So we're busy in NY. Working on a new movie while promoting Room 335. We'll let you know when we might be somewhere hopefully promoting the film. We're excited for it to come out...
Here's more of a recent interview in Dallas:
Women tend to outlive men, certainly they outnumber the
who are characters in your film and who are I guess are
residents at Harbor Place. How did that affect the
dynamic, the social dynamic there?
Mr. JENKS: That's a good question. Well, I think one--in
a lot of ways, the guys--the men, I should say, I was
to say guys, the men turned out maybe to be a little bit
lonely because there wasn't a lot of, as you said, men
there. And not only that, but maybe this is too big of a
generalization, but I think as men get older and older,
they tend to be less and less social.
So it was--kind of the women would go up to each other and
do nail polishing and play BINGO and would go on the
field trips, whereas the men weren't always so interested
in that. But with that said, I became good friends,
best friends with one of the guys there who tended to
wander a lot and didn't really have many friends and
talk a whole lot. And we sort of had a bond because we
were both kind of in that same place, although at totally
BOYD: This is Bill that you're talking about.
Mr. JENKS: Right, exactly.
BOYD: What I thought was really cool about that
relationship and people will see it in the film is that he
really had this desire to kind of roughhouse with you and
thought it was cool that you did that; that you didn't
treat him like he was fragile and frail. Did he take a
little while for you to feel like that was OK?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. There was a moment--a night
in the film where kind of a big turning point where things
started to change and it was at that point where I started
to realize that, you know, this wasn't just a movie or
of me moving in with a bunch of old--like I was actually
becoming friends with a lot of these people and I should
treat them like that.
And Bill was one of the guys that, you know, I could sit
for a few hours on a bench and just screw around and he
also really strong, like there was no joking around there.
When he punched me, it really hurt and I'd try and punch
him back and he had huge arms and he--he was a big guy, so
it wasn't like--it wasn't like I was trying to take it
on him, he was much stronger than I was.
BOYD: There's one point where a staffer comes and yells
him for hitting you, which is the funniest thing.
Mr. JENKS: Well, I was--he was pretty bald, so I was
tapping his bald head, making fun of him and so he just
grabbed a huge chunk of my hair and, you know, kind of
threw me down on the side and the staffers came running
out, 'Bill, what are you doing? What are you doing?' And
he said he was just fooling around.
BOYD: And he--every single day he would walk to the
Store with like a big wad of cash. Can you talk about why
he did that?
Mr. JENKS: Well, every resident there seemed to--they
all independent in their different ways and they were all
very different people. So someone like Tammy, as I was
saying earlier, who was physically very restricted, had
of her mental--you know, could think and tell great jokes.
And so, in a lot of ways she used her independence to help
out the other residents, and her independence was her
It was her ability to make jokes.
And Bill, who suffered from dementia, wasn't always able
put together a complete sentence or maybe remember
someone's name, but he was able to walk and he didn't need
a wheelchair. So he could leave the area every day and
walk, I don't know what it was, maybe half-mile, quarter
a mile, to a Dollar Store and he would go and buy candy
different little items and then he'd give it to different
residents. And that was his way of showing compassion.
So he couldn't necessarily talk to you, but he could give
you something and say, 'Hey, I remember you. I remember
you're the one that likes the Snickers bar, and so here's
your Snickers bar for the day.' So it was an incredible
demonstration of all these different people using whatever
independence they had to help someone else out.
BOYD: Yeah, and there were a couple of times where I
know if he didn't recognize you or what the story was, but
Bill would spend a day not even acknowledging that he saw
Mr. JENKS: I think as time went on Bill would ask more
more when we were leaving or where we were going after
this. And there was a recognition on his part that this
wasn't going to last forever and there's a point which is
in the film where we talked to one of the staff, the
who worked at the facility, and they say that Bill was
pretty quiet before we came and didn't talk a whole lot.
And I think in a way he was kind of upset or maybe even
felt betrayed that we were leaving him.
BOYD: Yeah, it's a particularly poignant moment because
almost--it reminds you of like a kid that has gotten
close to some uncle or somebody and realizes that the stay
is going to end and is having trouble coping with it.
