In 1976, horror novelist Stephen King began a program to help young filmmakers and film studies students get their start in the film industry. But as famous as he and his films are, relatively few people are aware of it.
University of Oklahoma graduate and Norman resident Shawn S. Lealos is author of the upcoming book “Dollar Deal: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers” and a filmmaker himself who got his start with the Stephen King Dollar Baby Deal.
Lealos received his Dollar Baby contract from Stephen King in 2000 and made a short film based on King's Night Shift story “I Know What You Need.” Due to contracts that protect Stephen King's intellectual property rights, film festivals are one of the only ways these short horror and thriller films can be seen.
Lealos' film has been screened at these events internationally.
It was then that he began to meet other Dollar Baby filmmakers from across the world and started to hear about the successful careers that previous Dollar Babies have gone on to after their Dollar Deal start with King.
Of the more than 75 Dollar Baby filmmakers, many have gone on to success in the film industry including acclaimed Hollywood producer Frank Darabont (“Shawshank Redemption,” “Green Mile,” “The Walking Dead”).
Lealos hopes to begin production soon on a documentary based on his book that tells the stories of the Stephen King Dollar Baby filmmakers, from their Dollar Deal to Hollywood. Currently there is a Kickstarter.com campaign to raise $50,000 to shoot his film.
“I was surprised myself that nobody had really heard of the Dollar Deal unless they knew Frank Darabont's story. It's just something that seems to be an unknown to most people, even Stephen King fans,” Lealos said.
Staying in Oklahoma
As a filmmaker and writer, Lealos is often asked why he doesn't move to Los Angeles or New York or try and get the documentary made in Hollywood.
“One of the winners of the deadCenter Film Festival here in Oklahoma made their movie for around $45,000,” he said. “You couldn't do that in California.”
“In Oklahoma there are a lot more people willing to help to get projects like these off the ground. It becomes sort of a community effort. In other places, it's all about how much you're going to give someone else to help get your movie made. I feel like the filmmakers in Oklahoma are a more artistic community and much more willing to help each other. That makes me feel great to be an artist in Oklahoma because it's actually about the art.”
To learn more about Dollar Deal, Shawn Lealos and his upcoming book and documentary, or to donate to his Kickstarter.com campaign, go to kck.st/1goc3fW.