Dubai students behind King's next production
Stephen King himself has blessed Middlesex University Dubai students for their adaptation of his short story Stationary Bike
Bringing a Stephen King work to life on the big screen is not a dream many accomplish in their regular lives. We see big names like Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), Andrés Muschi-etti (IT), Rob Reiner (Misery) and the likes attached to his adaptations.
But the next names you need to watch out for are Aily Prasetyo, Shaden George, and Abdulla Alomari, students of the Middlesex University Dubai. Stephen King himself has blessed this trio and their production team comprising of fellow MDX students, and awarded the budding filmmakers the rights to adapt the short story, Stationary Bike from his book, Just After Sunset for just $1, thanks to his Dollar Baby initiative.
The Dollar Baby (or Dollar Deal) is an arrangement in which the best-selling author grants permission to students and aspiring filmmakers or theatre producers to adapt one of his short stories for just $1. The term is used to refer to the film or play itself, or the maker; for example, The Sun Dog was made as a Dollar Baby, or writer/direc-tor Frank Darabont was a Dollar Baby (who went on to create movies like Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and many more.)
We speak to Aily who sits in the director's chair and Shaden and Abdullah, the co-producers of Stationary Bike, on how it all began, and their journey through the production.
What was the filming process like? Did you guys face any creative differences?
Aily: We spent the first few months planning before we actually shot anything. This included location scouting, looking for sponsors, as well as editing the script with our scriptwriter and planning shots with our Director of Photography. Of course, there were differences but we always compromised, and overcame any issues we had.
Shaden: It was a good learning opportunity for us on how to work together and adapt to different creative perspectives.
Abdullah: While there were creative differences there were also technical aspects that had to be taken into consideration, which is what I was mainly involved in. So, it was definitely difficult to compromise between the technical and creative things, but we worked together for the best outcome.In today's world there is an abundance of content, be it on social media, movies or music.
How does your take on Stationary Bike stand out?
Aily: There have been several adaptations of Stephen King's stories. What makes our version unique is the added humour and light aesthetics as opposed to the typical dark horror and thriller elements you would find in other renditions. It still touches upon a dark subject, but not in the way one might think.
Shaden: As producers, Abdullah and I considered the marketing aspect, which other students did not really delve into. We made an Instagram page @stationarybikemovie to help keep people updated and aware that this film is happening.
What are some of the challenges you faced along the production journey?
Shaden: It was a challenge for us to produce a project of this scale. The weather was a huge issue as we filmed during midsummer but the exterior scenes were crucial to the core of the film. So, making sure the crew, which consists of 12 students from our film department, are all well-fed and taken care of was difficult. There were also several issues with the locations, because as students it's hard to get permits for filming. We also did our own budgeting, which was a new thing to us, especially for a film of this scale compared to the smaller assignments that we are used to.
Abdullah: We often joke that we only work on sets where everything that can go wrong does! This was the first time we ever worked on such a large-scale project. Although the faculty of the university supported us, we were pushed to find solutions on our own to help us experience what real world filmmaking feels like.From the beginning, the pressure was immense and we were constantly reminded of that. We discovered how challenging it is for different people who all have differ-ent visions and expectations to work on putting a part of themselves into one project. Feasibility turned out to be an equal problem. Honestly, I can say in retrospect that all the challenges that felt overwhelming at the time, be it getting the necessary permits or handling the cast and working around impossible schedules, has been an incredible learning curve.
Being a student, what advice would you give your fellow mates aspiring to become part of such a project?
Aily: Have a good crew, en-courage each other, and don't give up!
Shaden: Even though it can be scary and challenging, you shouldn't be afraid to put your-self out there. It is also a great stepping stone in our careers; all projects are. So, work on as many things as you can if you get the chance.
Abdullah: This is going to sound cliché, but I think the best advice I can give is to persevere. So many times I thought "this could never work; there's no way we can actually pull this off." I wanted to give up before I failed. But I didn't. And somehow, we got through every challenge. And be nice to the people you work with and anyone you come in contact with. It sounds ridiculous, but you never know when you may need someone. Everybody knows something you don't. People can unexpectedly turn out to know something that can save the day. So don't be entitled; people will be more open to helping you then.
Stephen King himself will be among the first audience to your short film. Do you have any burning questions for him?
All: We are so ecstatic for Mr King to see what we've come up with. We tried our best to stay true to the core message of the story, as we've come to interpret it. What we would like to know is, how close are we to what Mr King was envi-sioning, because we know our version is way different from others and how he feels about the modernisation of the story.
What are your thoughts on the state of the film industry in the region here?
Aily: Well, it's definitely not as expansive as other countries, but the future looks bright because that's what us film students are here for. The department is growing rapidly and the talents that are com-ing through the doors of our university are astounding. With more enthusiastic and hardworking young filmmakers now stepping forward, I see more films made in the UAE coming in the next few years, and hopefully we can shape a great industry in this country.
Shaden: I agree with Aily. It is slowly growing and the diversity of this country plays a huge role in shaping the future of film in the UAE.
What impact has Dubai had on your growth as filmmaker?
Aily: I've been here half my life, and it has deeply impacted me as a person. Being raised in a highly multicultural society is an experience, I think, is unique. Dubai has also given me opportunities that I would not have had, had I been anywhere else.
Shaden: The diversity and modernity of Dubai helped form my identity and the way I tell stories.
Abdullah: Being from Jordan, I have already seen an entertainment industry. But I have grown up here and I wish the same for the UAE, that is why we are working hard to help develop the future of film.
Abdullah Al Omari: I'm from Jordan and 21. I am a third-year film student and have spent the last few years working on various productions, networking and building my skills. I am a hands-on person and prefer to be directly involved on set, making deals and leading a team, which is why I was interested in being one of the producers for Stationary Bike.
Shaden George: I'm 21, and a third-year film student at Middlesex University Dubai. I am Egyptian and moved to Dubai when I was 15 years old. My main interest lies in editing, but as I learned more about producing, I came to really enjoy it. Overseeing a film come to life is a great pleasure.
Aily Prasetyo: I'm 20, and I'm a third-year film student at MDX University. I'm originally from Indonesia, but was raised in Dubai, where I developed an interest in film during my high school years. I enjoy and appreciate all aspects of filming, but I find myself falling into directorial roles, which is good because I love directing!