'Short Term 12' Actor Keith Stanfield Rules Ruined City in Supernatural Short 'King Ripple'

Keith Stanfield is not known for his genre fare. In the couple years since his breakout role in Short Term 12, playing troubled teenager Marcus, he's had roles in Dope and Selma, and he portrays Snoop Dogg in the upcoming Straight Outta Compton.

But he plays the title role in King Ripple, Luke Jaden's short centered on a supernatural being who rules over a ruined city. When four teenagers enter his domain looking for him, dark consequences ensue. The Hollywood Reporter here debuts the trailer.

Jaden wrote the script with producing partner Cort Johns and Josh Malerman, the writer and rock musician whose novel Bird Box is in development at Universal with a script from Eric Heisserer. The frequent collaborators recently screened their short The Listing, a reinventive haunted house horror piece, at the Fantasia Film Festival.

Following The Listing, Jaden pitched Malerman the idea of a dystopian or supernatural story they could film in Detroit, near where he grew up.

"Detroit is unlike any other place in the world. It Follows shot there, and Batman v. Superman shot there,” he tells THR. "Yes, you can tell your postapocalyptic stories there, but there are so many stories you can tell there."

Jaden says the script combines tones of David Lynch and Stand By Me. He and his co-producers pushed hard for Stanfield after the actor's performance in Short Term 12. “He read the script and loved it. Next thing I know he’s in a coyote pelt on our set,” says Jaden.

Part of what's unusual about King Ripple is the director's age; with several shorts on his résumé and a couple features in development, Jaden is only 19. Formerly solely an actor (he's had small roles in the Jenna Fischer-Bob Odenkirk drama The Giant Mechanical Man and the Kristin Chenoweth comedy Family Weekend), he got into filmmaking when a high school teacher encouraged him to shoot a documentary for a final project.

"I was like, 'That's not for me, man.' He talked me into it," says Jaden. "Next thing I know, I’m looking at call sheets I had as an actor and calling crewpeople."

His documentary Madman or Martyr, on abolitionist John Brown, got public screenings in Detroit, one of which was where Jaden met Malerman and Johns. They've since produced several horror shorts, while he and Johns recently launched the production company Troika. They've finished a short version of the Detroit-set drama Wolf Who Cried Boy (which they hope to develop into a feature, like Damien Chazelle did with this year's Oscar contender Whiplash) starring Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave) and Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), and they’re developing a feature adaptation of Ted Dekker's novel Hacker.

In the meantime, they plan to take King Ripple on the festival circuit in hopes of finding a distributor or partner for further development. "Hopefully that happens. If not, no worries," says Jaden. "We'll post it on Vimeo and the whole world will see it!"

Here's the King Ripple poster: