Once I decided that I was going to make a Dollar Baby film, the first thing I did was create a list of all the short stories that were available to adapt and then I started reading them one by one. There were a few I was familiar with (Grey Matter was a personal favorite I had read several times before), but the vast majority I had never even known existed.
I considered two main things as I read:
Do I love the story?
How producible is this thing?
I read every single one of them and whittled my potential list down to my favorites. What drew me to them was mostly how bloody they were or the emotional reaction they stirred.. These 6 came out on top:
In the Deathroom
Grey Matter was the only story I had read in the past. Maybe Beachworld too but I didn’t remember it well. All of them had limited casts which was a big plus. One by one I thought more about how I might be able to pull off each of the stories. Looking back, each had a glaring issue that would make the story more difficult than usual to produce. As much as I loved Grey Matter and the opportunity it presented to play with practical fx, it had kids and snow. I knew the snowy location could be easily swapped for Southern California were I was located, but for me, I loved the atmosphere of the original story and it was something I didn’t want to compromise. The story also has a kid as a main character and I felt the age worked too well for the story to change. Grey Matter was out but during our festival run I got the pleasure of seeing Red Clarks’s Dollar Baby take at the Stephen King Rulez festival and oh my gosh it was insanely scary and gooey and I loved it!
Lucky Quarter and Popsy also had kids in what I thought were important to the story roles so they were out as well. I started really comparing In The Deathroom, Beachworld, and Nona. In the end, I ended up choosing Beachworld for two main reasons.
It’s rarity as a produced Dollar Baby
Beachworld takes place on a desert planet completely covered in sand dunes. I googled “largest sand dunes in US” and starting looking them up. Some of the largest dunes I could find were in Colorado at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Texas at Monahans Sandhills State Park, and two in California - Dumont Dunes and Glamis Sand Dunes. They are actually both equally distance from Los Angeles where I was living at the time, and so I decided that Glamis Sand Dunes (also known as Imperial Sand Dunes and Algodones Dunes) would be preferred because Jon my then boyfriend, now husband was living in San Diego and is always a huge help. Glamis was closer to him so we had our location.
The second reason was because I couldn’t find much history of other Beachworld Dollar Baby adaptations, I think because of its super unique setting. I was only able to find two other versions: an animated version directed by Maria Ivanova and a black and white live action short by Chad Bolling. Nowadays there's a few Beachworld adaptions in development and while WE were ramping up to shoot, I learned about another version shooting at the same time which is a whole other blog post. Some of the other Dollar Baby stories had been adapted many times like Strawberry Spring so it came with an additional challenge to do something different and make my mark, and I figured it could be a harder sell at festivals if others had already submitted their version. So here I was living just 3 hours way from some of the biggest dunes in the entire freaking country! I couldn’t let that opportunity slip by.
It wasn't all just practicality, although it definitely was a huge part of the decision. I really enjoy sci-fi and this short story was one of Stephen King's few science fiction tales. There was a limited cast, a gorgeous location, and to quote Rand "possibilities are as endless as the dunes." Shooting in Glamis would require an overnight stay with cast and crew, a logistical challenge I've never dealt with before. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and thought that making Beachworld would give me new experiences that would help me grow as a filmmaker and producer. It sure did.
I sent in my contract and a single dollar and a few days later received an email from the office of Stephen King that I was all set to proceed. Beachworld was all mine to play with.
There were 36 short stories to choose from back when I started my Dollar Baby journey in March 2016. Today, there are 23. Beachworld is still on the Dollar Baby list and there is still plenty of time and plenty of stories to make yours.
Thank you for reading! Our next post will be about adapting the original story of Beachworld. If you have any burning questions about the making of Beachworld, send them on in and we'll try our best to answer in a future post.