Interview: Christian Haywood on Adapting Stephen King’s “L.T.’s Theory of Pets”

By now you’ve likely heard of Stephen King’s “Dollar Baby” program, in which he grants the rights to adapt one of his short stories to fledgling filmmakers for a buck. Frank Darabont is perhaps the best-known graduate of the “Dollar Baby” program, having adapted King’s short story “The Woman in the Room” before going on to helm one of the most acclaimed King adaptations of all time, The Shawshank Redemption (not to mention the undervalued, in my eyes, adaptation of King’s The Green Mile).

Writer/director Christian Haywood is among the latest “Dollar Baby” filmmakers. He and his crew have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filming of their version of King’s story “L.T.’s Theory of Pets.” Recently, he answered a few questions for us about the project.

(Interview Conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: What process did you go through to become one of Stephen King’s “Dollar Baby” projects?

CHRISTIAN HAYWOOD: The process is pretty straightforward. We read through all the available stories on his website and sent our request. We received the contract a few days after asking, sent it off (dollar attached) and heard back a few days later. It’s super student friendly!

“L.T.’s Theory of Pets” first appeared in SIX STORIES, a short anthology published by King’s own Philtrum Press.

Why did you choose “L.T.’s Theory of Pets” to adapt? What drew you to the story?

On the surface it’s a fun comedy with vibrant characters and blend of genres, which is great fun to play around with. Beneath that though I think the story really resonated with me because of my own family, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to see the pets as children, and sometimes children get blamed for divorce, often blaming themselves.

What kind of changes did you have to make to the story to make it work as an adaptation?

A fair amount, but I don’t think too much. I tried to take the spirit of the story and have some fun with it, our style of comedy is far more physical and visual than in King’s story, and we had a lot of fun playing around with how the story is told; who’s story is it? What does it mean to all these characters? A great story can be interpreted a million different ways, and we hope our interpretation adds something, as well as living up to the original.

How long will the finished film be?

10-12 minutes, short and sweet!

How did your film crew (producer Joe Deeks, cinematographer Ivee Rai?evi?, and sound designer Jesse Cox) come together? Have you all worked together on other projects?

All four of us have studied together. This is our first time working together but we were dying to do so; I’m a huge fan of all their work, they’re great at what they do.

Are any of your other films available for us to see?

As a group exercise, we made a (very) short horror film (I’m a Stranger Here Myself) in six hours; inception to final cut. It’s nothing like “L.T.,” but I think it demonstrates our ability to come together as a team. I recommend watching with headphones!

You’re planning to shoot the film in two days. What are the biggest challenges you anticipate in trying to get this particular film done in that amount of time?

So many! The animals themselves are incredibly difficult to get on set, so shooting around them has been one of the key challenges, as well as generally getting the number of shots and locations down. But it’s a huge amount of fun as well, and really makes you have to think creatively about how to do everything. Re-using shots has added a lot of visual poetry to the film that we wouldn’t have thought of if we’d had unlimited time and budget!

“L.T.’s Theory of Pets” also appeared in King’s collection EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL.

If the Kickstarter meets your funding goals, what’s your timeline for beginning production through finishing the film?

We’re already knee-deep in production, and as we (slowly) edge closer to our goal we equally step further forward to shooting. We’ll be shooting early March, we’ll be editing pretty much 24/7 through March, our composer has already started on the score (swing jazz, yeah!) and hope to have the film completely finished in April!

Are there other Stephen King stories you’d be interested in adapting as short films? Any that you would like to tackle as a big budget movie?

There’s a great story in Four Past Midnight called “The Sun Dog” about a camera that reveals what the eye can’t see (I won’t spoil it). Photographing the mechanics of photography has a wonderful visual sense to it, and the way the film deals with technology in contemporary society would make a great film, could totally see a low-budget horror version, but I’ll take a big-budget one too!

So, for you, which is it: dogs or cats?

Haha, for me, cats. I’m an introvert at heart, and a dog bothering me all day would get on my nerves. Cats want love, but they can also handle themselves! If I’m honest though, I’m not a massive pet person, but don’t tell my crew…

I’d just like to say thank you so much for supporting us, and we’re humbled by anyone that donates, shares, or simply watches the film!

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