BANGOR, Maine — Now that they have a finished product to put up on the silver screen, some collegiate filmmakers are hoping their Stephen King short-story adaptation will strike gold — not so much in terms of riches, but a gold medal or first-place award at a prestigious film festival would be invaluable to a group of current and former New England School of Communications students involved in making “Last Rung on the Ladder.”
The 21-minute, 10-second film, based on a 16-page story published in 1978, has had a few screenings — two at Husson University’s Gracie Theater last month — in the last two months and has generated lots of buzz and compliments.
“We’ve gotten great feedback from people who have seen it,” said director Lucas Stewart, adding that he got positive feedback from King. “He really liked it and said he was very impressed with our work.”
Even better, representatives of the Dollar Baby Festival in Antwerp, Netherlands, requested the film’s submission, but because it first had to be subtitled into Dutch, they elected to schedule it for the November 2012 festival.
“Our big goals are the Tribeca, Cannes, Sundance and Big Apple festivals. Just winning a small award at one of those would mean so much,” said Mike Magilnick, a senior video production major at NESCOM.
In the meantime, they’ll keep showing the film at local locations as well as others in New England.
King’s nonhorror short story is about a man who finds out his estranged sister, whose life he once saved, has committed suicide.
“I heard people sniffling a little at the end of the first premiere,” Magilnick said. “One woman was kind of teary and said she wanted to call her brother and she ran right out after the credits started running.”
Even Magilnick wasn’t immune to the film’s emotional impact.
“I’m sort of disconnected from my family and that’s kind of hitting home a little bit for me as well,” Magilnick said. “When I finished editing the final scene, I called my sister immediately. I couldn’t help myself.”
The lesser-known short story, which was written by King as part of the “Night Shift” collection, was adapted into a 12-minute film in 1987, but NESCOM video production curriculum coordinator Frank Welch has held film adaptation rights to it since 1997 and decided his current crop of students was up to the task.
“It was a challenge simply because it’s not taught at NESCOM as far as directing,” said Stewart, who got most of his training by reading directing tips online. “I learned two big things: Know every single word of the script and have the movie in your head before you step on the set, and be patient with your actors, especially children.”