He is the filmmaker of The Doorway Dollar Baby film
SKSM: Tell us about yourself, who is Janssen Swent and what do you do or have you done?
Janssen Swent: I was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the only person in my family to pursue art as a career. I now reside in Atlanta, Georgia, and I have been working in the Film & TV industry for many years in various positions like PA or Location Manager, but I primarily work in independent film productions as a Director or Assistant Director.
SKSM: When was the point that you thought I want to make movies?
Janssen Swent: I got into the creative field by making music in highschool. Our school had a film program, and I found myself feeling more confident about my creative abilities than ever when I was able to mix my music composing talents with visuals.
SKSM: Where and when was The Doorway filmed. Can you tell us something about the production? (How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?)
Janssen Swent: The Doorway was filmed on Sulivan’s Island, SC in two days! One of the co-cinematographers, JP Gibson, has a house there, and we found it only fitting to shoot on such an island, because it brings with it a certain mood. Sulivan’s Island is where the poet Edgar Allen Poe would write all of his f***** up stories. If you stand outside at night, you can feel some very unsettling and alienating vibes. As for the costs, we only ended up paying for cast day rates, and crew gas money! We all worked for free and borrowed all of our equipment – I had such an amazing team that I’m beyond thankful for.
SKSM: Can you explain why you specifically chose this story to film?
Janssen Swent: We chose this story to adapt truly because of the location. We knew that we could make it work with the story, and all of the pieces were there waiting for us.
SKSM: Why do you think people like this story so much?
Janssen Swent: I think this story is so interesting because King was able to pack so many existential things about life and death into such a small package! On the surface, things seem fine, but in reality the whole world is at stake! THE DOOR IS NOW OPEN!
SKSM: Can you explain why the title “The Doorway” was chosen and not for I am the Doorway?
Janssen Swent: We chose to simplify the title because we knew we were making significant changes to the original source material in terms of plot. Truly, it was out of respect for such a cool story.
SKSM: How did you know about the Dollar Baby program? Was it a wild guess?
Janssen Swent: I was suggested by one of my professors in college to check it out. He was a huge fan of Stephen King and religiously watched Dollar Baby films!
SKSM: Was there a funny and/or special moment during production that you would like to share with us?
Janssen Swent: Well one crazy story is that we had to entirely renvision, redecorate, and rehearse the ending of the film due to a horrible tropical storm WHILE we were shooting. The original plan was for our characters to drive to the beach and have a dramatic lightning bolt ending like in the original story, but when we were loading up the cars with cast and crew, ACTUAL lighting came in, and for the safety of everyone involved, we decided to shoot the ending in the house’s basement. I’m very proud of how our team was able to adapt so quickly and with such a positive attitude. All of the daylight shots you see were haunted by storm clouds just out of frame.
SKSM: The Doorway is from 2019. Are there thoughts that make you think now, we could have done this differently?
Janssen Swent: Over the past four years, I have grown so much as a director that I know I could have crafted the performances of our actors in a more believable manner. Not only that, but I would give the film’s pacing a more contemporary feeling. We have several “talking-head” scenes that I now would direct very differently. I would make sure the actors are constantly active to engage the audience. Redoing the ending to do the story more justice would also make me feel better about honoring such a good story.
SKSM: Were any movie fragments cut out that you now miss?
Janssen Swent: Everything we shot was used in the film, and the only thing I miss are the shots we didn’t get to shoot, haha! I was eager to get those shots on the beach.
SKSM: How does it make you feel knowing that many Stephen King fans will never see your film adaptation? Do you think this will change in the near future due to an internet/streaming release maybe?
Janssen Swent: I wish more Stephen King fans could see this piece, for sure. I think the future is streaming, and we are headed towards a place where we can combine and customize our experience – on a commercial and personal level. Perhaps Stephen King could one day make a deal with a streaming giant to allow all these films to live comfortably for everyone to access alongside their favorite shows and movies.
SKSM: Can you describe the feeling when the film was finished and how the film was received after viewing?
Janssen Swent: The feeling of finishing the film was personally surreal for myself as it was my first film directing AND composing. Creating the score was great, and hearing a lot of people say it was their favorite part blew me away.
SKSM: At which festivals will your film be screened?
Janssen Swent: We have no further plans for festival screenings of The Doorway considering the timeline. Most festivals are searching for the newest, freshest films. Fortunately my team and I have moved on to more projects with larger scopes that are doing great in fests!
SKSM: As a fan of Stephen King which stories are your favourite?
Janssen Swent: The Dollar Baby program is actually what got me into his work so much. As a lover of short films, I fell in love with the idea of short form storytelling. My favorite works of his are the tiny stories that you can never forget about. The Shining is great too of course;)
SKSM: Have you received a response from Stephen King on your film? If so what were these?
Janssen Swent: I have not received any feedback from King yet. I don’t know if I necessarily want to hear what he has to say. I respect him very much as an artist, and I hope I did not let him down, hahaha.
SKSM: If you could make another Stephen King story into a (Dollar Baby-)movie, what would it be and why?
Janssen Swent: I think adapting the short story Gray Matter would be super fun. I think about it often, as that was my second choice after I Am The Doorway back in 2019. It’s another story that King managed to not only be scary, but force the reader to contemplate the end of the world from such a small story.
SKSM: What do you think of Stephen King as a writer?
Janssen Swent: I think Stephen King is a very special writer. His ability to pump out so many original stories so quickly is a testament to how creative his brain is.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Janssen Swent: I am still working in the independent film scene. I usually direct or assistant direct, and at the moment, I am working on pitching a television series to be shot in Atlanta, Georgia that I would direct. It’s coming along great so far.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Janssen Swent: I think people would be surprised to learn that my creative passions do not stop at filmmaking. Filmmaking is a combination of every medium, so I try to venture into every avenue of art from painting, to cooking, to dancing – it all matters. I am traveling to Seattle, WA soon to perform a DJ show.
SKSM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Janssen Swent:I see myself directing streaming-television in 5 years, whether that be on an independent level or commercial production. I think the landscape we are moving towards is so different that shooting an independent show before its destination is chosen is not impossible, and actually allows for more creative freedom.
SKSM: Thank you for taking the time for the interview. Would you like to say something to those reading the interview?
Janssen Swent: Thank you for taking interest in my film and what I have to say about it. It was a learning experience for myself, and I’m happy that it is part of my filmography moving forward.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Janssen Swent: If anyone reading is interested in following me along on my film journey, you can follow me on Instagram @janssenswent. Thank you so much!