Mr. JENKS: Exactly. Exactly.
BOYD: Did you feel guilty about leaving?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, definitely, in a lot of ways, I think
especially with someone like Bill, who we're there, we're
genuinely befriending these residents and then we're just
there for five weeks and we take off, where that's
certainly not the case for them. I mean these people are
here to stay or there to stay and for us to kind of just
jump in, get a feel for things and then leave, you feel a
certain sense of betrayal.
BOYD: One thing that I thought was interesting is that
these people are--they're all there ostensibly because
probably the last place that they're going to live and
they've all sort of acknowledged this, and yet all of them
are really grateful for still being alive and they're
that every day is kind of a gift.
And we're about to hear in a minute from Tammy once again,
but I'm wondering if you can talk for just a moment about
what surprised you about how much they wanted to hang on
the life they had left.
Mr. JENKS: They all--they all really wanted to soak in
moment and they all did it in different ways. There was
one great example of a couple who I met and it was clear
me that they had been married for like 50 years and I went
up to them and I said, 'Oh wow, so how long have you guys
been married for?'
And the man looked at me and he goes, 'Oh no, we're not
married. We met in the dining hall a few months ago.'
it was just like--it was like anything else, you know, he
picked her up at the dining hall, now they'd been dating
for a few months and they held hands everywhere they went
and they were just living in the moment.
(Sound Bite of "Andrew Jenks, Room 335")
BOYD: There were some times when--on one night in
particular--when it was really scary there. Can you talk
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I mean there was one night when the
electricity went out and you're dealing with 300, you
senior citizens, who all of them aren't able to get around
so well and some of them suffer from dementia. And so,
it's difficult in that sort of situation to handle what
kind of a little mini crisis on their hands. And I think
in a lot of ways that was turning point in our experience
in that we really realized that we cared about these
and we kind of felt that--we really felt that that night.
BOYD: Did you feel like they were--we should say the
facility you went to seems to have been a nice place as
these places go. Did you feel like they were adequately
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. I think in the film in that
one situation during the blackout, you're talking about,
I said, 300 residents and unless you have 300 staff
there that night when the electricity somehow happens to
out, it's going to be very hard to have an adequate, you
know, staff on hand. And, you know, they did their best
and in the end everyone was accommodated.
There's not to say there wasn't kind of difficult moments
during that night, but I think all and all--and if you see
the film, it's a beautiful place, they have a lot of
activities and they really did, you know, care about their
BOYD: How did they deal with conflict when it would come
up between one resident and another?
Mr. JENKS: What I enjoyed about it--enjoyed about the
experience in terms of conflict was that they let them
of, you know, argue or say things back and forth and--I
mean, you're talking about residents?
BOYD: Yeah, I'm talking about how, you know, when one
would argue with the other, how they would sort of deal
Mr. JENKS: Like anyone else really, they'd resolve it on
their own or they wouldn't talk to each other for a week
two and forget about it. It was sort of like any
other--anything else in life, or anyone else in life.
BOYD: Seems like TV was a big thing for a lot of
people, you watched a lot of "Jeopardy" while you were
Mr. JENKS: "Jeopardy," they knew like the CNN and Fox
like primetime line-up, they had it down. They knew like
whether they liked Anderson Cooper or they liked, I don't
know, Bill O'Reilly, all those different kind of talking
heads, they knew all about. Tammy watched Larry King
religiously, even on Sunday nights, I think it was a
repeat. She wasn't happy about that. So, there was an
infatuation with cable news specifically, which I thought
was interesting. They were trying to keep up with what
going on in the world.
BOYD: Yeah, that's a very interesting point that they are
not sort of disengaged, and you point out that they're in
kind of a walled facility. I mean they're not prisoners,
they can come and go, but they still wanted a part of the
world around them.
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. And that was kind of a
example of that. Every night they wanted to watch news,
they wanted to know what was going on, they're very able
to--they could talk about politics or--at the time
actually, the Michael Jackson trial was going on, and so
they were all like in tune for that and, you know, that
on TV all day so they were kind of watching that nonsense.
