Missouri State University

Daan Jansen

Daan: Filmmaker, swimmer, storyteller

Filmmaker Daan Jansen says, "Seeing that story you spent months on and the effect it has on people? I just love that feeling."

“My friends always make fun of me,” says Daan Jansen. “When I tell a story, they’re like, ‘Okay, sit down guys. Daan is gonna talk for the next 10 to 20 minutes.’” 

And it's true; Daan loves a good story, especially if it's on film. He appreciates the way movies reveal character and humanity — even in unlikely subjects. “I love the idea of seeing the other side of the story,” he says. 

From the pool to the production booth

Daan's own Missouri State story began with swimming. Originally from South Africa, he came here on a swimming scholarship. One of his teammates introduced him to the program that became his passion: digital film production

He reached out to the department of media, journalism and film for more information, and when he learned about the program, “I just decided – without even telling my parents – I’m changing [my major], and it ended up being a really good change.” 

Interning on both coasts 

"A director called me one day and offered me an internship to go to L.A."

Like many movie fans, Daan used industry trade sites to research filmmakers he admired. But then he actually reached out to them.

When asked how he overcame any hesitation to contact strangers, Daan says he took a simple approach he learned from his mom. He was courteous and humble – eager for any advice or perspective someone might offer. He also got specific, sharing details about why he admired the other person’s work. 

Even this process was based on his innate interest in people and their stories. “I really just wanted to hear, ‘How did you start? How did you get your big break? Where did it all start for someone?’”

Daan says, "I emailed hundreds of people, and I was fortunate enough that a director called me one day and... offered me an internship to go to L.A." 

So he spent the first part of the summer interning in Los Angeles, gaining first-hand perspective on the complex process of script development and pre-production. Then he traveled to New York, where he spent time interning on a movie set. Over the course of the summer, he gained valuable experiences at many points in the film production life cycle. 

Working as much as possible

Daan's been drawing on these experiences ever since. During his senior year, he co-produced a thesis film. He knows he grew a lot from "the whole experience of starting from scratch, finding a script, reading through it, changing stuff. Then the casting process, then working on a budget and finding locations – which is a lot harder than it seems."

Hard, but worth it. "When you do all of that, and it comes together at the end and seeing that story that you spent months on and seeing the effect it has on people? I just love that feeling.” 

Following graduation, he enrolled in the graduate program in screenwriting and the MSAS program with an emphasis in screenwriting and producing, which are helping him take his storytelling skills to the next level. Encouraged by his advisor, who suggested he "work on stuff - as much as you can," he's busy writing the pilot for his own original TV idea while also serving as producer on a friend's electronic arts thesis film. And he's planning a return trip to L.A., where he'll spend spring break interning at a production company. 

Looking ahead 

Ultimately, Daan hopes to bridge the gap between his life in the U.S. and his South African home. He says, "I think there's so much potential in South Africa." He's eager to work more in the U.S. film industry and says that one day, "My dream would be to have a production company that brings - not only American production companies but anywhere in the world - to South Africa and film movies there." 

And no matter which continent he lands on, there are plenty more stories to tell.