He is the man behind Night Surf Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Stephen W. Parkhurst: Like Stephen King, I’m a native Mainer. I grew up in a tiny town about forty minutes south of Bangor. I just moved back to Maine, Portland specifically, after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Film Production this May. I’ve got a lot of family and friends in the area, and seemed like it would be fun to come home for a little while. Unfortunately Maine, while lovely and all, is completely devoid of a film industry, hence my currently working at a hotel, parking cars. That’s why I decided to take matters into my own hands and make “Night Surf”.
SKSM: When did you make Night Surf? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Stephen W. Parkhurst: This project actually had a really long gestation period. I’d been considering doing the film for about a year and a half, and had toyed with several different short stories and scripts. Given how long I spent just thinking about it, when I finally decided to actually do it, the whole project came together in a timespan of only about two months. The production was really small. Just in April I’d finished the most expensive, elaborate film I’ve ever done. We had a fifteen person crew, eighteen actors, about twenty five locations, we shot on 16mm film, we blew up a car, etc. etc. It was small by real movie standards, but big for me. So I wanted to keep this one really small and intimate, which seemed appropriate for the story, anyway. We shot over the first two weekends of November, we only had four cast members and five crew members. We shot on digital, a lot of guerilla filmmaking. It only ended up costing about four or five hundred dollars, total. I edited the movie extremely fast, mainly because I was borrowing a really nice NLE system, and the owner was hounding me to give it back. So I ended up editing the whole thing in less than a week, with the majority of it being done over a marathon 48 hour session.
SKSM: How come you picked Night Surf to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Stephen W. Parkhurst: “Night Surf” was always my top choice after I read it. I think it’s one of Stephen King’s best short stories. It’s a very melancholy and matter-of-fact story where not a lot really happens, yet it’s very engrossing. I like the characters, even Bernie. Though the guy is kind of an asshole, you still have to feel bad for him, for all of them. I kind of have a thing for themes of isolation and loneliness, and “Night Surf” definitely has those. I also love any good story about the apocalypse. It also helped that the story takes place in Portland, which made for some easy location scouting.
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 W. Parkhurst: I honestly don’t remember how exactly I found out about the Dollar Baby program. I think I just happened to come across it on a website one day. Wikipedia, maybe. It was while I was still in school, and I do remember immediately thinking, “Well, I know what my next project will be.” Every Mainer has this very possessive thing about Stephen King. We all think he belongs to us, and ever since I’ve wanted to direct movies, I’ve wanted to do a King adaptation.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Stephen W. Parkhurst: Nothing terribly exciting happened during the filming. It’s actually probably the best filming experience I’ve had thus far. Everyone got along, we secured all the locations we needed, people showed up on time, we finished ahead of schedule. Kind of odd, really. I do feel kind of bad about one thing; Chester, the guy who plays Alvin, had to stand in an actual fire. It was fairly small, and we had extinguishers and whatnot, but he was a real trooper, stood there long after any sane person would have leaped out. The fire actually started to get pretty big before we could convince him to climb out. Of course, I barely used any of that footage. So basically he risked his life, or at least his leg hairs, for no reason.
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 W. Parkhurst: It would definitely be cool to see all the Dollar Babies in some format or other. I personally would like to see the other “Night Surf“‘s in particular. I really have no idea if it will ever change, I’m sure there are a lot of legal issues involved. I don’t really want to bite the hand that feeds, though. It’s incredibly cool of Stephen King to allow people to shoot adaptations of his work. He’s arguably the most famous living writer on the planet, and he certainly has no obligation to do something like the Dollar Baby program. I’m just grateful that he’s still doing it after so many years. He’s a very philanthropic guy.
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 W. Parkhurst: As of writing this, I’ve just sent the DVD to his office last week. So I don’t know if he’s seen it yet, or ever will. I didn’t have any personal contact with Mr. King, instead I talked to his assistant, who was very kind and helpful in sending me the legal documents, and any information I requested. It is kind of amazing that, given the sheer scope of Stephen King, (he really is his own little empire) how accessible he still is, and how small his whole organization feels. I have seen Stephen King in person a couple times, once when he did a reading of “Peter and the Wolf” at the UMaine Center for the Arts, and once when the Rock Bottom Remainders came to Bangor. Basically, if you live in Maine long enough, you’re bound to run into King eventually. There’s just not that many people in this state.
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 W. Parkhurst: I don’t have any plans for another adaptation right at the moment, but I would definitely do it again, should inspiration strike. I was bummed when “1408” came out, because that was one of my favorite King stories, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to adapt. I almost did “The Road Virus Heads North” but my previous movie involved a lot of cars, and I was sick of shooting in them. If I had to pick one today, I’d love to try “The Raft” or “I Know What You Need“. “The Raft” could really be terrifying, and has a similar vibe to “The Mist“, while “I Know What You Need” would make for a great psychological thriller, with some opportunities for very dark humor.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Stephen W. Parkhurst: No, thank you, and keep up the good work with the website. I think saying I have fans is a bit of a stretch, unless you count my grandmother. She thinks I’m pretty swell. Anyone reading this who is thinking about doing a Dollar Baby, I highly recommend it. It’s a great opportunity, and not too many people get to say “yeah, I just wrapped up a Stephen King adaptation.” It definitely looks good on a demo reel.