Dan Jenski comes full circle with feature-length film, 'ADDicted'
Jenski left MU in 2005 to pursue a career in the film industry.
Nov. 11, 2014
Only three credit hours short of graduating, Dan Jenski decided to drop out of MU.
Instead of finishing his degree, he did the last thing that was expected of him: He moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career.
Despite his plans to go into law, Jenski’s interest in theatre had been slowly building over the years.
“I took this class called ‘Acting for Non-Majors,’ and I thought that was pretty cool,” Jenski said. “As soon as I started taking that class, that seed was planted where I said, ‘Every semester I want to take some kind of theater class.’”
Slowly but surely, Jenski’s interest in theatre grew so great that the only option was to pursue that as a career. He moved to Los Angeles in 2005, keeping his goal of acting a secret from a lot of his friends and family members.
“It’s just not one of those careers that your parents want to hear you be like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go pursue acting in L.A., mom!’” Jenski said. “So I told her I was going out there to set up residency for law school, and she actually had thought I’d graduated from MU, too. She didn’t know I didn’t graduate until last April.”
After taking several acting classes in Los Angeles, Jenski turned his attention to writing and then to producing.
“I hit a wall or I hit a ceiling, I should say, with the acting thing because I kept getting everything I was auditioning for, but it was kind of a catch-22,” Jenski said. “You can’t get the TV shows and the movie parts unless you have an agent or a manager, but you can’t get an agent or a manager unless you show that you’ve been doing the movies and TV shows.”
Tired of being turned down by agents and not getting larger roles, Jenski decided to start writing his own content. Last fall, Jenski moved back to Columbia to direct his first feature film, “ADDicted”.
“ADDicted,” which was shot on campus (including a brief scene in The Maneater office) and at several well-known places around Columbia, tells the story of a college football player who struggles to balance academics, relationships and sports while dealing with a growing dependency to Adderall, something he’s been on for half his life.
“It’s a look at society’s obsession and dependency issues of ADD/ADHD meds, mainly Adderall,” Jenski said. “It also shows how much pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect and to just overload ourselves with more than we can really humanly do without losing sleep and stressing out and ultimately breaking down.”
“ADDicted,” originally debuted as a short film, but Jenski raised money on Kickstarter to turn the story into a full-length feature.
Morgan Roberts, who also acted in the short version of the film, said he received script updates, location changes and added characters nearly every day leading up to shooting.
“This film is Dan’s baby,” Roberts said. “He might as well be taking selfies with the script and posting to Facebook. It’s nice working with someone who knows their material this well because it’s easy for them to communicate what they’re looking for to the actors.”
Jenski said the idea behind the film came from his own experiences. After his parents divorced when he was in third grade, he started acting out in school. He started seeing psychiatrists, who he said wanted to put him on Ritalin.
“I never was put on anything, but I had friends that (were), and I know that whole feeling of just being bored and hyperactive as a kid and just always ending up in detention,” Jenski said. “But I also am from the college generation when Adderall exploded on to the scene.”
Lauren Sweetser, whose past work includes films like “Winter’s Bone,” plays the main character’s love interest in the movie. She said she enjoyed how Jenski allowed them to add in their own ideas about their characters.
“A lot of times with directors, they’ll be very vocal about exactly what they want,” Sweetser said. “But (Dan) would allow us to try different things and if we ever had an idea for something, he’d let us do it.”
Aaron Bickes is the co-producer for “ADDicted.” He met Jenski about five years ago when they were waiting tables together at a restaurant in Los Angeles.
“Being two young, ambitious filmmakers, we saw it as an advantage to work together and put all of our ideas on the table,” Bickes said. “And when trying to find good, reliable people within Los Angeles, it almost was a match made to be.”
Bickes said he quickly accepted Jenski’s decision to film on MU’s campus.
“The film does take place in the Midwest and during the fall, so it seemed very logical,” Bickes said. “Having always been a dream of his, I easily could see the attraction to Mizzou. Not (only was) the architecture and landscaping a key element, but there was just an energy permeating from campus and I was easily sold.”
When Jenski came back to Columbia to film “ADDicted,” he decided to finish the last three credit hours he had remaining. Nine years after he left MU, Jenski received his bachelor’s degree in political science last fall.
“For me, to be able to come back and finish just this one last class that I needed as well as set up to shoot and film, and we did it,” Jenski said. “It was quite spectacular, actually, with the way everything worked out.”
Jenski said he plans to premiere “ADDicted” at the Missouri Theatre in early 2015.
“It’s been a journey, but it’s kind of cool to go full circle and come back to Columbia to film,” Jenski said.