Local Filmmaker Produces King Adaptation

A film adaptation of a story by one of the world’s favorite storytellers – and produced by a Door County native – recently completed production at the scenic Tumbledown Barn. 

The Last Rung on the Ladder is a short-film adaptation of the 1978 Stephen King short story, cowritten by Max Blaska and Karla S. Bryant, and produced by Kurt Krauss. The story centers around award-winning author and mental-health advocate Lawrence Gatlin, who, while attending a gala in his honor, recounts the tragic events leading up to the loss of his sister. Krauss, of Sturgeon Bay, hopes the film will be an important conversation piece about mental illness. 

The safety team for The Last Rung on the Ladder is pictured with child actors at the Tumbledown Barn in Verona, Wisconsin. (From left) Actor Tyler Young, stunt coordinator Brian Neal, actress Ruby Mandli, Adam Monfils (of the Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Department) and producer Kurt Krauss. Submitted.

“This story has the opportunity to have that discussion on mental illness,” he said, “both with the finished film and the Q&A sessions that go with it.” 

Blaska received rights to the story through Stephen King’s Dollar Baby Program and traveled to sites in Bangor, Maine, that influenced several of King’s famous works, including IT. Blaska is a mental-health advocate, speaker and the founder of Mental Health Warrior, which encourages young people to use creativity and the arts to express and work through their challenges.

Director Jeff Blankenship talks actors through a scene at Green Meadow Stables in Belleville, Wisconsin. Submitted.

The project will be sent to the Stephen King organization by June 28, and film-festival screenings will be announced. Learn more at