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Maggie Hollander

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The Musical World of Jenks

Posted: 04/24/2013 1:40 pm

Music and film are an inseparable duo. The magical connection between screen and sound links our emotions to the scenes we are watching. Who can hear Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" without thinking Titanic? Where would Psy's "Gangnam Style" be without the music video that shared it with the world? And how suspenseful would a horror film be without the spine-tingling notes that let us know something scary is about to happen?

Andrew Jenks, filmmaker, author, and star of the MTV documentary-series World of Jenks, believes music and film are entirely entwined.

Growing up, Jenks explains "I would often times pretend to be making little short films with my brother. So when we were kids we were always finding different music to work for our little movies that we'd play for our parents on the VHS camera." This ranged from searching for tunes to set the mood for a James Bond sequel to trying to match The Late Show's sound for brother Matt's Leno impression.

But the childhood difficulties of finding just the right sounds are far overshadowed by a bigger problem for the now real-life TV star: what to do when you've found the right tunes but can't use them.

"One of the toughest parts that I find with television is that the music that you really want, it's hard to afford. And if you can afford it, you usually can only get the rights to it for two years, and only on TV and online," says Jenks. "There's kinda two versions of the show, there's the all-media version and the on-air version. And so we always have to pick the all-media music when we're done editing each episode, and that's always extremely difficult. You realize how much you appreciate good music or at least music that works."

Of course, when it comes to picking music for the show, Andrew Jenks is not alone. He has been working with the music supervisor Laura Webb to create the World of Jenks soundtrack since day one.

When it comes to finding the right tracks for each moment, Webb says her "music inspiration for World of Jenks comes from everywhere." This includes labels, music publications, festivals, local shows, friends, and more. Jenks describes Webb as "the brains behind the music" and lauds her for, among other things, discovering Mumford & Sons "way before anyone else knew of them."

"Music truly helps tell the story," Webb states, "It allows the viewer to build up to the proper emotion the producer or director is going after. Music placement in TV/film, if done correctly, can sort of act like the subconscious layer of your brain."

What makes Andrew Jenks's experience with music and film unusual is that it plays a role both on and off the camera. His documentaries delve into his subjects' lives in films such as Room 335, where he lived in an assisted living facility, and the current season of World of Jenks, which has him spending a year exploring the lives of three unique young adults. Listening to their music is just another way in which he learns about and becomes a part of their world.

When thinking back to his first major documentary, Room 335, there wasn't too much variety in terms of his subjects' taste in film or music. "It was really funny," recalled Jenks, "Because literally everyone said to "What's your favorite movie?" "Gone With the Wind, Gone With the Wind, Gone With the Wind." "What about a tune that has always stuck with you?" "'Roll Out the Barrel', 'Roll Out the Barrel.'""

But whereas movies and music may have bound together the older generation in shared memories, today there's something different for everyone. On the current season of World of Jenks, the show's star lives on and off with his three subjects over the course of a year. Their worlds could not be any further apart, as is reflected by their musical taste.

D-Real, an Oakland-based dancer hoping that he and his group the Turf Feinz can fight the violence there with their art, "is more into rap," according to Jenks. On the other hand, Chad, a young man with Autism who is leaving the sheltered environment of school to enter the real world, "is very much into Bocelli and Frank Sinatra and more of the kind of classic Italian singers" as well as more modern artists such as Pitbull and classics of a different sort like The Doors.

What's amazing is that while individual tastes may be spreading further and further apart, music in film still brings us together by triggering the same emotions in all of us, even if just for a moment in time. Having so many artists and songs to choose from today makes Andrew Jenks and Laura Webb's jobs that much easier -- and that much harder. But both believe in the importance of finding the perfect song for each scene, and both will continue to work tirelessly for the chance to bring everyone watching together in a shared musical moment.

World of Jenks airs on MTV Mondays at 11/10c.

 

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