And, you know, they were living--they were living for it
BOYD: Did you and your friends, would you sort of go out
at night when everyone would fall asleep? Did you need a
way to kind of decompress from the experience of working
there and being there?
Mr. JENKS: No, we stayed in pretty much every night. We
tried to really live the life that they would lead. So
they weren't really able to go out at night and--you know,
go out to dinner, go to a party, so we didn't. We stayed
in every night and, you know, watched TV or looked through
footage we had filmed that day. Pretty much the place
would shut down by, you know, 7:00 or 8:00, and we stay up
obviously much later than that. So we found, you know,
own ways to entertain ourselves.
BOYD: What do you think they thought of you?
Mr. JENKS: I think the residents that--most of the
residents loved us just being there. I don't think they
even looked at the cameras because they didn't care about
the cameras. It was just a matter of these three young
guys living there and talking to them and asking them
question, I think that was very refreshing for them.
It was almost, you know, surreal, they couldn't really
believe why someone would live there with them and ask
all questions and talk to them and hang out with them.
then those that didn't really engage with us just didn't
really care much to meet us. They were living their lives
and didn't see any reason to get to know these guys who
were staying here for one summer.
BOYD: Was anybody happy to be there?
Mr. JENKS: Happy to be there? That would be a difficult
question. I don't know if anyone was happy. I don't know
if anyone would say it was an ideal situation. I think a
lot of them would have preferred to be with friends and
family, but a lot of the residents realized that was
unrealistic and that, you know, either their friends and
family had passed away or that they're living far away and
couldn't take care of them.
I found it extraordinary how few of the residents were
upset or bitter about living there. They weren't really
mad at anyone. A lot of them had come to accept that this
is where they were in their life.
BOYD: It was a really interesting dichotomy because on
one hand they would talk about, you know, other societies
and other cultures, and these were mostly white, somewhat
affluent residents that you appear to have and they would
talk about how other cultures might not have done this,
yet they also shared this fear almost of being a burden or
being an imposition to their children and their
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, it kind of speaks back to their need for
independence and they didn't want to be perceived as, you
know, being a bother, and that was the last thing that
wanted to be. They wanted to be doing their own thing and
have their own lives and the notion of them being taken
care of by their families and, you know, having their
families to worry about them was the last thing they
wanted. They were so selfless in that way and it really
went across the board.
BOYD: Do you think you'll feel that way--you know, it's
funny, I think younger people tend to hope that they'll be
that way, but secretly hope that someone younger will take
care of them and I wonder if there's just something that
changes as you get older?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I think--I think it really more than
anything spoke to their love for their family and friends.
They really didn't want to be a burden and it's just a
sort of selfless mentality that they all had attained at
that point in their lives.
BOYD: What do you think about their self-esteem?
Mr. JENKS: You know, I think it was high. I think they
all were confident with who they were and, you know, they
all--Bill, for instance, would wear these Hawaii shirts
these big thick glasses and would roll up his socks and
these white sneakers and he loved talking to people about
how nice his shirt was.
And Tammy would go around and tell these jokes, and you
have to be confident to be a comedian. And Libby, another
character, would get in a lot of fights with people and
would always speak her mind. I think everyone was
very--you know, at that point in their life they're pretty
sure of who they are as people and very willing to be who
they are in front of anyone.
BOYD: Were there rules for them, for the residents that
Mr. JENKS: Rules that the assisted living facilities put
BOYD: Yeah, put on the residents.
Mr. JENKS: That surprised me? No. You know, you had
to--I think you were supposed to sign in and sign out when
you came and left. I remember Bill saying that he didn't
always follow that rule. And they had a very good--the
staff there had a very good understanding of what the
residents did and so there wasn't a lot of rules that
really surprised me, no.
BOYD: One thing that was interesting toward the beginning
of the film, you're sort of getting a tour and you learn
that someone checks on everybody in the middle of the
to make sure that, I guess, they're still alive.
Mr. JENKS: Right.
BOYD: And they didn't all want that.
