Barbara Szeman, Producer of WILLA: So Corey Mayne [Director] and I have done several films and projects together in the past and we were looking for any reason to get together and create another one, but to really make this one on a whole other level. During the process we decided to adapt Stephen King’s Willa.
We came up with five steps to adapting a book to a film.
1. FIND A STORY THAT SPEAKS TO YOU
Corey Mayne, Director of WILLA: Number one would be to find a story that speaks to you. I read WILLA awhile ago and I just really responded to the general atmosphere that Stephen King created with his characters and the setting. I really just wanted to take the audience for a ride visually and emotionally and I felt that WILLA was the best opportunity to do that.
Really you just have to rely on your instincts. What speaks to you? What do you find yourself thinking about days and weeks after you’ve read it?
Adrian Jaworski, actor who plays David in WILLA: As an actor I really get a feel for the character’s growth from the first minute all the way to the end and have that nice arc of him kind of learning a lesson in all of this. And not only that put putting myself in the shoes of the character and asking myself questions and what I would do and how I would go about doing it. And just kind of moving forward with my co-stars helping it out and driving a really good story forward. Especially being an adaptation from Stephen King. You want to definitely do that justice.
Keli Mayne, actress who plays WILLA: What I really hope people take from this and what I really think would be cool is if people walked away from seeing this film with a different perspective on how they see the world because I actually found myself doing that after.
I kind of was living and thinking about the film in the story and actually questioning if things around me are actually real.
2. WHAT IS YOUR FILM?
Barbara: So step number two is what is your film?
Barbara: If you only have 15 minutes to make a film then how are you going to structure that? And how are you going to structure your story to being 15 minutes?
3. WHAT DO YOU CHANGE, KEEP OR TOSS?
Corey: Doing a short is kind of a fun opportunity because of the limited time limit. It felt like everything was more urgent. What do you change, keep or toss?
Barbara: You kind of need to do a little bit of all of that.
Corey: That is going to be the step that you are working on in pre-production, production and post-production because I find once you filter all of your elements through that entire process, then the fat naturally gets chopped away, it falls off.
Barbara: It’s not always about the story in terms of what you decide to keep, change or toss because sometimes there are elements that you cannot bring into your story.
In our case we were able to get access to a train for our adaptation. But if you don’t have the budget to do so or the ability to gain access to one you might have to find a different route.
So it’s important to see what you have available to you. It’s important to look at your resources, look at your crew, look at your cast and realize what you have to work with. And those are going to make some changes into the story and that’s how you can make it your own.
“In order to be a normal person in society, I think you just have to sort of ignore your feelings and go through life or whatever…but being a director you really have to be in tune with what you’re feeling about the subject matter you are dealing with or about the performance you are seeing in the monitor.”
WILLA Director Corey Mayne
Corey: With the Stephen King adaptation, yes that was an ongoing conversation and sometimes it got controversial because you don’t want to stray too far from the story’s original intent. But you have some certain ideas that come up or certain ideas that you want to try out and naturally throughout the whole filming process you have to also rely on the rest of your crew and everyone else whose specialty it is to handle their departments to let you know if there is a better option to accomplish something or a more efficient way to accomplish something. I feel like we struck a really good balance between efficiency and creativity and establishing the atmosphere that we wanted and the style that we wanted.
One thing that you do have to just learn to live with is you can always work on something to death. That’s where a hard deadline comes in handy and especially working with a big company like Deluxe. I don’t want to get on their nerves and keep giving note after note. Basically it’s my responsibility to make all of the best decisions in the moment and any other decisions that I think of later, it should have been on me to have thought of them earlier (which probably comes from experience) or maybe they are just not that important if I didn’t think of it right away.
4. HOW DO YOU MAKE IT YOUR OWN?
Barbara: Step four is how do you make it your own? That’s important because no two directors are going to make the same film and with an adaptation it’s important to stay true to the original story but give it your own voice.
Corey: That’s something you have to figure out yourself. I can’t tell you how to make it your own, only you can really do that as a director. When I was making this story my own I really just tried to interpret how I felt about the story and what that feeling would look like if that was a picture. Again that was due to in part because of our amazing cinematographer and his team.
Nick Szeman, Actor in WILLA: When it comes to adapting a story I mean obviously you want to stick with the source material as much as possible because that’s what made it great to begin with and that’s what made it catch the attention of the people in charge of it. Corey and Barbara when they were writing it WILLA stuck out to them because it was an incredible short story. So obviously they want to stick to that source material. That being said as filmmakers they also very, subtlety and carefully pick moments to surprise the audience at the same time. The things they threw in there I think were very tastefully done and I think things that will really stick with the audience and make them think and reflect deeply afterwards.
Corey: Sort of keep in touch with your feelings. Like you have to…it’s so hard to articulate your own feelings (at least it is for me). Some people are better at it than others. In order to be a normal person in society, I think you just have to sort of ignore your feelings and just go through life or whatever but being a director you really sort of have to be in tune with what you’re feeling about the subject matter you are dealing with or about the performance you are seeing in the monitor.
5. REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE
Barbara: Step five is remember your audience. You need to keep in mind who is going to be viewing your film. They are going to be fans of the book you adapted it from and they want that same nostalgic feeling when they originally read it. So you have to be true to that, you have to be true to them.
Corey: Because as much as you’re making this film for yourself, you want other people to see it right? Our intent is to just obviously entertain people. And I feel like we knew our audience because we are a part of that whole horror community and Stephen King fan community. We grew up watching these movies, we grew up reading these stories. So we kept asking ourselves what would we pay to see? Horror fans in particular can spot fakes pretty easily. I think they can have a good sense of whether you are a fraud or a…they are highly critical but some of the most diverse fans and best fans out there. It can work either way.
I’ve seen adaptations work that were completely different from the book and I’ve seen adaptations that have stuck to it religiously and it worked as well.
So it’s a gamble and you know…you don’t really get into this business to play it safe right?
Barbara: Our film was so special and unique. It was a small independent production, over 100 crew and we got so much support from our producers. We got support from Indiegogo, from everyone in the grip department to catering to craft services to hair and make-up, electrics. We couldn’t have done this without every one of you and post-production with Deluxe as well. We’re so fortunate with this film and everyone who has been a part of it.
WATCH ‘WILLA (2019) STEPHEN KING — FULL TRAILER’
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