The mind of Maine horror author Stephen King is a contradiction. A noted philanthropist, he’s given support (and piles of cash) to those in need – all the while devising new and exciting ways to chop (fictional) people’s faces off. He’s just that kind of guy.
One of the ways King combines his loves of giving and horror is his Dollar Babies program, an ominous-sounding but generous policy of selling the rights to some of his stories for a buck to aspiring filmmakers. Sure, you’re not going to score the film rights to make a new version of “The Shining” for a dollar, but over the course of his absurdly prolific writing career, King has amassed a lot of short stories young directors could cut their teeth on.
Speaking of teeth, one such story, “One for the Road” has just been optioned by Portland filmmaker Corey Norman (“The Hanover House”). From King’s 1978 story collection “Night Shift,” “One for the Road” follows two old-time Mainers as they set out in a blizzard to rescue the snowbound family of a stranded motorist, a good deed complicated by the fact that the story takes place in the same place as King’s vampire novel “Salem’s Lot.” A fictionalized amalgam of Falmouth, Cumberland and Windham, “Salem’s Lot” also has relevance for Norman.
“It’s where I grew up,” explains Norman (also chair of Communications and New Media at Southern Maine Community College). “For Jenny (Anastasoff, a producer on the film) and me, it’s got a special place in our heart. We both watched the original (1978) ‘Salem’s Lot’ film, and it creeped us out. So what better way to pay homage to Stephen King?”
The “Dollar Babies” contract comes with some pretty stringent restrictions, in that the film can’t be “crowdsourced” in any way, no clip longer than two minutes can be posted online, the film cannot be commercially shown (festival screenings only) and the film becomes King’s property after the year-long option is up. So what draws an already established filmmaker like Norman to make a film under those conditions?
“King is the reason I love horror,” says Norman. “It was always my dream to do one of his films.”
As to why he chose this particular story, Norman explains, “We whittled down our top three choices, but it came down to feasibility – some of the stories just weren’t possible on a limited budget. Plus, we loved the sense of atmosphere. It’s a slow-burning piece that fits well with our style.” Additionally, Norman’s not sweating the rules on showing the film – and with good reason. “One for the Road” has already received some national press from influential entertainment sites such as dreadcentral.com and The A.V. Club.
“It went like wildfire,” says Norman, “It’s kind of shocking how fast it grew because of Stephen King, lots of people will want to see it. If nothing else, we love and respect his work so much, we just figure that’s why we can craft this love letter to him.”
That cinematic love letter is set to be completed by June – although if you noticed the word “blizzard” in the plot description, then you’re not alone. “We’re going to capitalize on this awful winter,” laughs Norman. “So we’re just going to shoot at least the exteriors.”
After that, the supportive Maine film community is jumping in to help, something Norman stresses is unique to the Maine scene. “Like every Bonfire Films (Norman’s production company) project, it’s really important to get a lot of (SMCC) students on hand to be a part of this as well. Plus, we’ve gotten support from different professionals offering to let us use their gear and facilities free of charge. It’s going to be a community endeavor.”
And after that?
“I’m not gonna lie – I really hope King likes it and will do something with it. It’s kind of like a pipe dream, but that’s OK.”
For screening information and other details on “One for the Road,” keep an eye on Bonfire Films’ website bonfirefilmsonline.com.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
Wednesday: “Salad Days.” Portland music fans, time to get out to SPACE for this gripping, energetic music documentary about the birth of the Washington, D.C., punk scene. Featuring archival performances from the likes of Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man and Fugazi.
Thursday-Sunday: “Whiplash.” The great character actor J.K. Simmons scored an Oscar nomination for his turn as a demanding drum teacher in this acclaimed musical drama.