The elevator door slides open and we step into an Andy Warhol-inspired lobby–Original floral prints from the artist hug every wall. The receptionist at Code and Theory, a creative agency in New York City, greets us and motions us towards a library that looks like its been plucked out of a scene from Harry Potter where, appropriately, we’ll be hosting our interview with filmmaker Jenna Elizabeth.

We unload our lights and camera and the hunt for the perfect shot begins, a process Jenna knows all too well as she discusses the status of her day with 20to30 founder Laura Lehmann in the background.

Setting up the audio equipment, I scan the room for a static-free channel while Danielle, our videographer, turns a shelf of golden books into the backdrop of our story.

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After finally reaching a creative solution for hiding Jenna’s mic (slipping it down her designer dress) and a shot we’re comfortable with, we start rolling:

Jenna dives head-first into every question and to no surprise, the woman whose films have featured the likes of supermodel Chanel Iman, actress Julianne Moore and hip hop mogul Kanye West, delivers each response like a pro.

She takes us back to key moments in her career like the first time she learned how to “sell” an idea to shooting for world-renowned brands like YSL before turning 23, (as an aspiring filmmaker myself, I begin taking mental notes like crazy).

“There’s something to be said about knowing how to sell, because whether it’s an idea or you’re making a film, you have to have a team behind you” she says, noting that learning how to present was one of the most valuable skills she gained from working at an ad agency.

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Watching the enthusiasm spill out of Jenna during our interview is like sitting in the front row of a movie theater. Her eyes flicker and her fingers playfully draw out scenes in the air as she describes one project after the next, detailing the significance behind every theme and character her subjects play. Her arms dance in front of her as she walks us through the making of Heimlich Maneuvermimicking the forward and backward motion the female characters undergo in the film.

She also talks about exploring boundaries with her characters and experimenting with restraint and exaggeration when it comes to beauty and the female image. Jenna describes the dark nature of her work as “nouveau-Goth,” seen in the underlying tensions and tonalities experienced between characters.

For Jenna, playing with exaggeration in fashion is part of what makes her work so enjoyable. It’s through pushing a model’s comfort zone that she’s able to ask complicated questions like, “Why is this beautiful to you?” and “Who are we sculpting the face of beauty to be?”

When it comes to casting for her films, a model who’s comfortable in her own skin takes precedence.

“I always look for a girl who is commanding. Whether she’s thin or average-sized, or double my age. I look for someone that has a presence, that is as big as they want to be”, she says.

But before that decision is made there’s the creative process, and for Jenna, it’s happening all the time. The filmmaker spends 3 to 4 hours each day online mining for images that evoke something in her and serve as the starting off point for the next story she wants to bring to life.

At this point it’s clear that Jenna Elizabeth isn’t just a filmmaker with a knack for tying together pretty pictures and gorgeous supermodels, she’s a conversation starter, I think to myself before pressing the stop button on the audio, concluding our 20to30 interview and the end of my intro to film course.

Andreina is 20to30’s social media and production associate sharing millennial soundbites across the web.

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