WILMINGTON — What started as a quick selection under Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program is now a three-dollar baby project with a full cast.
After being granted two extensions, local film director Mike Roberts is finally ready to film King’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Doctor’s Case,” scheduled to shoot in April 2020.
Roberts’ pitch was first approved as a Dollar Baby project in 2017. The yearlong arrangement allows filmmakers to pay King $1 for the right to adapt his work, in exchange for rights to the final product.
The opportunity (and contractual obligation) to catch King’s eye is the most meaningful aspect “The Doctor’s Case” could bring to Wilmington, Roberts said Tuesday. Roberts launched a Kickstarter Monday, which will return all funds raised if less than $40,000 is donated before Oct. 24.
“I hate crowdfunding,” Roberts said. Riding off buzz from his recently-released short film, “Before My Eyes,” Roberts opted to hit the launch button (also, he told King’s Dollar Baby organizers he wouldn’t ask for another extension). “The bottom line is this. We want to do this film. We want to do it here. For that to happen, we have to come up with the minimum.”
Outside money could swoop in, Roberts said, but either way, the campaign will help raise awareness about the project. Next week, Roberts plans to film promotional material downtown Wilmington with his Holmes, Timmy Sherrill. An actor and owner of Dead Crow Comedy Room, Sherrill has signed on to portray Holmes, with help from British dialect consultants.
“He’s got the look, he’s just got it,” Roberts said of Sherrill. “When I think of Sherlock Holmes, a lot of people think of like Basil Rathbone, but for me, it’s Jeremy Brett, which is the BBC Granada version of Sherlock Holmes.”
Colleen Morris, costume designer for “Bolden,” has agreed to craft handmade costumes in “The Doctor’s Case.” Morris already mailed Roberts a Victorian collared coat and knitted scarf for Sherill to wear next week.
“Tomorrow his hat arrives,” Roberts said.
King in Wilmington
Roberts sourced local talent for the project but also has a handful of well-established industry veterans committed to the project. He managed this without guaranteed funding, partly because of his personal friendships and connections, but also due to the concept of the project itself.
“No Stephen King, no film industry,” Roberts said of the author’s ties to Wilmington’s long-running, but lately bruised, status as a film destination. “Firestarter came here and literally kind of lit the way for everything else. And he kept coming back.”
Kind’s film-adaptations of “Silver Bullet,” “Maximum Overdrive,” “Cat’s Eye,” “The Night Flier,” and in recent years “Under the Dome” were all filmed in and around the Wilmington area.
“His history with the film industry here, I feel, to me is the most important part of the entire project is that we’re getting back to the roots of the actual film industry here as it started.”
The parlor of the Latimer House in Wilmington will serve as 221B Baker Street — Roberts said he is still working to finalize the location with museum representatives.
After Roberts and his team complete shooting and editing, the fate of the film is up to King himself.
“We have no control over the commercial release. That’s all up to Stephen King after he watches it and decides what he wants to do with it. We cannot distribute it in any way, shape, or form,” Roberts said.
King could hate it. King could like it, and choose to OK its commercial release to wider audiences. He could hate it, but also wonder, who did the lighting on that? Who’s that actor?
“The contract guarantees that [King] has to watch it,” Roberts said. “We are under contract that we have to send him a DVD that he has to sit down in his living room himself — not his lawyers, not his, you know, people — he has to sit down and watch it.”
Roberts hopes with a film schedule in place, the City and other potential backers may choose to support his plans.
“As much as it’s our project, this is the entire city’s project. this is representing what’s going to be watched in Stephen King’s living room is going to be filmed in this town. so hopefully people want to have some involvement.,” he said. “I’ve already seen this movie play out in my head. I’ve seen this movie already. I just need to find a way to show it to you guys.”
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at firstname.lastname@example.org