Before his show last Thursday in Wilson, I sat down with documentary film maker Andrew Jenks to find out how he got started film making, and what he’s looking forward to in the future:
UPB: You started your film making when you went into a nursing home to see what life was like near the end. What inspired you to create Room 335?
Andrew Jenks: I got into film making when I was a freshman at NYU living in a dorm with 300 strangers. At the time, my grandpa was in a nursing home and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I thought it would be really interesting to see what life was like from his perspective, and see what that subculture was like. At the same time, I wanted to make a movie or documentary, not just short clips for class. All combined, I came up with Room 335.
UPB: What originally interested you in film making?
Jenks: My father worked for the UN so we always moved around. Through all the travelling and boredom, I really got into story telling. Through all the storytelling, I found the best medium to be through film.
UPB: How did you get started with your own MTV show? Did they approach you?
Jenks: After MTV saw the HBO and ESPN documentaries, they were interested and contacted me. They really liked the idea of me entering into various subcultures of different youth. From there, the show was born.
UPB: You’ve followed a rapper, a teen with autism, a homeless girl, a fighter, a poker champion, and more. What was the scariest moment?
Jenks: The scariest episode was the one when I followed around an Animal Rescuer. We were infiltrating illegal slaughter farms owned by the Cuban Mafia. It was so intense that no crew could come with us. It was just myself, a camera man, and the girl. We would flinch at any sound or crack. It got to a point where we didn’t feel safe anymore and had to call in the van and leave.
UPB: The most inspirational?
Jenks: Every story is so different and unique, it’s hard to pick the most inspirational. It’s kind of like trying to pick your favorite kid. However, I will say one of the most touching story’s was the houseless girl from San Francisco, Heavy D. She was living on the streets, but trying the hardest to make little steps to make her life better.
UPB: What was the biggest surprise?
Jenks: The biggest surprise was when I was following Nick, the poker champion. During filming, he let us tape his therapy sessions, which was a huge surprise. It was really cool to see him tough enough to open up and be so vulnerable in front of a large audience.
UPB: What goes into selecting the different individuals you follow?
Jenks: We pretty much have free reign of who to choose to follow. Sometimes they could be recommended by someone, other times we have an idea of what type of person we want to follow and seek them out.
UPB: If you could shadow anyone’s life, past or present, who would it be?
Jenks: Umm….that’s a hard one. It’s really random but I’m fascinated by Marie Antionette. I just watched that movie last night and she seems like such an interesting woman. I’d like to see what her life is like.
UPB: Why did you want to do a college tour?
Jenks: I really wanted people to hear more about the stories of the people I’ve followed, as well as share my own story. It’s cool to be able to come to colleges and be able to relate to the audience that watches my show. I can tap into their interests and try to bring that to the show.
UPB: What’s the number one lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Jenks: Never take no for an answer. If you accept no as a response or a solution, you will never get anywhere. I use no as a starting point now. No is kind of a turn on…unless it’s in relation to girls. Then it’s bad!
UPB: Lastly, what are your upcoming projects?
Jenks: We are currently casting for the second season of World of Jenks. The only subject I know we are going to follow is a soldier. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, and now I have the chance too. 5 to 10 years from now, I hope to get into more fictional stories and movies. Getting a movie in theaters would be awesome!
~Mitch Ramey, Public Relations Director