Dollar Baby or Dollar Deal is a term used by Stephen King to describe a group of student filmmakers for whom he has granted permission to adapt one of his short stories for $1. The term is used to describe the films or the filmmakers. Stephen King describes the concept:
"Around 1977 or so, when I started having some popular success, I saw a way to give back a little of the joy the movies had given me. '77 was the year young filmmakers - college students, for the most part - started writing me about the stories I'd published (first in Night Shift, later in Skeleton Crew), wanting to make short films out of them. Over the objections of my accountant, who saw all sorts of possible legal problems, I established a policy which still holds today. I will grant any student filmmaker the right to make a movie out of any short story I have written (not the novels, that would be ridiculous), so long as the film rights are still mine to assign. I ask them to sign a paper promising that no resulting film will be exhibited commercially without approval, and that they send me a videotape of the finished work. For this one-time right I ask a dollar. I have made the dollar-deal, as I call it, over my accountant's moans and head-clutching protests sixteen or seventeen times as of this writing . ...I'd look at the films ... then put them up on a shelf I had marked 'Dollar Babies'."
The Dollar Baby movies range in budget from a few hundreds dollars to US$60,000 in the case of Umney's Last Case. The film formats range from home video to professional 35mm film.
Dollar Baby movies are not intended to be seen by the public, beyond film festivals and school presentations. They are not to be sold commercially or distributed on the internet. This has given the films a underground status, with King fans unable to see them. Stephen King retains all of the rights to all Dollar Baby films.