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The Black Phone Author Reflects On Successful Adaptation After Wildly Low Payment For Original Story


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Summary

  • Joe Hill expresses gratitude to Scott Derrickson for turning his $35 short story into a successful and beloved film, proving that big budgets aren’t the only recipe for success.
  • Despite being paid a low amount for his original story, Hill’s career has continued to grow, earning multiple awards and securing adaptations of his works.
  • The success of The Black Phone highlights the untapped potential in non-established writers and short stories, showing that even an $18 million budget horror film can become a box office hit.


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The Black Phone author Joe Hill reflects upon the movie adaptation’s success years after he was paid a shockingly low amount for the original story. Hill published the original short story in 2004 before becoming a well-known author. Years later, Scott Derrickson and his long-time collaborator C. Robert Cargill decided to make it into a movie. The movie follows Finney (Mason Thames), a child held captive by notorious kidnapper The Grabber (Ethan Hawke), who receives aid via a black phone from The Grabber’s previous victims. It proved a commercial success despite its humble origins and small budget.

Hill recently took to X to reflect on The Black Phone‘s success while commemorating the re-release of his story as The Black Phone Stories.

Hill expressed his gratitude to Derrickson for creating “such a scary and heartfelt film” from his story. Additionally, he revealed that when he wrote the story in 2004, he was paid just $35 for it.


The Black Phone’s Unique Origin Story

It’s surprising to learn that Hill only received $35 for The Black Phone, which went on to become a movie that broke $100 million at the box office. The film was so successful that a sequel, The Black Phone 2, is currently in development. Hill previously revealed that he initially wanted his short story to be a novel, as there was enough content to expand the story, which the film did. However, at the time, he was a failed novelist with four unpublished books, and as a result, he didn’t believe he could pull off his idea as a novel.

Hence, he sold The Black Phone to his editor for $35 because he knew that would guarantee its publication. It’s no secret in the writing industry that short stories aren’t particularly lucrative, so the amount Hill received wasn’t actually very unusual. Still, he continued working his way up with further short stories and, by 2007, published his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box. 2007 was also the year he confirmed his identity as Joe Hillström King—Stephen King’s son. Hill sold short stories for $35 just to ensure he organically built his writing career instead of capitalizing on his father’s fame.

Even before Hill’s identity became known, he had made a name for himself, having received multiple Bram Stoker Awards. His career has only continued to grow in both writing and on screen, including such adaptations as Netflix’s Locke & Key, Horns, and NOS4A2.

The Black Phone‘s success story is quite inspirational. Derrickson confirmed that he found the story before learning of Hill’s identity and was immediately intrigued by it. It’s unusual for a non-established horror writer’s work to catch a filmmaker’s eye or for a horror film with a modest $18 million budget to be a box office hit. The Black Phone’s unique origins reiterate the untapped potential in non-established writers and short stories and that big names and big budgets aren’t the only recipes to success.

Source: Joe Hill/Twitter

The Black Phone

Based on Joe Hill’s short story of the same name, The Black Phone follows teen Finney Blake (Mason Thames) after he is abducted by a man known only as the Grabber (Ethan Hawke). Trapped in a basement with only a disconnected phone, Finney begins to hear from the Grabber’s previous victims, each of which gives him cryptic clues to help him fight back against his captor.

Release Date
June 24, 2022

Director
Scott Derrickson

Cast
Ethan Hawke , Mason Thames , Brady Hepner , James Ransone , Jordan Isaiah White , Jeremy Davies , Jacob Moran , Madeleine McGraw

Runtime
102 minutes

Writers
C. Robert Cargill , Scott Derrickson

Budget
$18.8 million

Studio(s)
Universal Pictures

Distributor(s)
Universal Pictures



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