Andrew Jenks: My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker

Andrew Jenks: My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker
"Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
And everybody's in movies, it doesn't matter who you are."
-- Ray Davies, "Celluloid Heroes"
"We lived in a house where money was never talked about. There were no big-screen TVs or cable. That's not what mattered. Devoting your lives to others did. My mom did that one patient at a time, while my dad did it on a global scale. Anything else feels strange. I don't know if they'll ever know how much I love them for that."
I really like this guy! And his parents. And the memoir he's written here.
Andrew Jenks found early fame and fortune by coming up with some great ideas for films and has had the audacity and determination to pursue his dreams and bring these great ideas to fruition. At the age of nineteen he hatched the idea of moving into an assisted-living facility (what used to be called a nursing home, a place where old people go to live) for a while, so that he could bring an understanding of these facilities and their residents to audiences.
His professors at the NYU film school were not impressed.
I don't know that you are the best person to do a study on what it's like to live in a nursing home.
You can't just make a movie. That's hard. You have to get releases. Maybe they'd let you in for a couple of hours. Maybe. But I doubt it.
(blank, bored look)
Nobody is going to want to watch old people for ninety minutes...See you next week in class."
Boy, were they wrong. Of course, there will be some adults who find Jenks's somewhat arrogant manner in this photo-packed memoir to be pretty grating -- he doesn't make any attempt to hide his light under a bushel.
But for adolescents his message is pure gold: Don't listen to naysayers. Believe in yourself, and make things happen. Persevere. If you've got it together, you'll find the key.
Just like Jenks did with his nursing home idea:
"KATHY CROLAND FROM HARBOR PLACE: Huh. A young person moving into a nursing home? That is an interesting idea. You could learn a lot here. Young people should do that..."
This idea became the film "Andrew Jenks, Room 335," which was chosen for inclusion at a big film festival and then purchased by HBO. It launched him into the big-time.
I also really like what Jenks writes about his current project, MTV'sWorld of Jenks, in which, during the first season, Jenks lived for seven days each with twelve different people facing challenges. People who, like him, weren't even alive when MTV premiered.
"In the middle of the first season, I was out at a club, where I ran into some reality TV star. After the introductions were made, he asked me 'So what do you get?'
"'Excuse me?' I said, not sure of his meaning.
"'What are your ratings?'
"What an absurd way to identify yourself. I could make fun of the reality star endlessly, but I get it. In a way we all do that--understand our value in terms of external factors like the clothes we wear, the school we attend, the rating our show gets.
"Making my show has taught me how quickly all that is broken down. A week is a short time, but it's enough to eradicate anything you hold on to. In seven days of being homeless in San Francisco, gambling in Las Vegas, going undercover to expose horse-slaughter farms in Miami, I am no longer Andrew Jenks who lives in his own Manhattan apartment, has a staff of thirty-five, goes to Knicks games, and hangs out in bars. All of that's gone. Really gone.
"When those barriers are broken, what left is a startling and beautiful fact: Everyone's story is important and unique."
I am betting and hoping that a bunch of teens who read this great memoir by a thoughtful young filmmaker will buy into the idea that their own personal stories are, in fact, important and unique, and that they will subsequently make more of an effort to blaze their
own individual trails in the world. As well they should.

Ages 12 and up 220 pages

  • 978-0545417273
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Instructor, San Jose State University, California USA

If you’re under twenty-five and watch MTV, you know who Andrew Jenks is. Jenks is a wonderkid of film and ideas. He started the Hendrick Hudson Film Festival when he was just sixteen years old. By age 24, he had his own documentary on MTV called “World of Jenks.” His HBO film “Room 335” captures him moving into an assisted living facility and interviewing its older residents as to what is the meaning of life? Jenks finds that there was nothing to do all day except, “…board games, TV watching, nail polishing, and mealtime. And bingo. Bingo was big.” The movie shoot transforms his thinking. Jenks says, “I thought I was going to make a movie about a nursing home….I thought I was going to make a movie about old people, but left knowing that the movie was about Tammy, bill, Josie, Dotty, Elinor…” He sees them not as old people but as friends regardless the huge age difference. The New York Post raved about the documentary, “It’s a gorgeous, hilarious, sad, wonderful, unblinking look at the joy of life—even at the end of it.”

This book documents each of Jenks’ endeavors in film and his job as correspondent for MTV covering the 2012 presidential election. Not just a filmmaker, Jenks felt that his job was to “vocalize their (young people’s ) interests.” The statistics are grim for people under 30. An average college student graduates with student debt and no hope of securing a job. 25% of those who had moved out of their parents’ house have had to move back home. Jenks believes that young people are getting the shaft from politicians. Most tax money supports programs for the elderly: Medicare gets $486 billion, yet education only gets $68 billion. And Jenks wants to be a “conduit” for his generation. The blurb from the back cover says it best, “I want to tell the stories of my generation. I want to be a filmmaker that is able to capture what my generation thinks, how they act, and what they ultimately stand for.” (Andrew Jenks)

Any future filmmaker/thinker, creator will love this book. Jenks’ book will resonate kids who dream big dreams.

Highly recommended grade 7-up.

Recommended by Pamela Thompson, Library Media Specialist, Texas, USA

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