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, again, it's kind of the motif here is
this independence thing is the idea for them to have
someone coming in, in the middle of the night while
sleeping to see how they're doing felt old to them
probably, felt like something you would do if you were
really old and they didn't want that. You know, in a lot
of ways they probably would have said, 'If they passed
in the middle of the night, they passed away in the middle
of the night.'
They would prefer it that way than giving up that sort of
independence, giving up, you know, their key on the door
for someone to just walk in. And so, a lot of the
residents just had this black sticker outside of the room,
which is the indicator that, you know, they didn't want to
be bothered at night.
BOYD: My guest is Andrew Jenks. He's the filmmaker who
made "Andrew Jenks, Room 335." It will be shown tonight
the Angelica Film Center in Dallas. It starts at six,
you'll need to make a reservation. You can check about
that on the THINK page of kera.org. We'll take a quick
break and then return to our discussion. If you'd like to
join us, you can send email to email@example.com, or you can
* * *
BOYD: You're listening to THINK on KERA 90.9, I'm Krys
Filmmaker Andrew Jenks is my guest. He made "Andrew
Room 335," which will air tonight--rather, will be shown
tonight at the Angelica Film Center in Dallas. And he
appear there at that screening. You can also see it on
Cinemax January 15th, it's an HBO documentary. You can
join the conversation today at 1-800-933-5372, or by
Did you start to think about your own body in a different
way during the time that you were there?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, I stretch now every day. No, yeah, I
change a few things. I think looking at someone like Bill
who is very active, you kind of can see the benefit from
doing small things, like stretching or being a little bit
BOYD: Did you feel healthier somehow than you had before?
Mr. JENKS: No, not really to be honest.
BOYD: Did it become easier to imagine these people as
young people or did it become easier to imagine yourself
when you're old?
Mr. JENKS: You know, to be honest, when I was there I
didn't really, nor do I now, kind of think about what I'll
be like when I'm old or what I'll do when I'm in their
shoes. If anything, I just sort of broke down that
of looking at them as old people or senior citizens. And
they just became less about a movie about old people than
it did a movie about, you know, about people that I've met
and became friends with and they all had different
personalities and enjoyed doing different things.
BOYD: When you would ask them about death and dying, did
you sense that they were reluctant to talk about it, or
maybe grateful that you were willing to bring it out the
Mr. JENKS: I don't think it fazed them. I don't think it
scared them at all. I think they were ready if the time
were to come and that was just sort of a question that,
know, you kind of--I had to get off my shoulders fairly
quickly because, you know, it--at 19 and now it's just
of--at that age, you've got to be thinking about that,
Aren't you scared of that, it could happen at any day?
a lot of them were ready, they said, 'Hey if it happens
tomorrow, it happens tomorrow. That's the time to go.'
BOYD: Did it freak me out at all that someone could die?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, absolutely. But at the same token, you
don't really, you know, live there and kind of sit around
and think, 'Oh, this could be her last day.' You know,
everyone is living life and that's not really something
that you kind of would really sit around and think about.
BOYD: What--how did you come back with all the tape that
you had shot and start to put the film together? I would
imagine there are some threads that you ended up dropping
and some that you really picked up and sort of wished you
had even more?
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, we probably didn't do it the most
conventional way or maybe even the best way. What we
really did was we went back, we had about 200 hours of
footage and we remembered certain moments that really
out and kind of put those pieces together and figured out
if they would really play well in the movie.
And then we watched all the footage and just took out
moments that we felt best represented our time there and
the characters that we had come to know. But there was
plenty of residents that we had met that we'd become good
friends with that in 90 minutes just couldn't fit. We
could have made a whole nother film about so many of the
other people that we had met that were so different in a
lot of ways.
BOYD: I have to mention there were some times where you
and the other filmmakers had a really profound experience
that you thought, 'This is going to be great,' and then
when you looked at the tape, it didn't play that way.
