Please note that films based on short story in any stage pre-release that are confirmed are excluded be they in postproduction, production, pre-production or announced. For a handy reference I suggest you check the IMDb. Now, ferreting out which stories have had releases with public screenings or direct-to-video release because of the existence of the Dollar Baby.
Dollar Babies are short stories that Stephen King allows to be optioned for one dollar ($1) to student and amateur filmmakers for use in the festival circuit only. It’s a great program of giving back and a hand-up to filmmakers.
I was fortunate enough to have entered into a Dollar Baby agreement with Mr. King in 2005. In my final semester I sent out a few inquiries about adaptation rights, the other one or two were cold. Upon his website adding a messaging function I messaged to see if there was any truth to the rumor that this non-exclusive non-commercial rights program existed. His assistant responded saying it did and that I need only pick a story from a given list, write a proposal and send it to the address she disclosed.
The letter was mailed on a wing and a prayer, but once I got a fat envelope at home with a Maine return address and no sender’s name, I knew what it was and that one of the highlights of my life was about to occur. Enclosed was a contract, one that I’ve never had any problem sticking to and am baffled that so many on the internet scoff at because they “really need to see something.” For years I, my producer, and some cast and crew members withstood badgering for submission to a film festival where only Dollar Babies were screened. It’s great to have your film desired but we knew for a fact that said individual, who shall remain nameless, was not to be trusted with a copy of the film as he had been known to illegally distribute them. It was my name on a contract alongside that of my idol and if my movie got out there where it shouldn’t be I was the one who would look unprofessional.
All that aside, my film Suffer the Little Children was a long but rewarding journey, and an education. Thankfully, audio issues were cleaned up and we eventually started getting acceptances and even some prizes.
The film’s mission was complete. Mr. King has been quoted as saying he still grants professional project rights for a dollar and points on the back end, plus, certain exclusivity, which is why this a list I was rather looking forward to writing.
I included short stories and novellas into the same category.
There are a few titles I felt should be excluded entirely though for almost entirely personal reasons and I will comment on them now.
First, I believe that there will never be a good reason to adapt “Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling” from Hearts in Atlantis, despite its beauty. The reason for this is that it deal with Bobby Garfield as an adult coming home and reminiscing. The cinematic version of Bobby Garfield, Anton Yelchin, died tragically this year. As such, I feel the chances for this story to be adapted did too. The persistence of Yeltsin’s career from childhood through early adulthood made him the ideal candidate to reprise his role many years later. It’s a dream deferred sadly.
The only other titles I’m excluding are “The Things They Left Behind” and “Graduation Afternoon” as they are 9/11-related stories. Previously I wrote of my own 9/11 story in passing in part to discuss the literal use of it on film, few instances of which I’ve seen. As effective as these stories are in text transposing them to feature length films would change the nature, spirit, and intentions of the stories too much for them to remain wholly tasteful.
As for the things I did select, I will not put them in any kind of order but instead divide them by collection.
I Am the Doorway
Most of Night Shift has already made appearances on film, but usually as shorts in Dollar Baby adaptations.
I am the Doorway is a memorable, eerie tale that deserves a feature length take. Horror and space can and should co-exist and this tale would be an excellent vehicle
Being stranded on a deserted island is not an unusual cinematic motif, but it’s not one usually employed in the horror genre, which is a unique attribute that Survivor Type would be able to bring forth.
Four Past Midnight
The Library Policeman
While Sun Dog once upon a time was optioned by Frank Darabont and nothing ever came of it, but this has always been and always will be my favorite story in this collection. It blends together a lot of different things like real-world terrors, ghost-like apparitions and creatures using a host body. It’s also another one of King’s greater characters in Sam Peebles. Not only that but additional dovetails into this story in other works may allow for some closure to be felt.
Hearts in Atlantis
Why We’re in Vietnam
As opposed to the Hearts in Atlantis tale that I do not believe can be adapted due to casting issues in this one, which focuses on Sully’s experiences in Vietnam as he reflects on them following a funeral could be portrayed with a new actor in the lead.
Little Sisters of Eluria
It would be a little way down the line but if the Dark Tower cinematic franchise continues I’d love to see this folded in wherever possible. It may not be easy to find room for it but there are great visual opportunities within.
Autopsy Room 4
This is one that Stephen King based on an old short story, which became a classic episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and one I’m sure could be made to work on the silver screen.
Just After Sunset
A Very Tight Place
In his work on the horror genre Danse Macabre King said:
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud. ”
This short story is the best example of this I’ve ever seen. It is perhaps the grossest short tale I ever read, and thus still excels beautifully. The claustrophobia of this tale would be a hard work-around for a film concept but it could definitely work with some creative thinking.
Full Dark, No Stars
This is a marvelously harrowing tale that also being a novella should have sufficient content for a feature film and would make a great one. The frame is built-in the dynamics are mostly interpersonal, and thus, it excels in the horror of the known as opposed to that of the unknown.
Bazaar of Bad Dreams
With this being King’s most recent collection it stands to reason that most of these stories have not been picked up yet. However, there are three that particularly stand out and I would not be surprised if we didn’t see them adapted soon.
This is King’s homage to the 1950s horror film I Bury the Living. With it being a modern take on the notion of controlling deaths, and with what he feels is a more effective conclusion than the film saw this would be ideal for an adaptation.
The Little Green God of Agony
This is a weird little tale that would need somewhat more than a shoestring budget to take its conclusion out of the realm of The Langoliers, but there is definitely room for expansion.
The Bad Little Kid
In a story that follows through on one of his themes of the persistence and omniscience of evil it could be a great film, as there is already plenty of material and a chilling conclusion. Also, as this story was originally only published in German, it’d be interesting to see dueling adaptations here as well, with the German version getting a little more creative leeway to make it a domestic tale via transference of location.
In the Tall Grass (Kindle Single with Joe Hill)
This is one of King’s (and Hill’s) most hair-raising pieces of fiction that gave me a Children of the Corn vibe and left me wanting much, much more. It is highly recommended.