The Austin Chronicle

AFF2012: A Conversation with Frank Darabont

By Marc Savlov, October 21, 2012, 6:48pm, Picture in Picture

AFF founder Barbara Morgan quizzed the director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist, and AMC's The Walking Dead on his predilection for Stephen King adaptations, the importance of story over style, and, most revealingly, his pre-production rituals.

Responding to an audience member's query, Darabont replied in the affirmative. "The rituals before I start filming a project? Live animal sacrifice, I pray to Cthulhu, and I hope I really don't screw the project up."

But seriously, folks, "I try to assemble the best team I possibly can because I know they're going to make me look good and they're people that are a pleasure to work with, whether they're actors, or the production designer, or the costume designer or whatever. I know that's not every filmmaker's priority but it certainly is mine."

Darabont's career began with a letter to Stephen King, and, five years later, a 30-minute adaptation of the author's short story The Woman in the Room. Darabont was humorously loathe to mention his first film by name -- "I'm sure it's on YouTube, but please, don't watch it," he quipped -- but nevertheless it's the project that cemented his friendship (not "collaboration," as Darabont was quick to point out) with King and led, eventually, to filming some of the author's least-known works and turning them, remarkably, into mega-hits with Academy accolades.

"Steve and I have become very, very good friends," Darabont said. "I wish he were on the west coast more often or I was in Maine more often. Basically, I have his proxy and his trust. He liked how the first short came out, he loved how Shawshank happened, and he basically offered me The Green Mile. He gives me the rights and says 'Invite me to the premiere.'"

Advice for struggling screenwriters and filmmakers? Not a lot, really, that isn't career-specific to Darabont.

"You invest a tremendous amount of emotion," Darabont said, "and your life and your love into something that [sometimes] just never happens. For whatever reason. It often has nothing to do with your work, which is a little hard to accept, but it's part of what we do."

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