Mr. JENKS: Yeah, that's certainly case and I think in a
lot of ways, it happens the other way around maybe more,
which is really the great thing about it when you're
looking back on the footage and you maybe were talking to
someone who maybe you became good friends with, you know,
at the end, but you were talking to them day two about,
know, the food or something and you totally forgot that
were speaking to that character, who you later become
really good friends with.
You know, when you're friends with someone for a long
you sort of start to think, 'Gee, how did I get to know
anyway and I wonder what those first moments were like?'
So when you get to document, you know, your experience of
befriending a group of people, you're able to look back on
footage and kind of see how the relationship developed.
And looking back on footage, you kind of see all these
moments that you had forgotten about.
BOYD: Something I was really impressed by, and there are
lot of really funny moments in the film, and there must
have been experiences that you and the other guys had that
were sort of like typical young person viewing old person
moments, but there's never ever a moment where it feels
like you're making fun of them. Did you--did you worry
during editing that something would come across that way
regardless of the respect that you actually personally had
for the residents?
Mr. JENKS: You know, I'm happy to hear that. I think
in a lot of ways we became so close with them and such
friends with them that we were able to make fun of them
the time and then they could make fun of us also. I think
we wanted--I don't know if we really took the approach of
I think we were almost like kind of inherently careful
because we always had a respect for the residents there
it never really crossed our minds that we would do
something that would be, you know, kind of poking fun at
them but rather than kind of with them.
And you know, by the end, they were able to make--like you
said, Bill, who says, you know, 'You guys are sleeping all
day,' and we would point out different things about them.
I guess it is a fine line to kind of walk across, but I'm
happy that it doesn't come across that way.
BOYD: What do you think it takes to be ready to die?
Mr. JENKS: What do I think it takes? I think--I don't
really think that I would be the best person to really
answer that. Probably those residents there would. I
think that maybe a lot of them were so secure with who
were and really understood who they were as people and
where they were in life and had learned from their
experiences and knew their friends and family and really
had come to grips with--like they had a good handle on
their life and where they were. And maybe that helps.
Maybe that helps.
BOYD: You know, it's a relatively recent thing in human
history certainly, but in American history that the
are separated and very often live apart from the general
community. What do you think we lose in that?
Mr. JENKS: I think, if anything, you just sort of forget
that your grandmother or grandfather are just so unique
funny and interesting, maybe you sort of lose sight of
those really positive and energetic qualities that senior
citizens really, really provide. And even just looking at
them as elderly is sort of--is, I don't want to say
offensive, but there's so much more than they can provide
that we sort of tend to forget about.
BOYD: The other thing, and you've talked about it a
bit, that sort of falls away is your need to be on your
best behavior around these people, and you asked them
things like sex that, you know, it wouldn't be easy, I
would imagine, for you to ask, you know, of someone your
parents' age about. Was it surprising in the same way for
you to hear them answering you pretty honestly?
Mr. JENKS: It was at first. We just sort of threw it out
there, 'What do you think about sex?' I think was the
question that we had written and asked each resident.
all--like I said, they all answered very honestly in a way
I have nothing to lose and it was sort of part of that
generation--we kind of needed to break that barrier down
and--for a group of friends to not talk about, you know
birds--the guys and girls and that sort of thing is
We were friends and, you know, when a woman walked by and
was sitting with Bill, he'd go, 'Hey, she's on the second
floor around the corner.' And I'd go, 'OK, Bill.' Bill
and I sort of talked about that sort of thing. Obviously
it was always Bill oriented, but there was--there
was--there was kind of a lot of that--a lot of talk about
sex and who was hooking up with who, not that it happened
whole lot, but they didn't look past that.
BOYD: Hooking up, I guess, took a different dimension
it does when you're living in a college dorm.
Mr. JENKS: Hooking up would be like holding hands,
probably, in an assisted living facility.
BOYD: Yeah, there was one guy--it was great--the one that
you mentioned earlier and they had sort of fallen in love
in the dining room or whatever and he said, 'Well, 20
ago it would have been different.' Twenty years ago he
Mr. JENKS: That's exactly right, he was 70. And I
about that looking back on the footage, I said, 'You know,
20 years ago, I think he probably meant like 40 years ago
or something, but yeah.'