How I got the rights to bring Stephen King’s short story to screen for $1: interview

A 19-year-old Ukrainian student Valentyn Lavreniuk got the right to a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Stationary Bike,” for which he paid $1. Such are the terms of the Dollar Babies program allowing students from around the world to try and make movies based on the author’s works. Now, Valentyn and his friend Oleksiy Ovcharenko, an aspiring movie director, will start shooting, bringing “Stationary Bike” to the Ukrainian reality.

The AIN.UA editorial team asked Valentyn, how they had pitched the project to King’s team, how they had gotten the permission, and what kind of movie it is going to be.

Valentyn Lavreniuk

Tell us about the team working on the project

There are two of us in the project – me, the producer, and my friend Oleksiy, the director of the future movie. It so happens that I am now studying Business Management at Newcastle University, and Oleksiy’s doing Directing at London Film School.

Why did you decide to participate in the Dollar Babies program?

Since long ago, we have been thinking that we should get down to making our debut short movie. We’ve been looking for and developing ideas. But we haven’t seen anything that would strike a chord with us. Then, by chance, on King’s website, we saw this opportunity, we read the stories suggested for screening, and we liked “Stationary Bike.”

Can we say that you are King’s fans, or did you come across the website accidentally?

We’re somewhere in between. We had read King, but I can’t say that we are some crazy fans chasing him for an autograph, wearing T-shirts with his characters. At the end of the day, I have his autograph, though.

How did you choose the story?

Many stories would be difficult to adapt to the Ukrainian reality. We thought that “Stationary Bike” would be good for it. And we already understand how it will look like as a short movie, what idea it will get across.

How did you sign the contract?

There are a few requirements on the website. You have to give your name and email, as well as tell them about your project. We described our motivation all out, saying that it’s a very significant project for us. It would give us a good start, allowing us to represent Ukraine at international festivals. We wrote that we would like to show the talented Ukrainian youth and promote Ukraine. We told them a bit about ourselves that we have the background and the experience for such a project.

Oleksiy Ovcharenko

After a while, we received an answer from King’s team, saying they approve our application and grant us the rights. We received the contract, I signed it and Oleksiy attested it. We packed it into an envelope, put a dollar bill in, and sent it to the address.

Did King consider your application personally?

No, his managers work with candidates at the first stage. Then, when we have the short movie made, King’s team will watch it. If they decide we’ve done something extraordinary, they’ll pass it on to the writer. And if he likes the movie, we can discuss further cooperation. This is all hypothetical, of course. But there were some precedents.

What is the project’s budget, and at what stage is it now?

We are now finalizing the screenplay, and we’ll start shooting a mood teaser in early March. That would also be the time when we plan expeditions to search for locations across Ukraine. As for the cast, we have character profiles fully developed, and we are going to start looking for candidates in March.

We are helped by Solar Media Entertainment [Editor note: Valentyn’s father, Serhiy Lavreniuk, is the company’s General Producer]. The overall budget for shooting and promotion is about UAH 1.2 to 1.3 million.

We plan to finish the shooting and release the movie by the end of the year.