Dedicated is an original story from Stephen King's Dollar Baby original scripts.
A tale about the lengths a mother will go to in order to ensure her child’s wellbeing, without compromising my own beliefs.
Hi Selina thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Thank you for the opportunity! I have been very lucky with both my living and working situation in Germany, and the fact that as an introvert, I have no problem staying home and practicing social distancing.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
The hard lockdown in March and April I actually just spent watching films and reading books. As unproductive as that first sounds, as a filmmaker you’re always “collecting data“ though, which sooner or later can be beneficial to your own work. In the past months, I have begun writing my own stuff again.
You're currently at the Met Film School Berlin, what has this experience like for you?
I’ve actually completed my Masters degree at Met Film School Berlin. Dedication was my graduation film.
When did you first discover Stephen King's Dollar Baby Program and how did you go about getting the rights to the story?
I was told about it five years ago, when I had already started working on both of my Bachelor thesis films. The timing wasn’t right until I went back to school in 2017. I guess the “film student“ part of the agreement isn’t a strict rule but I felt better having a safety net.
How I went about it is I started reading all of the stories available. Then I did a little digging into previous Dollar Babies - which stories had been adapted how many times, things like that.
What was it about Dedication that interested you so much?
It first caught my eye because it was the only story that hadn’t been adapted yet - the first Dollar Baby of the story was actually produced right about the time I started my research. It was an odd story, nothing outright scary - at least not to me, who grew up idolising witches in Charmed. Odd is something that always intrigues me.
Can you tell me a little bit about Dedication, how did this film come about?
After my pitch was approved by my tutors at Met, I sent Mr. King’s assistant my request and US dollar. I was given green light and started doing more research into specifics to the plot like Housekeeping in hotels and domestic abuse. There is a part of the original story that never clicked with me - the sole focus on genetics determining someone’s success. So I tried to find a solution: a way I could still tell what Mr. King undoubtedly intended to be a tale about the lengths a mother will go to in order to ensure her child’s wellbeing, without compromising my own beliefs.
I think this is when filmizations really have merit: when a film can create something of its own and potentially add a new layer to the source material.
Did you have any apprehensions about adapting Dedication?
Yes, I was a little hesitant if I was the right person to tell this story. The story has been criticised for its poor portrayal of women of colour and I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my film.
I had informal meetings with the actors instead of holding classical auditions. Every potential Martha I met with, I spoke to about my ideas but made it clear that the character would be developed in conjunction with them.
How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking to you?
It is vital. One can write a book on their own or paint, but aside from experimental screen content, it is practically impossible to create a film without other people - and this is what makes it such a wonderful experience. I think a film is at its best when everyone involved is allowed to bring their own ideas and strengths to the project.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I have always loved telling stories. I remember as a child I had a little puppet theatre, and I would often try to re-create and re-imagine stories I had read or heard. Gradually this evolved into a general interest in theatre, but the more films I saw, the more I fell in love with the nuances this medium could offer. The twitch of an eyebrow can convey so much unsaid emotion - you don’t get that in theatre because the audience won’t ever be close enough to the actors to see it.
How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut short film?
I’m hesitant as to which film qualifies as my debut short, because the first film I ever created isn’t quite deserving of the title. I was a high school student and knew nothing about filmmaking whatsoever.
Then at university I created a bunch of shorts, some more methodically than others. In any case, my DOP and co-creator Philip Reinking, whom I have been working with since then, says that I developed more confidence in my own vision and decisions.
"One can write a book on their own or paint, but aside from experimental screen content..."
Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Absolutely. Frankly, I don’t see the point of watching a film where you can tell the entire trajectory two minutes in.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer emerging filmmakers?
Find your own voice. Which are the stories that are burning inside you and need to get out? These are the stories the world needs to see!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?
I once was asked to describe my work and hard pressed to find what all of my stories had in common, I came up with “empathy for the devil“.
Most of my ideas come from me overthinking things. What I try to do is examine a problem from more than one perspective. Obviously in a short film you have to pick your protagonist, so I tend to focus on the kind of voice that has had the least exposure in the past.
It may sound naive to some, but knowing what impact films have had on me and my ability to empathize, I hope that people can take away a little bit of understanding for someone else’s struggle.