went through the process of getting it sanctioned under SAG-AFTRA New Media contract and attached a few union actors to the project. So it was an extremely gradual process over the course of two and a half years to me becoming a filmmaker. One thing I can say in absolution, it would never have happened if I didn’t have some of the best people in the world helping me make it all happen.
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 Dean: I got permission from Stephen King’s representatives to begin the project around mid October 2017. We begin principal photography in November 2017 and completed filming in late February 2018. Post production was completed in late March 2018. We worked on a “shoestring budget” of $1350. Admittedly, with all aspects of our film productions, fundraising has not been my strong suit and often times I am spread thin with numerous pre-production task ranging from casting, locations scouting, and administration work. Our cast and crew were all volunteers and the bulk of the tiny budget went to renting box trucks for two of the five prinicpal photography days, food/crafty, a hotel for one night of filming for cast to have a “green room”, and location rental fees. I spent an additional five days of production doing “B roll” footage, sound design, and drone shots. Post production took place gradually as we were filming and ramped up after we completed principal photography.
SKSM: How come you picked Rest stop to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Stephen Dean: That is a great question! I researched all options that were available and I knew that I would have a finite budget. While I was hopeful for a larger budget, I knew that no matter what, I was going to get it done. With that said, I wanted it to be as good as possible and some of the other short stories available, at least to me, called for a stage or an out-of-town location.
I also knew my version of Mr. King’s short film would have to be strictly “on location”. There were a few that could have worked well enough, but I wanted the story to fit the geography of North Georia and Rest Stop seemed to do just that! Rest Stop also spoke to me quite a bit. As a former Deputy Sheriff I dealt with many domestic violence situations. I was there breathing it in. The physical abuse against women and children. I swear I met real life variations of Lee and Ellen and I knew I could bring a certain amount of realism to the dynamics of that part of the story. I had five potentail stories picked out and I kept going back to Rest Stop. It just made sense to me. At the time, I hadn’t realized that Georgia had actually closed down all the highway rest stops around my area. I fell locations in stories are often some of the biggest characters of certain scenes, so I spent some time finding a place that I thought would fit well for our rest stop. It had to be dated, grimy, and feel relatively remote. I was extremely happy when a local University allowed me to film on their campus as they had a perfect fieldhouse that I abosolutely fell in love with! Luckily it all worked out!
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 Dean: I actually had a close friend of mine mention it to me and they encouraged me to submit a request. That same friend came across the information online while researching various Hollywood directors. I sent in a detailed letter to Stephen King’s representatives proposing what I would like to do and how I plan to film rest stop and luckily heard back very quickly! It is such a great opportunity to bring a well developed short story to life!
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Stephen Dean: Oh yes! Many moments that were funny because of the challenges and shear bad luck at times! For instance: On the night we filmed the actual rest stop scene, it was in the low 30 F degree temps and we had so much equipment that storage containers were scattered all over the ground and covered with thick frost. The camera would have to periodcially be taken inside the bathrooms to warm back up to be operational. We had mishap after mishap. Our largest generator had a faulty voltage regulator and was putting out way too many volts so it fried out our largest spot lights and the largest fog machine. We spent so much time getting ready for special effects fog that never happend but you know, that is when you learn to roll with the punches. My Dad and my brother in-law put the fog machine in the back of our production box truck and tried to repair it, but it was a goner. Fried to a crisp! We had so much to do in so little time in most cases! C’est la vie! That’s film and television production by nature isn’t it?!
Another built-in obstacle was that the production schedule stretched through the major Chrismas and New Year’s holidays and beyond. With a volunteer cast and crew, we were relegated to weekends for shooting but the most special thing was that no matter the hurdles they were always there. The cast and crew were there the day after a severe snow storm when we shot a large mystery writer’s scene in the Buckhead, Georgia area. Some came from rural areas and did long drives to make it. The cast and crew were there on the all night shoot for the rest stop in freezing temperatures. They wanted to make this happen as bad as I did and we hadn’t the budget for reshoots. Do or die. That’s they only reason this worked. We had each other, and that is pretty damn special within itself.
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 Dean: I’m not sure what to think about the controlled access as it pertains to these short films as I know Stephen King fans are a VERY devote and passionate group of fans as so am I and my cast and crew. On the other hand, I would hate for a King fan to see our film and absolutely hate it and it tarnish their original impression of “Rest Stop” by association. Film is such an influential medium that it has been accused of ruining books for viewers in the past, or at least that’s what I have read. I guess motion pictures stay with us, for better or for worse.
I am partially sadden as I would like to believe many King fans would enjoy our version of Rest Stop, but on the other hand I am thankful to the exclusive nature of film festival screenings only. As far as the public accessibility restriction, I do NOT think it will change in all honesty as this has existed this way for a long time. With Youtube/Vimeo/etc. and other online streaming services I am sure open accessbility could help emerging filmmakers draw a larger fan base and exposure. However, I sincerely respect the fact that Mr. King want’s to prevent monetary gain from his copywritten material as these short stories and the use of such content remains non-exclusive in nature. I truly beleive that the restriction is also in place to protect future investments related to the stories that may involve networks or studios. I don’t see a DVD release being allowed at any point as it is so easily self-distributable and pirated. I respect Mr. King’s copyright protection and his intellectual property.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Stephen Dean: It is early in the process at this time. I have received some good reviews from the initial trailer but I am awaiting many responses from the film festivals we have entered very recently. Hopefully we will have some measure of luck on the festival circuit(s).
