He is the filmmaker of The Escape Plan Dollar Baby film.
SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Jordan Tandowsy: I’m originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but have lived in Los Angeles for the past several years to pursue a career in entertainment (mainly in writing). These days I focus much of my time on 30-min comedy TV pilots, which I understand must be a little strange since this interview is about Stephen King. I live with my cat, Jack Nicholson, and take walks around Los Angeles whenever I can.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Jordan Tandowsy: By the time I was six-years-old, I had epilepsy, asthma, lactose intolerance, and absurdly thick glasses. Without much else to do, I watched every movie I could find on TV. The characters kept me company while I was stuck inside most days. When I was twelve, I grew out of every one of my ailments, but never lost my passion for film. I knew at that young age that filmmaking would be the path I’d pursue above anything else.
SKSM: When did you make The Escape Plan? Can you tell me a little about the production? How much did it cost? How long did it take to film it?
Jordan Tandowsy: We filmed The Escape Plan in early 2016, in two fast-paced days. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a RED camera (Dragon 5K), which helped capture shadows well in the dark room we mainly filmed in. We made the film on a budget of $3,000, sourced from various contacts. Both days of production were long, 13-15 hour days. I remember not having even a moment’s rest for the first day, so my advice to anyone out there is to schedule an extra day of production for your own sanity.
SKSM: How come you picked In the deathroom to develop into a movie? What is it in the story that you like so much?
Jordan Tandowsy: Stephen King is just an incredible writer, able to make his characters relatable while throwing them into situations most people would not get out of alive. I chose to adapt this specific story because it felt like a twist on a normal interrogation scene. In the original story, our hero is a journalist being held by soldiers in an unnamed country. Shackled in a small room, the entire situation seems hopeless. Yet the hero’s internal monologue is witty in a way that eases the tension, in my mind a perfect character for the screen.
SKSM: How did you find out that King sold the movie rights to some of his stories for just $1? Was it just a wild guess or did you know it before you sent him the check?
Jordan Tandowsy: I happened to come upon a story right after graduating film school about King writing so many stories he wanted to help students by optioning a few of them. I reached out to someone at his estate, who was nice enough to send a list of stories available and a contract to sign. Stephen King’s so gracious, the contract only asked for 1$ and a DVD copy of the final product.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when you made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Jordan Tandowsy: At one point in production, one of our actors required makeup to simulate a cigarette in the eye. We didn’t have makeup on set the entire day, so he walked around most of the day with a fake cigarette dangling there. Everyone brought a lot of energy to the set, which made the whole process a lot easier.
SKSM: How does it feel that all the King fans out there can’t see your movie? Do you think that will change in the future? Maybe a internet/dvd release would be possible?
Jordan Tandowsy: I’m mixed on this issue, because I see it from both sides. I imagine Stephen King doesn’t want to be associated with any adaptations that might be obscene, yet at the same time it was a lot of work to put this film together. It would helpful to have an internet release, and I hope it happens, but even having the opportunity to adapt his work is worth it.
SKSM: What “good or bad” reviews have you received on your film?
Jordan Tandowsy: The audience response to the film was mostly positive and sold out multiple showings. Like anything you might make, there are things you wish you could go back to and improve. More time, more money, but you have to accept there’s only so much of both. I didn’t make this film for acclaim, though I appreciate everyone that’s said they enjoyed watching it.
SKSM: Are you a Stephen King fan? If so, which are your favorite works and adaptations?
Jordan Tandowsy: I’m a major fan of Stephen King’s writing, not as much so the adaptations of his work. The Shining, Carrie, and Shawshank Redemption are all wonderful, but as I’ve experienced you can never truly adapt the essence of his mastery. The Outsider is one of my favorite books of all-time, I read it in two days which is something I almost never do. The Stand is brilliantly written, moving in and out of different stories with ease. I’m finishing up Salem’s Lot at the moment actually, another great title of his.
SKSM: Did you have any personal contact with King during the making of the movie? Has he seen it (and if so, what did he think about it)?
Jordan Tandowsy: I like to imagine King has a DVD of The Escape Plan in his collection, that he watched it. But I respect his privacy and have not personally had contact with him. The fact that he gave a film school graduate like I was the chance to use his name on our production meant a lot to me.
SKSM: Do you have any plans for making more movies based on Stephen King’s stories? If you could pick -at least- one story to shoot, which one would it be and why?
Jordan Tandowsy: If I could get the rights to “The Eyes of the Dragon,” I’d shoot it in a heartbeat. He doesn’t usually write fantasy, but in Dragon he manages to keep the story grounded in our common humanity. It’s an incredible adventure story as well, which is just a lot of fun to see on screen.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Jordan Tandowsy: These days I’m meeting with production companies and literary managers, working on finding a path in the world of TV writing. I’ve had the honor of receiving some awards and going to cities I never would’ve otherwise.
SKSM: What one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Jordan Tandowsy: I’ve played a zombie character on the Robot Chicken: Walking Dead Special DVD.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Jordan Tandowsy: Thanks for taking the time to hear about my experience adapting a Stephen King story, it took a lot of hard work from a lot of different people to make it happen.