Joe Kowalski was born on March 19, 1995, and lived in Oberlin, Ohio, and lived in the big city of Cleveland as well. He attended St. Paul High School in Norwalk, Ohio, and graduated in 2013. After graduating, Joe attended Lorain County Community, and later graduated from Cleveland State University. Joe majored in Film Digital Media, and graduated in May 2017.
As a child, Joe played around with video cameras and watched endless DVD’s, particularly the “special features” sections so he could learn more about films. He enjoyed Pixar films, and still does. Joe heard about the Stephen King Dollar Baby Program from his former girlfriend. She helped him write the initial story treatment. According to Joe, she is a HUGE Stephen King fan, and suggested he give it a try, and adapt his own vision of King’s works, so that being said, Joe chose I AM THE DOORWAY, one of King’s few Sci-fi stories. Joe wears many hats, he is a director, actor, editor, and occasional Youtuber.
Along with his Stephen King adaptation, he has also worked on stop motion, CGI, and four other short films: 2014′s ONE DAY: A MUSICAL, 2015′s BILLIE BOB JOE, 2016′s PRISM, AND 2016′s I AM THE DOORWAY. And now, here is my exclusive interview with …Joe Kowalski!
AN: When did your love for films and filmmaking first begin?
JK: It really began when I first picked up the family video camera as a youngster. Ever since then I was writing scripts, filming videos with my siblings as actors, and creating my own stop-motions.
AN: You told me the “special features” section of a DVD is what attracted you also to filmmaking. When did you first discover that this was of interest to you, and are there any special features that stand out in your mind as your favorite, or helped you?
JK: It was really the special features on the Monsters, Inc. disc. That was the first DVD my family bought, and it blew my mind. Pixar was incredibly thorough on their DVD releases to show how they went through every single step of their process, and in a very fun way at that.
AN: Growing up watching a lot of films, who were your inspirations?
JK: I was really inspired by a lot of influences many other people are inspired by…Spielberg, and Citizen Kane and all that…but I particularly like the work of Charlie Kaufman. I enjoy movies that are high-concept but still accessible. I also love really clever family affair, like the work that Jim Henson did, and Pixar and Disney continue to do.
AN: How did you first hear about the Stephen King Dollar Baby Program?
JK: I had heard about it years ago, but had long forgot about it. It was only when when my ex–a huge Stephen King fan–brought it up to me when we were still dating, that I considered doing something with it. She’s credited as a co-director because she was so influential in the early stages of it.
AN: I understand you are quite the fan of Pixar, and have worked with CGI and computer animated shorts. Do you enjoy, or find it more challenging working on those type films, rather than live-action films?
JK: All of my animation expertise has been quite rudimentary. Although I fiddled with CGI, I much prefer live-action for my workflow. It’s much more efficient on a low-budget.
AN: Out of all the Stephen King short stories, what attracted you most to this one?
JK: Out of all the Dollar Babies, it seemed the easiest to turn into a no-budget affair when a few changes were applied to it! I also thought it was quite a fun little read.
AN: What changes did you make to adapt this as your own, as opposed to Kings original text?
JK: The biggest change was when we added a framing story with two characters discussing the original story, in order to give an excuse to show only the scenes we could afford to shoot from King’s text. The framing story adds a nice parallel to the events of the original story as well.
AN: So many Stephen King fans want adaptations to be as close to the book as possible. How do you handle the pressure to keep the fans happy?
JK: I believe that an adaptation has to work within what’s best for its medium, and that doesn’t always mean following the original story note-for-note. The Wizard of Oz could only be a great movie because it adapted the story in a way that worked best for the film, as opposed for what works for a novel. The same goes for any adaptation. It’s more important to capture the feel of the original work, than it is to capture every detail.
AN: What was the main goal you wanted to achieve about with film?
JK: It was a fun side project that we could show alongside the much bigger film I was working on at the time, called PRISM. My main goal was to stop worrying about the big film and give my brain something else to chew on temporarily!
AN: Where was the movie filmed specifically, and were there any obstacles to overcome while filming there?
JK: It was filmed throughout the Cleveland, Ohio area. The biggest obstacle was that we filmed the outdoor scenes on a frigid day in October. To make matters worse, we filmed by Lake Erie, which made the sound unusable. We had to redub all of those scenes in post.
AN: How long was the film shoot and the process from start to finish, and was the budget really only $250?
JK: It really was! The entire film was shot in a weekend, although the full film took several months through its complete conception. Like I said, it was something of a no-budget way of relieving my mind a bit, and giving us something to show alongside our other film.
AN: What is your greatest moment so far with the success of I AM THE DOORWAY?
JK: Well getting this interview is definitely a high point! Also showing it to an audience was a great deal of fun.
AN: Which Stephen King story would you like to adapt on a larger scale?
JK: I think THE STAND would be an interesting challenge.
AN: Where can fans see the film? Will it be playing at film fests?
JK: We’re trying to get it in some, so stay tuned!
AN: There have been other Dollar Baby versions of this story. What do you feel makes yours separate from the rest?
JK: I like that we weren’t afraid to tinker with the story a bit. Most of the adaptations I’ve seen of the story stick pretty closely to the original, but it was fun (and daunting), to play around with what Mr. King did first.