Today, I'll be reviewing the 2015 book Dollar Deal, which is a collection of interviews by author Shawn S. Lealos with various Dollar Baby filmmakers.
What's a Dollar Baby? you might ask. That's an easy enough question to answer. See, Stephen King has had this program since at least the eighties in which he will grant aspiring filmmakers the rights to make a short film based on one of his stories for a single dollar. There's more to it than that (e.g., the filmmakers are not allowed to profit off the films or show them outside of festivals), but that's the gist of the thing.
I've always been reluctant to integrate fandom for the Dollar Baby films into my King-fandom regimen. There are several reasons for this, including:
All those things being the case, why bother?
1. I don’t consider them to be professional films.
2. There are a LOT of them, and keeping track of them seems to be a near impossibility.
3. I have no access to more than a handful of them.
4. My perception of them is that the vast majority suck the root. Not sayin’ that’s a stone-cold truism … just sayin’ that that’s my perception.
Well, that’s easy: because regardless of how I think or feel about them, and regardless of whether I have any ability to actually view them, these ARE King-sanctioned films. In that way, an argument could be made that they are just as legitimate as, say, Cujo. And I aim for comprehensivity in my King fandom, meaning that in a perfect world, I’d be able to collect every one of these things and give ‘em a look.
Not being able to do so, it is my preference to turn something of a blind eye toward them. Out of sight, out of mind, and if they are out of my thoughts, then I don’t have to worry about not being able to see them.
Yeah, I get it; dude sounds nuts, you’re thinking. Who told you to think that?!? Was it the Tall Whites?!? Er… Anyways, don’t misunderstand me; I don’t lose sleep thinking about not being able to see Dollar Baby films.
Bottom line is: I just don't care about these movies.
So it’s a credit to Shawn S. Lealos (and the filmmakers profiled in his book) that while reading Dollar Deal, I did care.
His book is not a definitive history of Dollar Babies – as I mentioned earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a way to actually compile a comprehensive list of them – but is instead a collection of interviews with seventeen filmmakers who have participated in the program (plus three essays). During the course of reading these interviews, I became interested in the films under discussion, and in the filmmakers who worked on them. By definition, these were films made out of a combination of sheer love and sheer determination, and the can-do attitudes that are the hallmark of a combination like that are, at times, infectious. Many of these folks have gone on to have solid careers. None are Frank Darabont, but few people in all of human history have been Frank Darabont, so let’s not hold that against them. In several cases, they’ve become industry professionals, and that’s a solid outcome.
The book’s subjects are as follows: