At what point does love become obsession? Julia Marchese, filmmaker and Stephen King devotee, thinks it’s a matter of perspective.
Her latest project, a film adaptation of King’s classic “I Know What You Need,” tells the tale of infatuation-turned-obsession and explores what happens when love is only in the eye of the beholder.
We sat down with her to discuss her project, her narrative process, and her love for Stephen King. (Or is it an obsession…?)
Here’s what we found out.
Where does your Stephen King journey begin?
It all began in junior high for me. I read It, Pet Sematary, and Carrie all back to back when I was about eleven years old, and I absolutely fell in love with Stephen King.
Pet Sematary, both the book and the movie, were the ones that completely sucked me into the whole world. And before that, I hadn’t really liked horror movies. It was my gateway into it. And now, horror movies are kind of my life. I have a podcast called Horror Movie Survival Guide. I pretty much breathe horror movies now, which I absolutely love. So this has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. And Stephen King has been my favorite author since then.
So have you read everything by Stephen King?
Well, I’ve read almost all of his books and stories, which there are a lot of, but I realized about two and a half years ago that I hadn’t read his Dark Tower series, which is his big masterwork. I started to read it, and I didn’t want it to end. He has over 40 novels or short stories that are connected to the Dark Tower series through different characters or different situations or different towns.
So I’ve been going through and reading all of those books that are connected. It’s this giant multiverse and a grand literary puzzle where everything is connected. But the cool thing is that you don’t know how connected until you start reading more and more, then the Dark Tower brings them all together. And I’m still doing it. It’s been two and a half years. I’m having the time of my life. And when that’s done, I’ll read the Dark Tower series again.
How did Stephen King’s Dark Tower series inspire your film?
My Dark Tower journey led me to my favorite Stephen King short story of all time, which is called “I Know What You Need.” It’s about a college girl who meets an odd boy in the library one night, and his first words to her are, “I know what you need.” And he does. And so it’s this love story, but a Stephen King love story.
And I loved it so much that I thought, well, when not ask for the film rights? So I did. And they said, yes.
Just like that they gave you the film rights? That’s incredible.
It’s part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program where you can buy the rights to certain short stories of his for a dollar, and the contract lasts for one year. The film has to be 45 minutes or less, stay nonprofit and non-broadcast. So you can’t sell the film, or show it online or streaming, but it can be shown at film festivals and private screenings. And you have the honor of adapting a Stephen King short story. The coolest part is that the contract says you have to send a copy of the finished film to Stephen King himself to watch.
He’s been doing this program for over 40 years. It’s basically his idea of seeing how other people see his work. He’s still interested after all these years to see how other people envision his work, because obviously, even though everybody is reading the same story, everybody’s version of that story is different in their own mind. So I think that it’s amazing that he sells rights to his stories for a dollar and wants to see all of the films that come from that.
Did you have to submit a lengthy application for the film rights?
It actually was really easy. If you go to his official website, there’s a Dollar Baby tab. You click on it and it shows you the short stories that are available. There’s a contact form right there that you can just email. That’s it.
I think that’s the thing, that people just don’t ask. I feel like in life you get what you have the courage to ask for. This is the perfect example.
The idea for me, as a constant reader, to be able to adapt my very favorite short story by my very favorite author is mind blowing.
What’s your vision for the adaptation?
I am setting this film when the short story was first published, which is in 1976. It was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine and then was added to Stephen King’s Night Shift collection of stories in 1978.
It’s important for narrative reasons to keep it in the 1970s. If the internet existed, the story couldn’t really work, or it would have to be drastically changed. That’s something that I feel very strongly about. I want to keep as close to his story as possible. So it’s going to be very 1970s, which I think will be cool.
As for the story, I really am going for the love story aspect. Of course, as you can guess, a Stephen King love story is going to get creepy. I want to lean into it because we have a main character who walks this very interesting line between love and obsession depending on how you look at it.
When you look at love and obsession from different perspectives, it looks different. And so I’m going to play with that. And I really want the camera work to look as 1970s as possible. In fact, if we get to our stretch goal, we’ll be able to shoot on film, which I would really love to as a big film nerd. To film this on 16mm would be incredible and add even more to the 70s aesthetic. And when things start to go weird, I want to really lean into that as well with a lot of distortion and fisheye lenses. I have to get to a Stephen King level.
Also filmmaking in the 1970s was at a much slower pace. You had slower scenes and longer conversations and longer takes. And that’s something that I’m going to explore as well. I’m not afraid to slow it down a bit and let it really build.
Your funding goal is $53,019. That’s an oddly specific number.
The magic number… the magic number… If you’re a Stephen King junkie, you’ll know the 19 is important. I’ll just leave it at that.
What will the funds go toward?
The first thing is getting everything era-appropriate. So we’re going to need vintage clothes. There are also going to be two vintage cars for the shoot.
Next, the core crew will come from California and be flown out to Maine. We’re going to do an East Coast cast and crew and have them come up to Maine. It’ll be shot in the summer of 2021, so hopefully the pandemic situation will be a little calmer by then. And it’s also a small crew and a small cast, but we’ll have to account for health and safety.
But most of all, I want to show how gorgeous Maine is. The University of Maine has agreed to let us shoot on location at the campus, which is where the story takes place, which will be incredible.
I really want to lean into my own narrative style, because although it’s a Stephen King film, it’s a Stephen King film through my eyes. And even though the story has a female protagonist, it’s written by a male author. Now it’s going to be adapted by a female director. So it’ll be cool to see how it comes back around and how it alters the story.
How’s it been working with the backer community?
Everybody has been great. Stephen King fans are pretty enthusiastic, so they’ve been a big part of the support for this campaign so far. There’s also a big Dollar Baby filmmaker community, and everybody kind of supports each other. They’ve been very helpful as well. I’ve been on some podcasts, and I was even on Stephen King’s own radio station in Bangor, Maine called Dead Zone Radio, WZON. I was on that earlier this week, which blew my mind.
Where can we see the film when it’s done?
Backing the campaign is the only way you’re guaranteed to see the film. When you back the campaign, you’ll be sent a private live stream link. We’ll do a few live streams in different time zones. And then it will do a film festival run, which will be open to anyone in attendance. We can probably live stream a couple of those screenings as well. If it’s something that you’re really passionate about, and you really want to see the results, you’ll have to back the campaign to be able to see it.
And that’s what’s so cool about the Dollar Baby project. There have been hundreds of Dollar Baby shorts over the years, and it’s kind of this underground network of content. You have to be an insider to know what’s coming. And this is a chance for that.
Anything else you’d like to share with potential backers?
Please share the campaign! I think that that’s the most helpful thing. Of course, donating is fantastic. But donating AND spreading the word is even better! It’s so crucial for a crowdfunding campaign to get the network effect going.
Also, I’d like to tell my backers to follow their passions. This is my passion. 2020 has been a pretty grim year, but my passion has given me something to look forward to next year. Even though I’m living alone and it’s a pandemic, and the future is uncertain, this project has made 2020 a little rosier.
Oh, and how can I forget? Read Stephen King! He’s the absolute best. So do yourself a favor and read his books and short stories. You’ll thank me later.
Want to support I Know What You Need? Check out the campaign page here!