Amanda Jenkins (b 1970, Auckland)

BFA (Film), 1998–95

Film Producer

Interviewed by Tracy McCaw
September 2007

“Everyone wants to be a director when you start film school.”

My lecturers were Annie Goldson, Bill DeFriez and Lawrence Shustak. Students that I can recall from my peer group included Kirsty Gregg (painter), Saskia Leek (painter), Stephanie Donald (designer), Maddie Leach (sculptor), Greg Cornelius, David Reid(Director/Producer), Paul Swadel (filmmaker), Matthew Lawrence (film editor), David Rittey (film director), Jane Gray, Samuel Miller (filmmaker), Nathan Pohio (filmmaker), Jim Speers (sculptor), Stuart Ashby, John Chrisstoffels (DOP Lecturer), Belinda Small, Nigel Bluck (DOP), Emily Buttle (performer) and Tim Brott (sound). The social scene at art school was fairly good – students always socialise, especially at gallery openings and film screenings.

We had access to international developments through visiting film lecturers and film papers that we took at the university. It would have been good to have had more diverse visiting filmmakers to bring knowledge and inspiration to the students. We were like sponges. I also made various trips to Auckland during my time at art school and attended a lot of shows up there, which gave me inspiration and insight with photographers and local filmmakers. Nationally, filmmakers Lisa Reihana and Annie Goldson really inspired us.

A number of us from film school started a group called Independent Images. We organised outdoor projected screenings of our short films – anything from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, mostly experimental social comments. We used a number of sites, including projecting onto the wall of a building near Alice in Videoland, which was very successful.

At art school I learnt how to live without money and how to be incredibly organised. Everyone wants to be a director when you start film school, However, I seemed to fall naturally into the producing side of things. I did love being behind the camera, and initially I wanted to pursue camera-operating in television and films.

I filmed the making of Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, the two features Peter Jackson shot in Christchurch, which gave me so much insight into film production. This was the hands-on experience I needed at film school; this was where I learnt the overall structure and mechanics of serious filmmaking. It goes without saying that more specific guidance covering all levels of filmmaking and hands-on experience on working film sets, on location, would have created better opportunities for students to excel in their fields, however these opportunities were limited. After my feature film insight I wanted to be instrumental in making productions happen, and I began my steady climb up the ladder, performing a variety of roles: production continuity in television, first assistant director work for short films, production runner, production assistant, coordinator, production manager, line producer, producer for NZ short films, national and international commercials and advertising producer for international photographers.

I remember the deadlines for our projects. It was a challenge scheduling them around the 24 hour clock, especially for editing equipment. On one project I had one block of time and sat editing my film for 52 hours straight, just food breaks and little else. That was tough.
My journey through film school deviated outside the campus and included directing the Canterbury Short Film Festival for a couple of years – at the time it was the only competitive film festival to encourage and nurture New Zealand filmmakers to take that next step. Funded by the New Zealand Film Commission and Creative New Zealand, we had backing from all the major players for prizes that the filmmakers could put towards their next films, and were incredibly lucky to have astute judges from the film industry. The Festival was ahead of its time, and gave me a good skill base that pushed me towards what I do now, producing films and commercial advertising.

Film school gave me the opportunity to find out what my talents were, and provided me with a good overall skill base, understanding and grounding in filmmaking.