He’s is the filmmaker of Dedication Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Steve Cooke: My name is Steve Cooke and in 2017 I started a small film making business after finishing a career as a police officer. It had been something I’d always wanted to do, but life got in the way. Seemed like a great time to start!
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Steve Cooke: When I was 11, but didn’t get much encouragement from anyone, so put it on the back burner until I was older.
SKSM: When was Dedication made? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Steve Cooke: Dedication commenced (auditions) in January 2023, followed by two months of rehearsals. We commenced filming late March 2023 and finished filming in July 2023. So, all up, around 7 months. The cost of the film was between $15k and $20k AUD.
SKSM: How come you picked Dedication to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Steve Cooke: When I became interested in applying to make a dollar baby film, I only had the synopsis of the films to work with as I had to order the book, which took nearly 10 weeks to arrive. I really though Dedication sounded like an interesting story, but once I read the book, I realised how confronting it was. So as I was adapting the story to script, it became evident that the bext way to tell the story, was head on and not gloss over any of the less desirable aspects. I also adapted the story to what it would have been like in 1940’s (and then 1960’s) Australia. I think this is the aspect that I liked the most as it tackled many of the social issues and inequities that existed in 1940’s Australia.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Steve Cooke: There are different elements to the story that I think engages people. There’s the downtrodden main character who has experienced an underprivileged life and is now married to a drunken abusive husband. I think her desire to make a better life for herself (and eventually her unborn child) endears her to the audience. Then there is the mysterious witch and the spell that she casts. Even though the main character is forced to do some very confronting things, I think the audience somehow know that it’s for the better, but you can’t quiet work out why until the end. All these different characters come into the story, which keeps everyone on their toes in terms of what’s going to happen next. The mystery, the brutality, the suspense, it’s a great story to tell.
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?
Steve Cooke: I saw someone mention it on one of the film social media forums and it perked my interest. So, I looked it up, came across the website and applied. I didn’t actually think I’d get a shot at it, as it seemed to be more tailored to young people, just starting out.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when the movie was made that you would like to tell me about? Are there points that you say afterwards that we could have done better differently.
Steve Cooke: The bloopers reel would have you in stitches. But, unfortunately, we can’t show any of it! There’s always things that I wish I’d done better in any film I’ve made. We had such a beautiful hotel to film in, it was pretty much perfect for this film. There’s just some technical issues like camera angles and certain shots that I wished had been done better.
SKSM: Are there things cut out of the movie that you miss now?
Steve Cooke: OMG yeah! When I sat down to edit, the first draft was 1 hour and 19 minutes! I had to cut a lot out to get it under 45 minutes. The story hasn’t lost any of its essence, but moves along very quickly.
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?
Steve Cooke: I have mixed views on this. On the one hand, I think it sucks, but on the other hand, I knew exactly what I was getting into. My understanding is that Stephen King watches all the films sent to him. If he likes it, he can always give permission to release it for public viewing for a set time. But yeah, it is hard.
SKSM: Can you describe the feeling when the movie was done? And how the film was received after viewing.
Steve Cooke: The feeling was awesome. Anyone out there that has made a film this length knows that there are many people who put their heart and soul into it. Viewing…well, all I can do is enter it into not for profit festivals and hope it is selected and screened. The cast and crew will actually get to see it then. This is the one aspect I’d love to see ‘loosened up’ in the letter of agreement.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Steve Cooke: It’s only just been submitted to some festival so fingers crossed the reviews are all good!
SKSM: Do you plan to screen the movie at a particular festival?
Steve Cooke: Waiting to see if it is selected. It has been entered in some local Australian festivals, but then will be entered into other festivals globally.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Steve Cooke: Hell yeah! I loved making a film based on one of his short stories. My favourite adaptation was Salems Lot (the original). I thought it was really well done and ahead of it’s time in a lot of cinematic aspects.
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)?
Steve Cooke: Unfortunately, no. Not sure if he’s watched the film yet – at the time of writing it had arrived in the mail two weeks previously.
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?
Steve Cooke: I would only make one of his films outside the dollar baby program. I’d love to do an adaptation of Salem’s Lot. I always liked the gothic feel of the town and the terrifying feeling that the story delivers, particularly the ending.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Steve Cooke: I’ve just written a web series, which is based on local urban legends and a misfit bunch of guys who advertise themselves as ghost hunters. In essence, they’re a little cowardly so the interactions they have with the supernatural is quiet comical.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Steve Cooke: I’m a retired police officer! I’ve used a lot of my experiences as inspiration for my film stories.
SKSM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Steve Cooke: Hopefully I’ve generated enough funds to make a really big production.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Steve Cooke: If anyone has read this far, thanks! If you’re a film maker, I’d encourage you to have a crack at the dollar baby program, but be warned; the journey is not easy, from fundraising to selecting crew and of course, the huge logistical operation that it becomes.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Steve Cooke: Be prepared to work hard! I’d really like to be able to show this film to you, maybe the big guy will like it and allow a screening. Fingers crossed.