Stephen King Program Brings Local Filmmaker into “Monkey” Company

Saratoga County filmmaker Spencer Sherry talks specifically about his own fundraising and marketing campaign for his upcoming short, based on a Stephen King story, but he might as well be commenting on his entire budding career. One man’s stumbles, however, may be another’s steps in the right direction.

After graduating from high school, Sherry left her small town of Laurens, just north of Oneonta in Otsego County, to attend the College of Saint Rose, but it was not the right solution, so he returned home to Oneonta and another major, only to try again at the University of Albany.

Less than a full year and a former student turned assistant director / producer returned to lecture at the school, and he left with the newly-dropped Sherry as a production assistant on the Netflix romantic comedy, “Set It. Up ”, with Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Zoey Deutch and Pete Davidson.

“The first week of filming is finals week and I quickly gave up and ran to New York and then worked there for about a year.”

Growing up loving movies, Sherry never considered him as a career choice until he was 21, which led to his stint at UAlbany, where he figured he could. at least get practical experience with school equipment. The fortuitous sidelining of his training brought him into the big leagues, but without all the mechanical know-how.

“I’m still not very technically proficient with a camera,” he says, “I learn as I go through these processes and work with people on things. I never really had a love or desire for the technical elements of making a film. It was more just the stories and the writing. Most of the motivation was just the writing and storytelling and creating some cool ideas and twists and then actually storytelling it all.

And he finds the collaborative efforts of other members of the film community – especially in this region – extremely welcome and inviting. “Just put it in there and just say, ‘Hey, this is something I do, here’s something I wrote down, anyone who wants to look at it and give me feedback or just talk about it is welcome,’ and I think you find these people coming to you when you just say whatever you want and scream ‘help’ for as long as you can. ”

After working on his first short film project, a project that was half destroyed when a storm crashed his computer server, he decided to get into horror master Stephen King’s Dollar Baby program.

The best-selling writer had the idea in 1977 to give aspiring filmmakers and theater producers the chance to adapt one of his lesser-known stories for $ 1, stipulating that the films would not be released commercially or for profit. More than 125 filmmakers have taken on the challenge over the years, the most famous being Frank Darabont, then 20, who went on to direct “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Green Mile” and “The Mist”, all based on King’s works.

Sherry found a story that appealed to her, “The Monkey” from the 1985 “Skeleton Crew” collection, wrote a screenplay based on it and submitted it. The response was humiliating: “The Monkey” was not on the approved list of available news, so the request was blatantly denied. End of story, right? Wrong.

The now 27-year-old writer and director went against popular belief, not to mention explicitly stated online rules advising rejected applicants not to make their case, and requested a waiver allowing him to adapt “The Monkey”. A series of exchanges involving various agents and assistants followed and before long Sherry received a ‘we never do that sort of thing’ email saying that King himself had first given permission to use a previously unapproved story.

The idea came to Sherry to eventually consider the story to make it a real feature, although he didn’t know all that it would entail as he would like to explore more with the plot and the characters than the 45. – minute time limit allowed to make it a short one. The “pipe dream at the end of it all,” as he puts it, would be that after Stephen King looked at him – he looks at them all, good and bad; filmmakers are required to send him a physical copy – he will like it enough to grant Sherry permission to expand it.
Fun fact: the only other person who chose “The Monkey” for a feature film was… Frank Darabont. But he let the option expire.

Joe Gietl, 32, is another local filmmaker, Colony born and educated in the Guilderland School District. His own short film, “The Void” premiered earlier this year, but lately he has taken on production responsibilities. There is a short documentary on an augmented reality app called the Mariah App that virtually ‘hacks’ the experiences of museum visitors, telling the story of a 19-year-old woman who died of an opioid overdose while viewing the exhibits. of the Metropolitan Museum of Art partially funded by the Sackler. family, the controversial founders of Purdue Pharma.

And then there is “The Monkey”.

