She is the woman behind Rainy Season Dollar Baby Film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: My name is Vanessa Ionta Wright and I am a screenwriter & director. I began writing around age 7 with my first book, ‘The Witches Castle’. It was a best seller with Mrs. Laughlin’s class 😉 I moved around a bit growing up, born in California, lived in Massachusetts, lived in Ohio, went back to California, settled finally in Georgia. I studied video production and film at Ohio University and decided to give this filmmaking thing a real shot. In addition to writing & directing films I launched a film festival with my production partner Samantha Kolesnik, The Women in Horror Film Festival. We wanted to showcase and promote women both in front of and behind the camera in top creative and executive roles.
SKSM: When did you make Rainy season? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: We shot Rainy Season over 4 days in August of 2016 in Senoia, GA. It was a complete labor of love and a very long process. I wrote the script in July of 2015, spent a long time raising enough money to shoot the film, shot in August of 2016, started editing in December of 2016 and had the film in my hands in March 2017. We were able to pull this off for around $18,000, which was quite the challenge given the amount of people and resources involved. We had an amazing team on board starting with Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik and Director of Photography Mark Simon.
SKSM: How come you picked Rainy season to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I wanted to pick a story that I wasn’t too familiar with and one that had not been produced a bunch of times. I picked up my copy of Nightmares & Dreamscapes and read Rainy Season for the first time and was immediately drawn to it. It reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ which King actually references in the short story. The thing I loved the most about the story was everything that wasn’t on the page. The story had so much possibility to fill in the blanks and I really wanted to play with the subtext.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wikd guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I found out about it all in the same day 😉 A Facebook friend had posted a link to Stephen King’s Dollar Babies and when I clicked I thought “How did I not know about this!” I learned that Frank Darabont had gotten his start this way by directed his dollar baby ‘The Woman in the Room’ in 1983. King loved it so much he called Frank on the phone and said “I want to work with you”. Darabont went on to direct The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption & The Green Mile with King’s involvement.
I sent in my application that same day for Rainy Season and waited for the green light to sign the contract and mail my $1 bill.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: The whole thing was special. This was my directorial debut and the pressure was on to create a great film. The amount of support from the community of Senoia, down to the cast and crew who jumped on board and believed in this film and believed in me…it was overwhelming in the best way possible. I am forever grateful to everyone who helped to make this possible.
As far as the funny stuff…We had an over abundance of Lay’s potato chips on set. So much so that we felt like Lay’s should possibly jump on board as an official sponsor of Rainy Season. Cases and cases of lay’s potato chips. I even gave them away as parting gifts at the wrap party. It became a bit of an inside joke on set. We may not have had a ton of $4 to go around, but we had plenty of chips. I even offered to pay some crew members in potato chips. Potato Chips and IMdB credit, who’s in?
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?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: Well, I think a fair amount of fans will be able to see it. I have sent it around the globe to a ridiculous amount of film festivals, so if it gets in and screens, I will announce publicly where it is playing so fans can go and see it on the big screen. I’m not sure the policy King has in place will ever change, as there are so many filmmakers taken advantage of this opportunity to adapt his stories for the screen. Perhaps he’ll put together a best of the Dollar Babies collection at some point and release them via Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or some other outlet that I don’t know about. If that happens I really hope he includes Rainy Season, that would be amazeballs.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: So far we have only received positive feedback on the film. I’m sure we will get some reviews from people who don’t love it, but as long as we get constructive feedback, I’m all for it. I think it makes you a better filmmaker and helps you to see the film through a different perspective. Now, plain old mean and nasty reviews, I’m not interested.
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)?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I have not had any personal contact with King, although I have been communicating with Margaret Morehouse in his office and she is simply lovely and has made this whole process fun and easy. I’m sure she has her plate full keeping track of all these films. I actually don’t know if King himself has seen the film, if so, I hope he enjoyed it. Believe me, if I get a call from him, you will hear the scream all the way in Spain 😉 I’m Italian, we’re a loud people.
SKSM: What are you working at nowadays?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I am currently working on a couple of projects, the biggest thing right now is the WIHFF. We are thrilled to have so many iconic horror actresses and film producers/directors on board with us. Feel free to check it out at www.WIHFF.com
I am hoping to direct a feature next year, something in the horror/thriller realm.
I really just want to enjoy the Rainy Season ride and see how it does with audiences.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one stroy to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I would love to make more movies based on Stephen King’s work. A feature would be amazing, especially with his direct involvement. So much of his work has been adapted, it’s hard to pick something that hasn’t been done yet. It might be fun to try and tackle Cujo or Silver Bullet, see what we can do with today’s technology.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to your fans?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: I’m honored to be a part of this filmmaking club, I’ve heard the term Dollar Baby Fraternity. The female dollar baby filmmakers seem to be few and far between, but I am thrilled to jump into this boy’s club and make a splash.
SKSM: Would you like to add something?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: To all the young, hungry and aspiring filmmakers out there: Go make those films! Do not wait. There will never be a perfect moment or opportunity. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Your moment is now.