This is an interview that I did with the Director of the upcoming “Willa” adaptation, Christopher Birk. This is my first interview with someone who is not in a heavy metal band, so hang with me if it’s no good. I also want to send out a big thank you to Chris for the opportunity to interview him.
SKF: You’ve acted in several shorts and a full-length in the past. What made you want to write and direct?
CB: I think a lot of actors want to try directing at some point, or at least they have the desire to do it. Whether they actually ever do it or not, I have no idea. I knew I wanted to at some point. I felt so strongly about this story, I guess I just didn’t really see the point in “waiting for the right moment,” because it was kind of already there. I think it’s interesting for any actor to see what kind of director he/she is, so I thought that would be a great experience as well. As for the writing, on one hand I thought it made everything easier when I already had a story to go by but I expected to feel constricted because I wanted to be true to the original story. It went much better than I expected though. From the very beginning the characters were developing in my head, and others just seemed to pop up. I’m sure that’s why it was the right story for me. There were elements in there I already recognized and knew how to expand and get to know.
SKF: What are some of the movies that inspired you to want to get into acting and directing?
CB: I wanted to act since I was very, very young, so I don’t really remember what made me choose it first but many movies have definitely made my desire to be involved in this world even greater. Ever since I was very young I’ve had a strong love for all movies that deal with ‘unnatural’ elements, like science fiction, fantasy and horror. The movies that have had the biggest impact on me are probably films like ‘IT’, ‘Legend’, ‘Willow’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Alien’ and the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ films.
SKF: Since you’ve started working on movies, have you met anyone that made you go hardcore fanboy?
CB: For now, I’ve actually had a somewhat relaxed experience when I meet famous people or people I admire. Naturally I probably think more about making an accurate impression if I meet someone I admire and respect like that but I have yet to go bananas over someone. I have yet to meet Stephen King in person and I think I would get a slightly higher pulse when I do.
SKF: Are you actually dealing directly with Stephen King on this?
CB: No, I am not – I got the deal through his secretary but since part of my deal is also showing the film to him, I would assume I get more directly in contact with him, at some point, provided he likes what I’ve done with his story, of course. I probably could have chosen to ‘bother’ him directly but I didn’t see a point to it until after I had finished the film.
SKF: Do feel like the internet has had an effect on people who are trying to get into the movie business, whether it be acting, writing or directing?
CB: Definitely! The Internet has made it much easier! It has made your videos available to a giant audience through things like YouTube where the ‘right’ – or sometimes wrong – video can go viral and become very well-known. I am a child of the internet as well, so I have a hard time even imagining what it was like before. I can imagine it was much harder to get your videos, scripts and talents out there. I do think you have to be careful too though. With the easy access to millions of people you also have to be careful what picture you paint of yourself.
SKF: I know you are a big fan of Stephen King. What attracted you to the story of Willa for making a feature film?
CB: I think I discovered, weeks after reading it for the first and second time, that I wanted to learn more about the people at the station. I wanted to explore them and was so curious about exactly what they were doing while David and Willa were away. And the more I thought of the story the more I felt it had so many different messages. It kept growing. It wasn’t just a story, but had many more layers, I felt. As the screenplay evolved, I quickly knew that it couldn’t possibly be done as a short film.
SKF: What is the process like for getting the rights to make a film?
CB: Well, for this particular story, it was fairly easy since ‘Willa’ is part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby deal where he allows independent filmmakers to get the rights to certain short stories. The rights are not exclusive though so naturally there is the danger that others are doing the story as well, while you are. I don’t really see it as a problem. Naturally, I’d like to have the only film version of it just for now – but in the future I’d love to watch other versions of ‘Willa’. In searching online I found several planned adaptations, but I don’t think any of them are in actual production yet.
SKF: The Dollar Baby Deal states that you can’t make a profit on Willa. However, if it were to be a big hit at the film festivals, is there a chance to option up to another deal with Mr. King?
CB: Yes there is – it has happened before. Naturally I assume it also depends on whether Stephen King likes the result or not. Besides myself and a few others, he will be the first one to see it. But of course, in my mind, he will love it and we will work something out when it gets more attention at the festivals.
SKF: I understand that Willa should be done in March. After that, I am assuming you’re hoping to get Willa into a few film festivals and such. I will admit, I am not very familiar with the process of movie making after that. Does the film festival circuit act as a tool to try to get publishing or distribution for the movie, or is that something that’s already being worked on?
CB: In this case, it certainly does. Nothing has been worked out beforehand. Part of the Dollar Baby deal is that I cannot distribute the film for a profit – but naturally I hope that it will get enough attention at festivals so it will become a possibility, after renegotiating with Mr. King, of course.
SKF: What are some other King stories you would be interested in adapting for the screen?
CB: Oh, there are so many. I would desperately like to adapt ‘Gerald’s Game’ and ‘Rose Madder’ into movies. They are two of my favorites, plus they’ve not been done before. Though I would love to do versions of his stories already made into films, I think my heart really lies in being the first one, like I luckily am with ‘Willa’. There are also quite a few short stories I’d like to expand in a similar fashion, as I did with this one.
SKF: Alphatree Productions is your production company. Are there any plans for future projects that you can talk about?
CB: The next thing will actually be a play – a farce. If all goes well, we will produce this play in May or June. There are also two original scripts in the works. It’s too early to say much about them, but one is a drama concerning a very dysfunctional family and the other one is a horror story. Naturally I hope we will see these scripts all the way to final films over the next couple of years.
Again, I want to thank Chris for doing this interview. I also want to encourage you to hit the various links to the Official Pages and show your support for independent artists and their projects!
Posted by @alloy_matt
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