Stephen H. Smith
He is the man behind Nona Dollar Baby Film
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Stephen H Smith: I’m Stephen “Sparrow” Smith, but Steve is fine too. I live in San Francisco, California and I am currently taking a short hiatus from filmmaking so that I may obtain a master’s degree in English literature, which, along with film, I also love.
SKSM: When did you make Nona? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Stephen H Smith: I can’t give an exact number for the cost off the top of my head, but it was not much (way less than the Blair Witch Project). I will admit that most of the money used to shoot the film was supplied by my parents and Tony’s. Many thanks to them. We kept our costs at a minimum by not paying any of our actors or crew. This speaks worlds to their dedication . Many people sacrificed their time (I consider time to be the most precious resource we have), just so that they could take part in something they found exciting and cool. I admire that and thank them for it.
As to how long it took to film it…I’d say 5-6 months, maybe. I forget the exact dates, and I’m nowhere near my paperwork, but we started in the middle of winter and ended in the middle of the summer. That was 2005.
SKSM: How come you picked Nona to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Stephen H Smith: I actually tried for almost a year to get the rights to Quitters Inc. (also from Nightshift), but I was unaware that it’s featured in a movie called Cat’s Eye, with James Woods. Then, after I’d been turned down, I read Nona and really liked it too. I made a second request, not expecting an answer for some time, and not minding the wait (Sai King’s a busy man), but hoping that Nona was available. It was.
I love road movies and Nona certainly qualifies. I identified with the way in which the main character wallowed in his misery over a breakup, as I had been guilty of doing at one point in my life, although I was far enough removed from my own breakup to appreciate how twisted the main character’s mind was. I realized that if I’d read the story at one point in my life, like earlier as opposed to later, it would have meant something completely different to me, and I might have missed the point. I saw the circumstances in my life as having given me the perspective to tell the character’s story with an element of tragedy, while maintaining the feel of a thriller, but this is all a little tricky because I want to avoid dropping spoilers for those who haven’t read the story and might want to. It’s a good one. I also love the story because it has its own built-in soundtrack, as much of sai King’s work does.
SKSM: You worked with Anthony Bushman on this film, how was that? What is his role?
Stephen H Smith: Tony’s my bro, straight up. We went to school together from the first grade thru high school, and one year at Ohio Sate University in Columbus, Ohio, where we solidified our artistic relationship by making films together. He’s my co-producer/co-director, he also writes and he’s the film’s editor. We decided to direct under the moniker Sparrow Brothers because we thought it was cool and because you don’t see that many movies directed by two people, but there is a precedent for brothers (Coen, Watchowski, Hughes).
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 H Smith: I found out about the Dollar Babies program from the screenplay to the Shawshank Redemption, which is my all time favorite movie ever!
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Stephen H Smith: I enjoyed filming in the cemetery at night. Real spooky. I also enjoyed our attempts at special makeup effects, gore etc… We are both big fans of Tom Savini’s work on George Romero’s zombie films.
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 video/DVD or internet release would be possible?
Stephen H Smith: I was hoping for some sort of internet release at least. I know we can’t sell it, as it belongs to the King, but hopefully there’s some way to get it out there if people want to see it.
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 H Smith: I was always in contact with his assistant. Sai King has a copy of the trailer for Nona, but I am unaware as to whether or not he’s seen it, and the film itself is still in post-production, so he won’t be seeing that for a little while yet.
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 H Smith: I’d love to do Quitters Inc. and casting Johnny Depp would be the icing on that cake. I have already filmed the Dark Tower in my head, now I just need a whole lot of money to do it. I also would love to take a crack at remaking The Stand or IT, but these are all big dreams and at the moment, I am a mere graduate student toiling away, dreaming of those days with an eager heart. I may have made my last Dollar Baby, maybe not, but if I did that again, I might try to find something more manageable than the previously mentioned.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything else you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Stephen H Smith: Thanks for the interest, always a pleasure. Peace.
-Stephen H Smith