Andrew Jenks shares anecdotes, life lessons

By Gretchen Andersen

Pitt students lauded MTV filmmaker Andrew Jenks with adoration and various adaptations of the… Pitt students lauded MTV filmmaker Andrew Jenks with adoration and various adaptations of the word “woo” during his visit to the William Pitt Union last night.

The MTV producer and New York native — known for his documentary show “World of Jenks” — came at the invitation of Pitt Program Council, who sponsored the sold-out event.

More than 500 students waited patiently in line outside the Assembly Room to hear Jenks speak about his career.

The 24-year-old Jenks created his first documentary five years ago and now has a weekly 30-minute spot on MTV.

His journey to notoriety, though quick, was not always easy. Jenks used the tough points in his career to give the audience a few tips about life.

“Don’t listen to the word no, use it as a turn-on,” he said. “When people say no, now I say perfect, great, there is my starting point.”

Jenks said making his first film, which was about nursing homes, was a struggle. He told the story of his own grandfather and then began to wonder what it would be like to live with 300 senior citizens and “unravel the confines of assisted living.”

Jenks said that he had to relentlessly call at least 30 different nursing homes before he got the OK to go through with filming.

With no experience in the industry, two cameras bought off eBay, a borrowed car and audio equipment, Jenks crafted his first project. The documentary was later picked up by HBO.

After “Andrew Jenks, Room 335,” his next movie was a documentary called “The Zen of Bobby V.” ESPN Films financed the project about former Major League Baseball manager Bobby Valentine.

Throughout his speech, Jenks told jokes and stories from his film career. He said that when he was seeking approval for his current show, MTV executives wanted to come to his office — but he didn’t have one: He worked out of his apartment.

To look more professional, Jenks said he paid his friend to pose as his intern.

“At one point during the meeting he opened the door, dressed in a nice suit and asked the executives, ‘Can I get you a cup of coffee, water, orange juice?’” Jenks said, laughing as the crowd also began to chuckle. When his friend closed the door, MTV executives asked if he had an intern.

“Of course I do,” Jenks told them.

“Sometimes it just shows you, you have to fake it until you make it,” he said of the meeting.

Jenks said his act paid off, and his work takes up a lot of his time. He said he often films 140 hours for one episode of “World of Jenks,” which lasts 19 minutes and 50 seconds because of commercials.

After the lecture, students had 45 minutes to ask Jenks questions.

Some students, apparently overwhelmed with emotion, took the time to express personal sentiment instead.

“First off, I just want to say I love you and I love your show,” one female student said.

When students weren’t attempting to woo the TV star, they posed questions about his career.

Jenks said he doesn’t have a favorite person that he has filmed because it “would be like picking my favorite child.”

Jenks said he never formally limits what he will do on the show — sometimes to his detriment. He said that while surfing during an episode, he thought he was “drowning for 20 minutes.”

“That would have been a great series finale,” he joked to the crowd. “Imagine: On the ‘World of Jenks’ tonight … Jenks dies!’”

Even though Jenks was the star of last night’s event, he finished the show as a filmmaker by taking out his phone and filming the students as they cheered “P-I-T-T” and sang to Chad, an autistic 20-year-old who appeared in an episode of the show.

Jenks said he stays in contact with everyone on the show.

Sarah Aitken, Megan Musial and Katie McHale, all seniors at Pitt, attended the event and said they watch the show every week.

“I liked how honest he was,” McHale said. “I thought it was really inspirational.”

For 15 minutes, Jenks took pictures with students.

Pitt Program Council chose Jenks to speak because it thought he “appeals to people on campus, because his show is very real and he’s a down-to-earth person,” Robyn Szablewski, a spokeswoman for PPC, said.