As far as unfathomably wealthy moguls of American fiction go, Stephen King has always seemed like a pretty nice guy. Although his fiction routinely involves the grisly loss of life and limb, as an author King has frequently contributed to charitable causes, and often acknowledges how much his works have shaped the cultural conversation, especially in the form of film adaptations. Many have become cinema classics, from It, to The Green Mile, to The Shawshank Redemption or Misery. But that’s really only scratching the surface of King’s sprawling bibliography, which now includes more than 60 novels and 200 short stories. And with so many properties out there for adaptation, King has long desired to get some into the hands of less experienced filmmakers—the kind without millions of dollars at their disposal.
Thus, King created his “Dollar Babies” initiative, a section of the author’s website that lists short story properties that are available to officially license for merely $1. This allows prospective filmmakers to contact King’s people about making low-budget adaptations of known properties, potentially gaining them more exposure in the process. King gets to see his works be adapted by up-and-coming filmmakers, the filmmakers get to make their movie on the cheap, and it’s generally a benefit to everyone.
Films produced under the Dollar Baby initiative are typically restricted only to screening at in-person festivals, but a rare chance is coming soon to see 25 of them at the same time: The Stephen King Rules Dollar Baby Film Festival. A virtual festival event from Canada’s Barker Street Cinema, the festival runs from April 23-25, is free to join, and will stream 25 adaptations of King short stories acquired via the Dollar Baby initiative, from “Popsy” and “Gray Matter” to “The Boogeyman” or “Everything’s Eventual.” You can view the full schedule right here.
Barker Street Cinema founders James Douglas and Norm Coyne are quite familiar with the Dollar Baby program, being filmmakers themselves who used the program to produce a short film of Stephen King’s short story “The Doctor’s Case,” which is also screening at the festival. The film version of “The Doctor’s Case” has since gone on to win more than 15 awards at more than 40 international film festivals, and the filmmakers acknowledge that being able to adapt a well-known story from the likes of Stephen King has a way of opening some doors.
“I can personally attest to the impact the Dollar Baby initiative has had on my career as a filmmaker,” Douglas said in a statement on the festival site. “Being able to share these stories with the world in this manner is unbelievably profound.”
“As storytellers, we were looking for ways to do our part to help provide an escape for people that wouldn’t cost them anything,” said Coyne. “The fact that James got the approval for an entire festival of stories from Stephen King himself is a total mind bender.”
The Stephen King Rules Dollar Baby Film Festival can be viewed online, April 23-25.