Info for the short film “Le Singe”

“The danger of cinema”

Where: Pint Sized Small Bar + Bottle Shop, 250 Lark St., Albany

When: 8 p.m. Friday January 7

“I felt a strong connection with the material and the script. As a local filmmaker myself, I wanted to do whatever I could to try and use my connections and contacts to help him see his vision through and make his film, ”Gietl said of the film. Sherry’s project. Their friendship forged by a common love for cinema a few years ago has surely helped Gietl in his decision to become a producer.

He and fellow producer Chris Gaunt, turned Queensbury actor and actor, are the only two people Sherry has made deals with so far. “Other than those two people,” Sherry says, “I haven’t officially made a team or cast yet, just because I don’t know what the budget will be until the crowdfunding is over. “

Gietl and Sherry both want to create “The Monkey” locally, using as much local talent as possible. “One of my tangential goals is to kind of put Albany on the map,” Gietl said. “At the end of the day, if I can help support Spencer, if I can help my friends with their plans and not see it as some kind of competition between us, if one of us is doing well, that’s okay.” for all of us. I’m just happy to be a part of the story.

Sherry says, “I really like this area. I’m definitely more of a country and small town guy. Although he loves to travel and would go wherever his job would take him, the Capital Region is his home. “I think I’ll stay based in this area.

“I’m very invested in making this film a product of the Capital Region proper, and I’m trying to let as many artists and creatives in the region have a little piece of it and say they could make it.” part.”

As for the Dollar Baby program imagined by King, Gietl is impressed. “To have someone of that status open up to the public and allow young writers and directors to prove themselves is a truly unique opportunity.”

Now it’s time to do this thing. Sherry did her research and quickly launched a detailed and fun campaign on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site in early November in the hopes of reaching her proposed budget of $ 35,000 by the campaign’s end on January 7. At the time of this writing, he had already won almost $ 20,000, with three weeks remaining.

He’s dotted the fundraiser with benefits and giveaways, and is also active on Facebook and Instagram. All this publicity brought him other creators and people of the cinema to participate in the project. He says at least 20 composers, some from locals and some from places like Los Angeles and Germany, have offered their musical services, along with cinematographers, actors, set designers and others.

And he recently announced a special event to close the campaign on closing day. That evening, he had a “Jeopardy” style movie contest at the Pint Sized Small Bar + Bottle Shop on Lark Street in Albany. You can apply to be part of the game show in advance and eight contestants will be chosen on site to compete.

And when Sherry wasn’t spending the pandemic writing a screenplay, pitching an impossible pitch, launching and maintaining a fundraising site, planning an end-of-campaign event, and pitching offers from dozens of other creatives. , he also picked up what he called a “COVID hobby.” He started growing all the different varieties of chili peppers in his garden and they thrived.

This led to a self-taught hot sauce-making class, followed by a collaboration with a friend at Ballston Spa with a property, where the two planted around 100 chili seedlings.

“We’re just making hot sauce and found this weird little niche of extra income, more like, you know, walking around for money,” he says.

The two had planned to really lean into the pepper business, but the film careers they both hope to make from their jobs have picked up steam. Yes, Sherry’s best friend in high school, her partner in chili peppers, the one who started his own landscaping and stone masonry design business that both employs them full time as ‘day jobs’, he too is an aspiring filmmaker.

It seems like every interaction Sherry has to do with the movies in some way these days, and especially the one he’s trying to do. He recently returned to Oneonta and was publishing and distributing the “Lost Pet” flyers that he had created and with which he had previously decorated the Capital Region, featuring a toy monkey with the sounding cymbals that are the odd base of King’s story and Sherry’s script.

“I walked into the local bookstore to see if they would pick one up because it’s sort of thematically appropriate, Stephen King and all. The girl behind the counter that I had never met before, I told her who I was and what I was doing, and she said, ‘Oh my God, yeah, I heard about that! ‘ “

Recalling the incident with a heartfelt chuckle, Sherry said, “Wow, that feels good. It’s really good that your hometown is talking about you.

“I’m glad people are interested. It’s always so humiliating and appreciated that people care.

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