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Stephen Dean: I am hoping we get a few screenings at some of the local Atlanta film festivals as this film was made entirely using local Atlanta cast and crew! I also am keeping my fingers crossed that we may get a selection into a few of the Los Angeles short film festivals this year. At this time we have not heard of any selections, but the film was just submitted to the first of ten film festivals approximately two days ago at the time of this interview. We hope to target between 30-50 festivals around the world including Raindance (London), L.A. Shorts International Film Festival (Los Angeles), The Atlanta Film Festival (Atlanta, GA), The Macon Film Festival (Atlanta, GA), The Marietta International Film Festival (Atlanta, GA), and the Hollyshorts Film Festival (Los Angeles) to name a few!
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Stephen Dean: Yes! I love many stories by Stephen King! I actually love The Green Mile although it makes me incredibly sad to read or watch. I first fell in love with Stephen King’s stories when I watched Maximum Overdrive as a young adolescent. Who could forget the killer ice cream truck!! Brilliant!!
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 Dean: I have only worked through his representative via email and that was limited to initial permission and outlining the specifics of the contract. I had an initial plan and vision for the film and sent it in to his office and just moved forward. While I would have LOVED to have spoken to Mr. King, natrually, I never expected that to happen and it did not to date. I sent him a copy of the film middle of last week at the time of this writing and have not heard back at this time but they have likely only recently received the package. I am not sure what he or his representatives think of the project. I certainly hope they like it, of course! At the end of the day I think we collectively accomplished a lot on very little funding. I am extremely proud of our team’s overall work, and I look forward to the future! This film project has made me grow as a filmmaker and taught me quite a few things that will help me become better in the future.
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 Dean: I wish I had a shot at bringing one of Mr. King’s BIG stories/movies to life as a feature film! I know we live in a world of film and television remakes, but hands-down, I would want to remake Maximum Overdrive! I have always been a fan of that film. It was one of the creepiest movies of my childhood. Something about the goblin faced semi truck stuck with me in my childhood nightmares! Emilio Estevez was increible but I think with the new technology in cinema today that a remake could introduce a whole new generation to this wonderfully creepy story in a new and somewhat original format! Would the ice cream truck reappear in my new version? Are you kidding me?! Hell YES-! All in good humor! 😉
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Stephen Dean: I am currently finishing up a few details related to our Rest Stop project (festival submissions, networking, etc.). My team are working on growing our commercial and industrial base for Dean Film Works LLC and gaining more local clients in the Atlanta area. As far as narrative/theatrical film works, I am taking a short break until sometime midsummer. I would ideally like to do a series of ultra short film projects that will likely fall into the comedy genre. That’s if something else doesn’t come up sooner than that.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Stephen Dean: That’s a tough questions for me. I feel as though I live my life as a “mostly” open book. I maintain a measured degree of privacy as most people do and should, but the people who know me best would say I am very open, silly, and outgoing. Truth is, that is partly a misconception. I love and adore good people! I also enjoy my alone time and I don’t feel lonely because of it. I spend many many hours alone working. Some of my friends tell me I live an interesting life. I really don’t, but it’s cool they think so! LOL! I keep my head down on the computer editing, creating, and working extremely hard to make something “out of the dirt”. I have done many 22-32+ hour film editing and creation runs with minimal breaks. I know long hours and quick turn arounds are common place for many video editors, but it takes it toil and recharging becomes essential at some point. I expect great things to come from hardwork, not by chance. My closest friends know this about me. I often times tell them that doing anything great in life will be a cage match, a knock-out, drag-out, cage match. Nothing comes by chance and no one is giving hand-outs. I think strangers would meet me and not realize how competitive and focused I am but I enjoy having fun and momentarily forgetting about life goals and pressures to succeed. I am intense when I want to get something done and I have no issue putting the work in to make it happen. I think that surprises people that don’t know me. Just how far and how hard I will work if it’s something I really want but at the end of the day I believe that the people around have to be cared for and priortized too.
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 Dean: Absolutely! Thank you for taking the time to interview me! I truly enjoyed it!Thanks to the King fans for reading this interview and for your interest and support of our version of Rest Stop! We were so blessed and honored to be able to bring one of Mr. King’s stories to life! This whole experience has helped me and my team grow and learn! If nothing else, that makes the journey worthwhile! I hope all of your journeys are good one’s and that there are a few pleasant plot twist along the way!
SKSM: Would you like to add anything else?
Stephen Dean: If you would like to know more about Dean Film Works LLC, please check us out at Dean Film Works LLC on Facebook or go to www.deanfilmworks.com! We truly appreciate all of you taking the time to learn more about us and our film adaptation of Rest Stop! We want to also thank Stephen King for allowing us this great opportunity to bring an intense and interesting short story to life through motion picture art! Thanks again everyone!